Thursday, July 20, 2017

Daily Update: Dragons v Giants @Nagoya Dome, 19th July; Mr McGehee strikes again

Dragons 5-6 Giants

WP: Shoichiro Hatake 7 1/3IP 2ER 6SO            McGehee 5-5 1HR, 2RBI
LP: Yudai Ono 6IP 5ER 5SO                             Araki 4-2, 2RBI

The Dragons fought back to within a whisker of winning this but the only thing that was taken away from the game was a darkening pessimism over Yudai Ono's future.

Ono started his first game after the All-Star break by loading up the bases in the first inning. Shinnosuke Abe's sac-fly allowed McGehee to score, while off-season FA acquisition Dai-Kang Yang went yard knocking in a 3-run homer to put the Giants 4-0 up in the blink of an eye.
Hatake, the 2nd pick rookie at the 2016 draft, kept the Dragons quiet until Casey McGehee took his 3rd hit of the night in only the 4th inning through a stunning solo homer nailed into the left stands off Ono.
The Dragons looked down and out by the 8th inning as McGehee once again raked an RBI to make it 6-0 and claim his 5th hit from 5, but little were we to know that a comeback was around the corner. 
With Canadian Scott Mathieson on the mound for the Giants, the pinch-hitting Tani's single followed by Kyoda's double put two runners in scoring position with Araki up to bat. The veteran duly obliged his colleagues as his single was enough to score Tani and the fleet-footed Kyoda. Hits to Oshima and Guerrero would load up the bases but both Viciedo and Fujii failed to take profit from Mathieson's mistakes falling to end the inning. 

Koji Fukutani would take out the 9th for the Dragons and Arquimedes Caminero was called up by Yomiuri. Caminero would give up consecutive hits to Fukuda and Matsui before Tani found himself once more in the midst of the action as his RBI single put the Dragons to 3-6. Naomichi Donoue would rake 2 more RBIs in the 9th before Caminero was helped out of a jam by a Guerrero strikeout and an over optimistic run for third base by recent call-up and pinch-runner Taiki Mitsumata to end the inning.

What we learned from this game is that Ono isn't the same pitcher he was two years ago. He's not even the same pitcher he was last year. Something is going wrong and he needs to get some very special guidance to get out of his funk. We also learned that Casey McGehee loves facing us (averaging .386 with 12 RBIs) and that the team can show a bit of heart to make a comeback. Viciedo's inability to convert in a clutch situation is very worrying however as this is what we really need him to be able to do. I'll still allow him to attribute to blowing out some cobwebs, but if he wants to stay up, he's going to have to start doing more.

In other news, Kyohei Kamezawa has come down with a knee injury after Tuesday's game. He has since been deregged which is why we saw Taiki Mitsumata tonight.

On the farm, Daisuke Yamai got lit up again after giving up 5 runs in his second inning to the Carp. Jorge Rondon joined in the dumpster fire giving up 6. Neither are likely to see the light of the first team again this season in all likelihood. Yamai has already been seen tutoring younger pitchers on the farm and has reportedly taken Kento Fujishima under his wing.

Friday's slated pitchers for possibly another gory trip to Mazda Stadium are lefties Kris Johnson and Raul Valdes.

Daily Update: Dragons v Giants @Nagoya Dome, 18th July; Double dingers on the back of Yoshimi QS

Dragons 6 - 1 Giants

WP: Kazuki Yoshimi 6 2/3IP 1ER 3SO                         Fukuda 4-2, 2RBI, 1RHR
LP: Hayato Takagi 4 2/3IP 1ER 3SO                             Chono 3-2, 1BB

Before the game even started there was big news as slated Giants starting pitcher, Shun Yamaguchi was pulled after apparently going on a bender the previous week and picking a fight with a security guard which had apparently only just come to light. The former Yokohama pitcher who moved as a FA to the Giants this season, apparently injured his shoulder in the scuffle which scuttled his start and has put him in trouble with just about everyone concerned.

Hayato Takagi was hastened into an emergency start (or maybe it was planned all along?) and the Dragons took advantage of the momentum that swung their way. Kamezawa got the rub on a error from Seiji Kobayashi advancing to second while Yota Kyoda ran into score. Masato Matsui would return the favour to the Giants in the bottom of the inning as his fumble allowed Takagi to score.
The Dragons would soon again be in the ascendance however as Nobumasa Fukuda went yard for his second homer of the year.
Alex Guerrero would become bash brothers with Fukuda as he too threw his bat at an errant pitch to great effect scoring Oshima in the process for a 2-run homer, his 24th of the season.
The Dragons would continue to add insult to injury in the 8th inning as Oshima scored on a Vicedo groundout while Fukuda chipped in with another double base hit to put the Dragons in cruise control at 6-1. 

A great win for the Dragons on the back of a bad defeat. Yoshimi gets his second win of the year after pitching a good game while the bullpen had a decent run our as well. Hitoki Iwase in this game equalled another Aichi native and legend Masaichi Kaneda's record for appearances on the mound at 944. Iwase only has six more appearances to go to break the all-time record. 

Tomorrow's game will be a match up between Yudai Ono and Giants rookie Seisho Hatake. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Daily Update: Dragons v Giants @Nagoya Dome, 17th July; Ogasawara, where for art thou?

Dragons 1 - 5 Giants

WP: Miles Mikolas 7IP 1ER 6SO                           McGehee 4-2 2DBLs
LP: Shinnosuke Ogasawara 5 1/3IP 4ER 4SO        Kamezawa 4-2

Shinnosuke Ogasawara lost his 3rd in a row to hand a resurgent Giants a 5-1 win in Tokyo while Dayan Viciedo made his long awaited return to the team following a lengthy absence for his US citizenship application.

Hisashi Chono set the tone with a lead-off home run, his 9th of the year,  to immediately put pressure on the Dragons batting line-up.
The Giants would then go 3 up in the 6th after a Miles Mikolas' hit sent two runners homes after Ogasawara completely lost all command of his weaponry to load the bases with 3 consecutive walks. The Dragons would hit back in the bottom of the inning through a small rally of Kamezawa, Oshima and Guerrero which saw the Cuban slugger notch his only RBI and hit of the game. Junki Ito would surrender the last run of the game to Shinnosuke Abe whose single sent in the pinch-running Tateoka to score. Yuya Yanagi threw one inning of relief otherwise to blow off some ASG cobwebs while Koji Fukutani made a rare appearance in the 9th inning keeping things scoreless.

A disappointing loss but it is hard to ignore the trend following Ogasawara's starts. The 19 year old has bulked up a lot this year, but the command just isn't there at the moment. A tune-up on the farm might be around the corner. Viciedo went 4-0 (sometimes called a tako in Japanese) to mark a pretty disappointing return. One can only think he is a bit under cooked. He also played a full game on the farm in the afternoon which possibly wasn't the best preparation ever.

Other news: In a bit of fun for "Araki Day" at the Nagoya dome to celebrate the second baseman's 2000 hits, the team trained in #2 Araki jerseys. Before the game, the team combined with the Giants to collect aid money for flood disaster relief in northern Kyushu, a common event when disasters strike.

Tomorrow's starters are Shun Yamaguchi, the FA man the Dragons were after in the off-season and the returned Kazuki Yoshimi.

Daily Update: NPB All-Star Game @ZoZo Marines Stadium, 15th July; A very Pacific sweep

Plenty of premier talent was once again on display this time in Chiba as the Central League team went in looking to keep the series level. Only two Dragons appeared in this game with Guerrero starting in left-field and Oshima coming on later in the game to replace his team-mate.

Home Run Derby

Unlike the US, as you may have noticed, Japan likes to do everything twice. This time the homerun derby would feature all the same participants with the exception of Guerrero being replaced by Seiya Suzuki.

Tsutsugo would beat out Shohei Otani with 4 bombs to Otani's 2, while Yuki Yanagita went through after equalling Suzuki's single homer with 4 balls left to go.

The final was this time Tsutsugo against Yanagita but it was to the Hawks man that would prevail for the second time hitting two dingers from his 10 balls to Tsutsugo's single. All in all, Guerrero would have given Yanagita a better run for his money, but hey, can't blame the fans for wanting to see Suzuki.

All-Star Game #2 in Chiba

WP: Manabu Mima (Eagles) 2IP 0ER 3SO              Despaigne (Hawks) 4-3, 1 HR 1 RBI
LP: Shoichi Ino (Stars) 2IP 0ER 1SO                       Kobayashi (Giants) 3-2, 1 HR 1 RBI

Starting pitchers Tomoyuki Sugano and Takayuki Norimoto represented the best that either league has to offer in starting pitchers this season. Both pitcher claimed 3 strikeouts a piece in their 2 innings. It was to be the Central that would strike first as the Giants catcher Seiji Kobayashi cleared the fences with a solo effort. 

His effort would however be cancelled out by former Chiba slugger, Alfredo Despaigne as his solo dinger evened up the scores in the 4th.

 In the 5th the Pacific would take the lead as a lead-off triple to Daiichi Suzuki of the Marines allowed Shogo Akiyama to knock him home to make it 2-1. It would be the Chiba captain Suzuki once more to haunt the Central League as his solo homer off Yasuhiro Ogawa in the 7th claimed another win for his team. 

Alfredo Despaigne was given the MVP and 3,000,000 yen for the evening for his equalising solo homer and 3 hits overall while Suzuki, Akiyama and Kobayashi were also awarded 1,000,000 yen for their contributions on the night.

Neither Oshima or Guerrero registered a hit tonight but we can be proud that two we have seen 4 Dragons players make appearances this year. Considering most years we usually only send about two players. 

Now that the first half is officially over, the Dragons play the Giants where Shinnosuke Ogasawara will be looking to keep his record against the Tokyo team untarnished. Yudai Ono and a returned Kazuki Yoshimi are slated for the other two starts in the series.

Dayan Viciedo also looks like he'll be returning to the team, as of yet however he hasn't been officially added to the roster.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Daily Update: NPB All-Star Game @Nagoya Dome, 14th July; Pacifically speaking...

Homerun Derby

Well, going over everyone will take time, so let's just go with Guerrero. 
Alex beat out the holder Shohei Otani in the first round as he hit 2 homers to Otani's one. The rules are a bit different in Japan where the players each get 10 balls to slug as many homers as they can get. Interesting little side note, you'll see that Casey McGehee is providing the throw downs for Guerrero.

Guerrero would then take on Yuki Yanagita of the Hawk to decide the winner. I'm not sure exactly what happened here, but Guerrero got 4 homers from his alotted 10 but Yanagita had 4 in 7 balls and I believe the win was ultimately given to him because he got there faster. Anyway, great achievement for Guerrero to make the final, but Yanagita has been on fire this year. He picks up his first derby win.

The All-Star Game #1

WP: Taisuke Yamaoka (Orix) 2IP 1ER 1SO                     Nishikawa 2-2, 2RHR, 2RBI       
LP: Marcos Mateo (Hanshin) 1IP 3ER 2SO                      Tsutsugo 3-1 1HR, 1RBI

It was to be the Pacific League boys to come out on top of the Central League as they mashed their way to victory slugging home 3 homeruns including a game winning 2-run homer from Haruki Nishikawa. 

The Pacific took the lead through Shogo Akiyama's lead-off solo homer of Raul Valdes. The Central would be back in the hunt however in the 4th as Yoshitomo Tsutsugo teed off against Seibu ace, Yusei Kikuchi. The Central would take the lead in the 6th through a Guerrero double but it was to be the Pacific who would have the last laugh as Fighters duo Sho Nakata and Haruki Nishikawa added 3RBI through their fence clearning heroics while Hawks duo Seiichi Uchikawa and Alfredo Despaigne added the extra runs to make it a clear victory for the Pacific League representatives. 

Raul Valdes struck out Otani as his highlight for the game, while Katsuki Matayoshi struck out two and gave up a run in his one inning of relief. Guerrero made a steady contribution with his RBI double while Yohei Oshima got on the board with a hit in his two plate appearances. 

Not the greatest result for the Dragons involved nor the Central League itself but these things happen.

Chiba awaits tomorrow and we'll see how many Dragons will get a run out. Another HR derby will be had, but this time Carp's Seiya Suzuki will be mashing with Tsutsugo to represent the Central League. Fully otherwise expect to see Tomoyuki Sugano on the mound to start for Central while Matayoshi and Valdes may not see any more time in this series. 

Daily Update: Fresh All-Stars (Western League v Eastern League) @Kusanagi , 13th July; Kasahara whiffs 3

For those unfamiliar with the farm system in Japan unlike the NPB, the two farm leagues are split in Eastern and Western conferences with the line being drawn at Nagoya. Any team West of Nagoya is part of the "Western League" any team east of it is part of the "Eastern League." 

Once a year there is an All-Star game for the farm teams held usually in a regional ground. This is more or less like the MLB Futures game and it's a way to showcase new talent. However, due to there not being as much depth to the farm systems in Japan as there are in the US, you don't always get the best farm-team players per se, but usually the best rookies or the blokes that haven't played in the game before. 

This year the representative from the Dragons were Shotaro Kasahara, Taisuke Maruyama, Hiroki Kondo and Ryota Ishioka. All four of the players have been involved with the first team at some stage this year and Kasahara only recently put in an innings worth of relief against the Tigers but this doesn't really matter as none of them have competed in the game before and there all Chunichi representatives. Masami Ishigaki, the high school rookie infielder was meant to play in place of Kondo, but due to a wild pitch from Shintaro Fujinami earlier in the month the copped him in the head, he was stood down from duty. 

SP: Taiki Ono (Tigers) 1IP 0ER 1SO       Kaisei Sone (Hawks) 3-2
SP: Tatsuya Imai (Lions) 1IP 0ER 0SO

For the first time in history the game ended in a 0-0 tie. Both sides only had 4 hits a piece and we saw a lot of different pitchers. Unfortunately there weren't a lot of highlights for this one so I'll just run down what the Chunichi boys did.

Ishioka and Kondo started in the line-up both in the outfield but only the latter was able to make contact. Kondo went 3-1 on the night while Ishioka was withdrawn after two hitless at-bats.

Taisuke Maruyama pitched the 3rd inning and gave up a hit but it was to be Shotaro Kasahara who would prove to be one of the most impressive whiffing 3 batters and giving up one hit in the 4th inning.
Seibu's Suzuki the first to fall.

Fighters' Moryama get punched out

DeNA's Sano goes down for the third.
The Western League all-stars on a whole struck out more but it was a very even game where neither team really created enough of the chances they were afforded. Kaisei Sone of the Hawks with his two hits captured the MVP award for the game.

Tonight and tomorrow we have the real deal, the NPB All-Stars games with Raul Valdes starting on the mound tonight in front of the home crowd. Kodai Senga of the Hawks will start of the Pacific League.

In other news, Dayan Viciedo has finally returned from the United States having completed his citizenship processing. He is hoping to be back for the series against the Giants starting on Monday. Whether or not the team will let him is another thing. Jordan Norberto however has been in the mean time be de-registered from the first team with media sources suggesting that Kazuki Yoshimi will be coming up to replace him. 

Shigekazu Mori has gotten solid backing from the Chunichi owner, Bungo Shirai as the businessman has been very happy with what Mori has done with the team so far. Shirai has said that he would like to see the Dragons finish in the top 3 this season. Mori has said that his first objective is hitting .500 which he thinks would see the Dragons well into the fight for a playoff spot. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Daily Update: Dragons v Tigers @Koshien, 12th July; Valdes start, bullpen loss.

Dragons 4-5 Tigers

WP: Rafael Dolis 1IP 0ER 0SO                                     Yamato 4-3, 4RBI
LP: Katsuki Matayoshi 1IP 1ER 1SO                            Alex Guerrero 4-2, 2RBI, 1HR

It was to be a game where the Dragons lost everything late in the game despite looking very good to start proceedings.

Alex Guerrero teed off in the 1st against Akiyama to notch a 2-run homer. His 23rd of the year and only the 5th that's registered more than one RBI.

Yamato's timely double in the in the second allowed Oyama to scuttle home. At the top of the 6th, Yota Kyoda would get on first and be helped along by a Kamezawa safety bunt. With the king of average with RISP at the plate, Yohei Oshima, and the Yota "Flash Gordon" Kyoda on second, an added run seemed a foregone conclusion, but Oshima helped Kyoda to save his legs by knocking in his 2nd homer of the year.
That was not to be all she wrote however as in the bottom of inning Nakatani and Yamato helped get the Tigers back on level terms in a 4-hit, 1 walk inning for Valdes.

Hitoki Iwase would do his thing and hold on in the 7th but Katsuki Matayoshi with 2 outs on the board gave up the game winning RBI to "Battleship" Yamato in the 8th. 
Left with little recourse, the Dragons were unable to get past Rafael Dolis to grasp a better result.

Two fairly disappointing games. Valdes hasn't been the same since he was lit up earlier in the year and sent down to the farm. This is particularly a shame when you consider he's going to the All-Star games on Friday and Saturday. The bats didn't produce quite enough either going down 6 hits to 10 today, but the pop was there today where it wasn't so much yesterday. 

Our next game won't be until the 17th against the Giants as we have the aforementioned All-Star game. I will cover both games in the similar report form that I do here. Yohei Oshima, Alex Guerrero, Raul Valdes and Katsuki Matayoshi are our participants this year. Guerrero will be participating in the home-run derby on Friday in Nagoya while Seiya Suzuki will take his place in Chiba on Saturday. 

In other news, owner Bungo Shirai has ordered the club go after Waseda Jikkyo slugger, Kotaro Kiyomiya at all costs in this years draft. He seems convinced that the capture of the 1st baseman currently receiving national attention would change the complexion of the team and more importantly bring in more spectators to Nagoya Dome. Kiyomiya has slugged over 100 homeruns in his high school career (including practice games) and is slated to be the number 1 pick for the majority of teams. Whether or not the high schooler will choose to go to the draft is still a matter of debate as he may go straight to college instead. With our heads scout Tsuneo Tanaka keen on Kiyomiya as well it seems like we already know who's going to be our first round pick. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Daily Update: Dragons v Tigers @Kurashiki, 11th July; I am Uemoto, destroyer of worlds

Dragons 1 - 10 Tigers

WP: Randy Messenger 7IP 1ER 6SO                              Uemoto 4-4. 3 RBI, 1HR    
LP: Jordan Norberto 3IP 3ER 1SO                                  Guerrero 4-2, 1 RBI

Both teams went ham on each other's pitching but it was the Tigers that took the initiative slamming home 10 runs to the Dragons one in Kurashiki, Okayama.

The Dragons took an early lead in the first through Alex Guerrero scoring Kyohei Kamezawa but a dubious balk call on Jordan in the bottom of the next inning put the Tigers on level terms. The call may well have thrown Jordan off as he then surrendered 2 homeruns in his third and final inning. One to Hiroki Uemoto, the star of the day, and 2-run homer to former Dragon Kosuke Fukudome.

The Dominican southpaw was withdrawn for Shota Suzuki who was enlisted for emergency long relief duties. The young starter had a torrid time however as he did worse than his rotation partner giving up 5 earned runs over his two innings including giving up an RBI double to Messenger. With the Tigers well and truly in the ascendancy, the Dragons gave the bullpen a run out with rookie Shotaro Kasahara continuing his scoreless streak with zero earned runs in 4 appearances. While Koji Fukutani and Ryuya Ogawa closed out.

The Dragons just didn't have it in them today. Although they managed 10 hits, there was no connection to turn them in to runs. One hopes the slated return of Dayan Viciedo in 2 weeks time will help improve things, but the team has suffered a bit recently.

Tomorrow the team lines up against the Tigers once again with Raul Valdes taking the mound despite being selected for the All-Stars games on Friday and Saturday. He'll be up against Takumi Akiyama at Koshien.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Writers Update and Apologies

Dear Readers,

I know you come here for fresh, up to date information on the Chunichi Dragons in English. I know that there comes an expectation when someone puts effort into producing something regularly and I'm sorry I haven't be able to keep up. As you may have picked up from earlier in the year my updates were getting less and less frequent as I kept falling behind. The fact is that this blog is a hobby of mine and whilst I love doing it, there are several other things that take priority in my life.  I desperately want to continue doing what I  love here and I am looking into more time efficient ways I can keep this blog updated regularly. One option I am exploring is daily updates given I can probably devote 1 hour a day to the blog, but not 3 hours in one day to do a weekly recap. This is something I will try to do.

I am also unhappy that I haven't been able to give you more than just match reports this year. There is much, much more I want to explore with you about the Dragons. I have had plans to do features on what I consider the Dragons best ever 12 along with the best ever foreign 12 but this is a plan I've continually had to shelf due to my work and family commitments. Perhaps this is something I can consider in the off-season.

In any case. I do apologise for not giving any notice up until this point. The blog has been inactive since the start of interleague. I don't like to leave gaps, but I think at this stage I have to consider that I've lagged too far behind now to catch up. My plan now is to attempt daily updates in a concise form starting from Tuesday the 11th. There's only a few games during that week due to the All-Star break so it might be a good way to test the waters. I will also endeavour to cover the All-Star games and if possible give a run down of how our first year players are doing and what the general state of the team is.

Some of you may have noticed that I am still pretty active on Twitter @chunichisoul and I have also done some updates with a Facebook page I set up, albeit not too much recently.

I once again apologise for my inconsistency as this is something that happened last year as well, but I will endeavour to find a sustainable way to keep this blog going and updated on a regular basis. For the time being, please follow me on Twitter as it is a simple way I can keep you up to date with Chunichi stats and news.

Thank you all for your understanding,



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Weekly Dragons Wrap: Mixed DeNA, Yakult imbibed (23th May - 28th May)

It was a mixed bag but ultimately a good ending to the week as the Dragons went down 2-1 to the DeNA Yokohama Baystars but picked up 2 wins against the cellar dwelling Yakult Swallows.

Game 44

Dragons 4 - 9 Baystars

WP: Koshiaki Fujioka 1IP 0ER 0SO                               Tsutsugo 3-3, Miyazaki 4-2
LP: Raul Valdes 5 2/3IP 3ER 5SO                                   Viciedo 3-2, Oshima 3-2
                                                                               HR: Viciedo (3rd), Tsutsugo (3rd)

Raul Valdes and Yu Sato were lit up by the Baystars as they cruised to a 4-9 victory over the Dragons in Yokohama. The Cuban veteran's added days of pitching seems to be catching up to him.

The Dragons took an early lead in the first through Viciedo while a poor throw allowed Oshima to score to make it 2-0. The Baystars would however match the Dragons pound for pound as in the bottom of the inning RBIs to Tsutsugo and Miyazaki put the 'Stars back on level terms.
The pendulum would however swing the Dragons way in the top of the 3rd as Viciedo's 8th homerun of the campaign put his team 2 clear.

But as with pendulum swings, they have to return eventually and a mirrored 2-run homer from Tsutsugo in the bottom of the inning put things back on level terms.

It would take until the 6th inning before the Stars would take the lead through former Yakult Swallow, Hiroyasu Tanaka while hits to Miyazaki and Tobashira with bases loaded in the 7th sent the Baystars clear at 9-4 and on their way to a healthy victory.

In the midst of all the runs, Yuya Yanagi made a quiet debut on the mound pitching a scoreless relief inning.

Game 45

Dragons 4 -2 Baystars

WP: Shota Suzuki 6IP 2ER 4SO                           Kyoda 4-4, Oshima 4-2
LP: Joe Wieland 8IP 3ER 7SO                              Kuwahara 4-2
                                                                         HR: Viciedo (9th)

Yota Kyoda stole the show with 4-4 a the top of the order while Shota Suzuki continued his fine run of form to notch his 2nd win of the season.

An in the park homerun, credited as a triple with a throwing error, from Kyoda would start the scoring as poor awareness from the DeNA fielders and electric legs from the rookie saw the Dragons 2-0 up in the third.

The 'Stars would reply though a Suzuki wild pitch in the bottom of the inning. In the 4th the Baystars would find themselves level after Suzuki loaded the based and allowed a walk to Wieland. It was not however to be fatal as Wileland returned the favour of a wild pitch in the 6th to allow the Dragons the lead and it was to be Dayan Viciedo for the second game in a row firing one over the fences in the 9th to give his team a comfortable cushion which Shinji Tajima used to grab the save.

Game 46

Dragons 5 - 13 Baystars

WP: Kento Kumabara 5IP 5ER 5SO                            Kamezawa 4-3, Kinoshita 2-2
LP: Jordan Norberto 5IP 5ER 5SO                              Miyazaki 5-4, Kuwahara 4-3
                                                                   HR: Hirata (2nd), Kamezawa (4th),  Viciedo (5th)

3 home runs from the Dragons lineup was not nearly enough as it was Jordan Norberto's turn to get caned as he gave up 5ER (10 in total under his pitching) in what can only be described as a dumpster fire of a performance from the pitchers and fielders.
Hirata's 2nd inning bomb

Kamezawa joins the action in the 4th
Araki's fielding error in the 3rd proved to be costly as the Baystars filled up the bases and sent them home to put themselves up 6-2 lickety split. The Dragons would come back within touching distance in the 5th with Viciedo's 10th homer of the season.

But the Yokohama team would pull away with gusto in the bottom of the inning with Tanaka, Kuramoto and Kuwahara batting in 4 more runs. The damage would continue this time with Yu Sato on the mound with 3 extra runs from Miyazaki, Tanaka and Shimozono.

Not a nice way to end the series but two fairly costly starts from the Latin aces didn't help the team much. The Dragons have struggled in Yokohama of late but at least the 3 homers in the final proved that there is potential pop in the bats still.

Viciedo's return to form has apparently coincided with the arrival of his family. The Cuban slugger has been tripping back and forth between Japan and the States, but is now with his wife and children which may well be helping him concentrate behind the plate and swing with more conviction.

Game 47

Swallows 2 - 3 Dragons

WP: Koji Fukutani 1IP 0ER 0SO                                    Guerrero 4-2, Fujii 4-2
LP: Ryo Akiyoshi 1IP 3ER 1SO                                     Sakaguchi 4-2
                                                                                 HR: Araki (4th)

A rally in the 9th and a former #1 draft pick relay in the bullpen secured a win for the Dragons in the final inning off a usually solid Ryo Akiyoshi.

2015 top pick, Shinnosuke Ogasawara did his best to keep the Swallows down through his 5 innings, but he wasn't able to stop Keiji Obiki's RBI single and Takahiro Araki's solo homer to give the Swallows a 2-0 lead.

Ogaswara was to be relieved by 2016's top draft pick, Yuya Yanagi who threw 2 scoreless innings before 2012's #1 pick, Koji Fukutani pitched out the 9th for no runs. The Dragons would rally in the bottom of the 9th however as with 2 outs on the board, Akiyoshi gave up consecutive hits to Oshima, Viciedo and Guerrero to put the Dragons level before a Fujii double secured a walk-off win.

There's nothing quite like walk off but it does typify a lot of the Swallows season this year. Akiyoshi capitulates for what has to be at least the 3rd time against the Dragons this year by memory. He has an ERA of 9.45 against the Dragons this year in 6 2/3 innings of work.

Game 48

Swallows 2 - 4 Dragons

WP: Hitoki Iwase 1IP 0ER 0SO                                    Guerrero 4-2, Fujii 4-2
LP: Taichi Ishiyama 1/3IP 1ER 0SO                             Yuhei 3-2, Omatsu 3-2

Hitoki Iwase picked up his first win in over 2 years as the Dragons left it late again after Katsuki Matayoshi pitched 7 for 2 runs.

The Swallows took the lead in the first as Matayoshi walked home Imanari after loading up the bases. Yuhei's timely RBI single into right field would give the Swallows a 2-0 lead in the 5th, but the Dragons would be back on level terms shortly after through Guerrero and Hirata in the 6th. With the wind blowing the Dragons way, Fujii's triple in the 8th allowed Alex Guerrero to score and a poor throwing error from Obiki on the same play allowed Fujii to score to put the Dragons 4-2 up.

Shinji Tajima would clean up in the 9th allowing one batter on base before wrapping up a series win and claiming his 13th save of the year.

Game 49

Swallows 7 - 1 Dragons

WP: Tomoya Hoshi 7IP 1ER 4SO                            Balentien 5-3, Yachi 4-2
LP: Raul Valdes 2IP 6ER 2SO                                  Hirata 4-3, Viciedo 4-2
                                                                            HR; Guerrero (6th)

Guerrero's 10th homer of the season was the only saving grace as Raul Valdes got lit up in the second inning by a Swallows line-up back with a vengeance.

The Swallows piled on the misery early on in the 2nd as a tired looking, frustrated Valdes gave up hit after hit and the away team nibbled there way to a 6-0 lead. Yuya Yanagi was given his first meaningful time on the mound as emergency long relief and he put in a respectable performance where he took 4 strikeouts in 3 innings for one earned run give up to Balentien in the 4th.

Guerrero's homer would come in the 6th, a solo shot over the left fence at the Nagoya Dome, but by then the team was already plenty deflated and looked no where near mounting a comeback.

In the fallout, Valdes was de-registered from the team to be given some rest on the farm team. The Cuban veteran has been pitching on short breaks and often for no reward. It must be tiring both mentally and physically despite the low velocity he throws at.

Overall, the Dragons appear to be hitting some kind of form but are still very prone to blowouts. Norberto's 5 runs against the 'Stars and Valdes 6 against the Swallows marked that inconsistency. The bats for the most part are producing which is more than we could say about last year.

The Dragons therefore head into the inter-league break in 5th place leading the Swallows, but how much change are they likely to get out of the Pacific League teams that are by an large supposed to be stronger than their Central League opponents.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Weekly Dragons Wrap: Crouching Dragon,Hidden Tiger; Payback time for Carp (16th May - 21st May)

A much more feel good vibe to this week as the Dragons matched the Tigers pound for pound in the first series at Koshien while the Dragons took out the brooms handling the league leaders, Hiroshima in front of the Nagoya faithful.

Game 38

Dragons 1 - 8 Tigers

WP: Takumi Akiyama 8IP 1ER 12SO                       Nakatani 3-2, Itoi 4-2
LP: Shota Suzuki 4 2/3IP 2ER 7SO                         Kyoda 4-3, Hirata 4-2
                                                                           HR: Nakatani (1st), Itoi (6th)

It was a strikeout festival at Koshien as both teams racked up a total 23 strikeouts between them. Nakatani would go to long in the first inning after a Viciedo fumble helped runners on base with one out to put the Tigers up 3-0.

Masahiro Araki would grab one back after scoring Kyoda but after Suzuki was withrawn after putting two runners on with one our remaining, Araujo loaded up the bases with a walk to give Itoi the chance to strike with a 3RBI double. Itoi would be the harbinger of death for the Dragons in the 6th as his 2-run homer put the Tigers out of sight at 8-1.

Try as the Dragons might to squeeze blood out of a stone but despite 6 hits a piece, it was the Tigers that got value out of their hit with 3 of 6 resulting in extra-base RBIs.

Game 39

Dragons 1 - 2 Tigers

WP: Marcos Mateo 1/3IP 0ER 0SO                     Haraguchi 2-1
LP: Raul Valdes 8IP 2ER 6SO                             Viciedo 4-2, Hirata 4-2
                                                                 HR: Haraguchi (5th)

The Dragons well out batted their opponents, but all it took was 3 hits from the Tigers to get the win despite 8 mustered by the Dragons. The Tigers would take the lead in the 5th through Haraguchi's solo homer.

Hirata's RBI in the 7th would get the teams back level but an 8th inning RBI double from Shun Takayama was unreturnable as the Dragons once again fell over when it was easier to stand up.

Raul Valdes marked his 9th quality start in a row since opening day. The man gets no support from his batting line-up when he pitches. He has a lone, single win to his name for his troubles.

Game 40

Dragons 2 - 1 Tigers

WP: Jordan Norberto 7 1/2IP 1ER 5SO                Araki 4-3
LP: Randy Messenger 8IP 2ER 12SO                    Haraguchi 3-2

Norberto would once again break another skid pitching a great outing to negate the effectiveness of Randy Messenger.

Nakatani would once again wreak havoc as his double gave the Tigers the lead in the 1st. It would take until the 5th for the Dragons to reply as a Kyoda at full flight manage to beat a throw in the infield to allow Masato Matsui to score. Ryosuke Hirata drove in the winning run in the 8th through a double to score Araki who picked up a modasho for his batting prowess on the evening.

The Dragons walked away with a win in the end but it certainly was a "what might have been" in the other two games which could have easily fallen the other way given some luck and perseverance.

Araki has show the Tigers he means business this season as he averages .400 against them despite having his highest whiff rate against them as well.

The league leading Carp would visit Nagoya and be given a lesson in humility as the Dragons claimed the sweep in revenge for their previous series away to Hiroshima 2 weeks previous.

Game 41

Carp 3 - 5 Dragons

WP: Yu Sato 1IP 0ER 1SO                              Hirata 2-2, Matsui 4-2
LP: Randy Jackson 2/3IP 2ER 1SO                  Kikuchi 4-3, Tanaka 4-2
                                                            HR: Guerrero (6th), Viciedo (10th)

Shinnosuke Ogaswara's second start of the year wouldn't result in a win for the 19 year old, but it would be a win for the team as the Dragons out-hit the Carp for the first time in a long time to claim back to back wins.

The home team took the lead in the second through Matsui and doubled their advantage through Matsui again in the 4th. Kikuchi and Ishihara would level things for the Carp in the 5th and 6th but Guerrero's 8th homer of the campaign in the bottom of the 6th would give the Dragons the lead once more.

It wasn't to last however as Kikuchi struck in the 9th to send the game into extras. Dayan Viciedo was to be the man of the moment however as his 2-run homer in the 10th sealed a walk-off win for the home side.

Game 42

Carp 1 - 2 Dragons

WP: Katsuki Matayoshi 7IP 1ER 3SO               Kamezawa 3-2, Fujii 3-2
LP: Aren Kuri 7IP 1ER 4SO                            Noma 3-1, Maru 3-1

Katsuki Matayoshi kept the Carp awfully quiet as he fished a win into existence on the back of a good batting display.

Atsushi Fujii would take the lead for the Dragons in the 2nd while Abe evened up things for the Carp in the 4th. It was however to be a Viciedo that broke the dead lock despite hitting into a double play to score Kamezawa.
The Dragons bullpen would hold strong as Mitsuma, Iwase and Tajima did their jobs to finish off a close win.

Game 43

Carp 4 - 7 Dragons

WP: Kazuki Yoshimi 5IP 1ER 2SO                Oshima 3-2, Viciedo 3-2
LP: Yuya Fukui 6IP 3ER 6SO                       Maru 5-3
                                                           HR: Tanaka (7th), Guerrero (8th)

Yuya Yanagi joined the first team for the first time this season replacing Yudai Ono but he was found not needed this time around as the Dragons held firm once more the claim a wonderful sweep over the Carp.

Viciedo would help grab the lead in the 1st before Seiya Suzuki returned fire in the 3rd. It was however to be Viciedo again who would push the Dragons into the lead in the third. A solo homer from Kosuke Tanaka would however prove to be an interruption.

However RBIs from Oshima and Viciedo put the Dragons on top once more.At 5-2 the Carp fought back through Abe and Nishikawa to put the Carp within one but Guerrero's blast followed by Kyoda's RBI single sealed an important win for the Dragons and finally give Kazuki Yoshimi his first win of the year.

This series was a fantastic moral boosting one that I hope teaches the rest of the Central League not to underestimate us. The bats have been hot this month and they are putting plenty together. With Viciedo and Guerrero starting to get it done at the plate, there's no end to what this side could accomplish with a bit more luck.

Weekly Dragons Wrap: Yokohama shuffle, Swallows in the countryside (9th May - 14th May)

The Dragons would be out in the countryside a few times this week as the first game against DeNA took place at the picturesque Nagaragawa stadium in Gifu city to Nagoya's north while a shortened two game season in Ehime's capital of Matsuyama with the Swallows capped another round of regional romping.
If the Dragons are to be anywhere near the right end of the table at the close of the season, these are the teams they really need to beat.

Game 33
Baystars 3 - 8 Dragons

WP: Shota Suzuki 5 2/3IP 2ER 9SO                                 Viciedo 4-3, Guerrero 3-2
LP: Haruhiro Hamaguchi 4IP 6ER 5SO                            Miyazaki 4-4, Tsutsugo 4-2
                                                                                    HR: Viciedo (3rd), Guerrero (4th)
                                                                                            Lopes (6th)

Shota Suzuki grabbed his first professional win as he showed how to take strikes in an impressive, albeit short, outing.
A Hamaguchi wild pitch in the 3rd allowed the Dragons to take the lead while Donoue and Oshima knocked in further runs to make 3-0. Viciedo then further added insult to injury as he slammed his 5th homer of the season to make it 5-0.

Alex Guerrero would continue his good form in the 4th, joining his Cuban comrade with a fence clearing thwack to put the home side up 6-0.

There would be return fire from the Baystars through former Seattle Mariners slugger, Jose Lopes as he hit a 2-run homer to give the Yokohama side hope and put an unfortunate footnote to Suzuki's fantastic start.

Hirata would add more in the 7th but it would be the 'Stars Miyazaki who added one more off the erratic pitching of Elvis Araujo, but the game was closed out by Junki Ito to mark a satisfying win.

An interesting omen to take from this win, in the last 10 years (I think it's 10) when the Dragons have won in Gifu they've gone on to finish either 1st or 2nd in the Central League. While that seems like a pipe dream, at least the mystical is on our side.

Game 34
Baystars 3 - 1 Dragons

WP: Kentaro Taira 5IP 1ER 3SO                                     Tsutsugo 3-1, Taira 2-1
LP: Shinnosuke Ogasawara 5IP 3ER 3SO                       Guerrero 3-2
                                                                                    HR: Tsutsugo (5th)

Shinnosuke Ogasawara made his long awaited return to the starters mound against his hometown team. It wasn't to be the most successful of outings, but it was yet another story of the batting line-up not backing up their guy in a low scoring game.

The 'Stars took the lead through a Kuramoto 2RBI single in the 4th and they further extended their lead in the 5th through a Tsutsugo homer.

The Dragons tried to get a look in through Kamezawa in the 7th through his sac-fly, but the line-up failed to rally under the pressure of the Yokohama bullpen.

"Walks will haunt" should be the theme of this game as the Dragons gave up 7 free bases in their 9 innings. The bats didn't perform either as only 4 of the line-up made meaningful contact, one being from the pinch-hitting Kudo. Nothing too inspiring.

Yudai Ono threw down a meaningless 9th inning supposedly in attempt to get him back into the swing of things for a return to the starting rotation, but I do wonder how fruitless this venture might be.

Game 35
Baystars 4-3 Dragons

WP: Joe Wieland 6IP 3ER 5SO                                   Tsutsugo 5-3, Kuramoto 4-2
LP: Toshiya Okada 1IP 2ER 1SO                                Viciedo 2-2, Kyoda 4-2
                                                                                HR: Lopes (1st), Kuramoto (7th)

Raul Valdes would return to the mound still searching for some reward for his efforts but he must have done something to someone in a past life as he was once left without any reward.

Jose Lopes would give the 'Stars a perfect start as his solo homer in the first inning of the game.

The Dragons would however get themselves in front in the 4th inning as with bases loaded, Viciedo stepped up to the plate and drove a single into left scoring two. Shuhei Takahashi would then follow up with his first RBI of the year from a sac-fly to put the Dragons 3-1 up.

It would all however come undone as with a change from Valdes to Okada, Toshihiko Kuramoto would take the latter for a trip over the fence to level the scores at 3-3.

With Lopes on 2nd, a Sugiyama misfield allowed the Venezuelan to advance to 3rd where he was scored by a Tsutsugo swipe to give the pride of Yokohama the lead.

While the Dragons would attempt to get back into the game, they failed once again to break the Baystars bullpen as a series loss was confirmed in the 9th inning.

A fairly disappointing series apart from the opening game win but I think the 'Stars are stronger than they were last year if you discount Tsutsugo's form. The pitching is harder to breakdown than it once was and the additions of Wieland and Patton in particular seem to have sured things up.
Viciedo continued his superb form as he is starting to strike a lot more often with RISP. A few more homers have been added to his repertoire alongside Alex Guerrero which has certainly added more excitement to the games.

A 2-game series over Saturday and Sunday in Shikoku's Ehime prefecture against the Swallows would be next up with the Dragons once again hoping to snap a streak and hopefully topple a fairly inconsistent Swallows line-up.

Game 36
Dragons 4 - 3 Swallows

WP: Elvis Araujo 1IP 0ER 1SO                                Viciedo 4-2, Guerrero 4-2
LP: Ryo Akiyoshi 1IP 3ER 0SO                                Balentien 3-2, Ogawa 4-2
                                                                            HR: Guerrero (3rd), Viciedo (9th)

8 powerful innings from Yasuhiro "Ryan" Ogawa was not enough for the Swallows to plow through a win as the Dragons snatched a win at the death off the otherwise reliable Ryo Akiyoshi.

Keiji Obiki would open the scores in the second with a 2RBI single but the Swallows would be pegged back one through Alex Guerrero's 7th homer of the season in the third.

The trendy Tokyo team would extend their lead through Takeuchi in the 7th but a 3-run homer from Dayan Viciedo in the top of the 9th gave the Dragons a 4-3 lead where Shinji Tajima took save honors in a snatch and grab win.

Katsuki Matayoshi had another good shift as starter. Depsite giving up 10 hits he restricted the Swallows line-up to only 2 runs. Shinji Tajima continued his untarnished record against the Swallows as well having yet to concede a run in 5 games this year.

Game 37
Dragons 1 - 5 Swallows

WP: Ryo Akiyoshi 1IP 0ER 0SO                              Yuhei 4-2
LP: Yudai Ono 2/3 IP 4ER 1SO                                Kamezawa 3-2, Takahashi 3-2
                                                                             HR: Araki (9th)

It was to be almost a complete reversal on the previous game's result as it was Yudai Ono who threw away 8 well pitched innings of Kazuki Yoshimi's work.

The Dragons took the lead though an Oshima sac-fly in the first but the Swallows would even things up in the second through Nishiura. Both sides would keep each other honest throughout the later exchanges in the game with Yoshimi holding things together for the Dragons, and the Swallows bullpen doing their job. Going into the 9th with scores even, Yudai Ono was given a chance to take the game into extra innings but the wayward starter loaded up the bases with walks before giving up a walk-off grand slam to Takahiro Araki to end the game and crush any confidence anyone had about Ono being a starter.

Very much like the previous game, everything was decided with a last inning homer. Neither win was particular just, but it seems as though karma evened everything out in the end.

Two very closely fought games that could have easily gone a different way on both occasions.

Another "eh" kind of week in baseball from the boys in blue, but there seems to be a growing strength within this team as the dust settles around what kind of line-up the management is happy with. Sticking it out with Viciedo and Guerrero seems to be paying off while the patience shown with Yota Kyoda is also paying dividends as he slowly builds his batting average to put his best foot forward to be considered a ROTY candidate. If Kyoda does succeed in getting the award, he would be the first Dragons outfielder since his idol, Kazuyoshi Tatsunami who won the award in 1988.

Also, just for a bit of fun, there's a really talented artist on Twitter that's a Dragons fan. Here's one of the illustrations they produced for the series against the Swallows in Matsuyama. It features Doala, Tsubakuro, some local Ehime mascots and the Ehime Mandarin Pirates mascot, Mappy.