In a fantastic return to the regular season, the Dragons closed out a 5-2 win against the Hanshin Tigers to immediately better their showing from last year and record their first opening day win in 4 years It was a mature showing from Yudai Ohno, the first left-handed opening day pitcher for Chunichi in 15 years, plus some good quality hitting down the line-up to bring a momentous win against one of the most feared pitchers in the league in American, Randy Messenger.
With Ohno's early announcement that he was sending one down the middle to start proceedings, it was hardly unexpected when Hanshin rookie Takayama who took to the challenge and marched onto base with a hit. Former Blue Jays slugger Matt Hague then made his scoring debut sending Takayama home to score. However, somewhat embarrassingly, Hague underestimated the Chunichi outfield arms and got caught well short of his ground at second. 1-0 in the bottom of the first.
Chunichi steadily applied the pressure to Messenger drawing out more and more throws from the vet, and with 1 out and bases loaded in the 3rd, with Viciedo and Hirata to come, it looked like a great opportunity to turn the score around.But it was to no avail as Viciedo whacked a ferocious one straight at Toritani who caught the Cuban on the full. Hirata was also unable to make it count against his bogey pitcher as he struck it straight back to Messenger who subsequently threw Hirata out at first. Fans heads must have been a little down at the this point, mine certainly was, but the best was yet to come. An error forced by Katsura in the 4th would see the scores leveled at 1-1.
At the top of the 5th the Dragons would take the lead as Shuhei Takahashi struck a line drive to allow his captain Hirata to score. 1-2
Hanshin would however strike back in the bottom of the 5th from an unlikely source in Randy Messenger who, grounded a ball to third but sent a fleet footed Tsuyoshi Nishioka in to score. 2-2
Those terms wouldn't last long however as Dayan Viciedo made his first telling contribution in a Chunichi jersey getting a 2-base hit to send Araki home to make it 3-2. Messenger appeared to be tiring and losing his bearings but Ohno on the other side was taking to the challenge knocking over the clean-up squad of Hague, Fukudome and Gomes with 3 more outs in quick succession.
At the top of the 7th, Chunichi would load the bases and a tired Messenger saw that his night was put to end when he walked Hernandez allowing Takahashi to saunter home to make it 4-2. First reliever off the ranks would be a familiar face for Chunichi fans as former pitcher Akifumi Takahashi, a new signing for Hanshin this season, saw off Endo to end-o the innnings.
It would not be the only heroics for Viciedo as he pulled of a fantastic move on first base to deny Hanshin even site of victory. I dive to his right and a pass to Ohno made sure that nothing was getting past the big man today.
Ohno would see it to the 8th innning before being replaced by Matayoshi who was subsequently replaced by Fukutani who saw out the game in the 9th with an easy save.
A fantastic start to the season that had Tanishige gushing with praise for his players. He was however quietly confident stating that "I believed in them. It was a fantastic game."Viciedo described his moments leading up to his home run: "I was at two strikes so I thought I'd throw the bat at it and put in an area with no fielder. I'm really happy to have hit my first homer in Japan"
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