After a good couple of series at home it was time for the Dragons to make the trip back to Kanto to face off against the DeNA Yokohama Baystars. The Dragons made quick work of the Baystars in Nagoya earlier this season, and apart from a bore 0-0 draw, it was all positive for the Chunichi boys. Now, away from home, how would the team face up?
This was actually a series I had tickets to due to my fan club membership but due to the stadium being about an hour away from my workplace and a good 2 hours away from home, I decided against attending this time around. Regret it already. Nevermind!
Game 24 of our season would be a battle of the recently retired managers and Tanishige, a legend for the Baystars and the Dragons, came up against the only foreign manager in the league, Alex Ramirez. Tanishige started his career in Yokohama and if you look at the league finishes before and after he left, well, maybe there was a bit of correlation between Tanishige and success.
Jordan was brought up to take on the Baystars in his 3rd start for the Dragons this year. Kenta Ishida would be his opposing number, starting for Yokohama.
The action would start with the Baystars today. Kuwahara lead-off with a single while Ishikawa was fanned by Jordan. Shotaro Ide hit what looked like it was going to be a single into the left-field, but a fumble from Nanita allowed Kuwahara to get on to third base. The dangerman Tsutsugo would step up next for the ‘stars and a sac fly into the right would be enough to score Kuwahara and open the scores, 1-0. Jamie Romak was walked the next ball, but a hit into foul territory from Kuramoto resulted in an easy catch to end the innings.
The Baystars would continue the scoring in 2nd inning as Yanagida (not the good one) lead off with a walk. Tobashira was induced into a ground out before Ishida was fanned by Jordan to leave a runner on second with two outs. Kuwahara, the scorer in the first inning would be the next to step-up and it would be a handy hit into left field to send Tobashira on his way, 2-0.
A quiet few innings followed before the DeNA men had another breakthrough in the 4th. Kuramoto would get a hit but the poor man’s Yanagida would fly out to a Jordan change-up. Tobashira took a liking to another pitch as he moved Kuramoto to 3rd and put himself on 1st. up would come the pitcher, Ishida and from a hit in the infield, he was able to safely score Kuramoto and put himself on 1st base, 3-0. Kuwahara and Ishikawa would subsequently fall victim to consecutive fly-outs to end the inning.
With batting looking a bit dire, it was time for the Dragons to turn it on and get back into the game. At the top of the 5th the magic would start with a Viciedo double. Nanita would oblige his Hispanic compatriot with a hit of his own into the centre to allow Viciedo to score, 3-1. The rally cry was there, but with Hirata hitting into a double play and Donoue being struckout by Ishida, the innings was over in quick fashion.
A personnel change would come for Yokohama in the 6th as Shibata was brought in for Ide, but the new defensive shift couldn’t stop Shota Sugiyama from clearing the fence to rake a solo homer, 3-2.
Fukuda was brought in to pinch-hit for Jordan but a ground out was all that would result. A bit worrying for a guy who was absolutely mashing it in the 2-gun team earlier in the year. Ohshima would be the next at the plate and the centre-fielder would treat the visiting fans to a rare occurrence. On a count of 1-2, Ohshima opened up his shoulders and whacked one into the right stand. 3-3.
Back to even terms in no time at all. Araki and Takahashi would try to push the score to a winning margin, but it wasn’t to be with both grounding out to end the inning.
With the Baystars now on the back foot, Fujioka was brought to the mound to change the flow after a scoreless batting stanza. While he would find success removing Viciedo, a hit and a walk to Nanita and Hirata put the pressure on. While Fujioka fanned Donoue, Ramirez was happy to take him off and replace him with Tanaka. It wouldn’t prove to be the most astute of decisions as Sugiyama continued to fire as Romak mis-fielded a hit into the right allowing Nanita and Hirata to score to put the Dragons into a winning position for the first time of the day. 3-5.
Tani continued the mayhem as he scored Sugiyama with his double to make it 3-6. Ohshima finished off the inning as he was struckout by Tanaka.
The force was definitely with the Dragons at this point as they sought to put the game well out of reach in the 8th. After Araki and Takahashi failed to put up any resistance, up stepped the big Cuba, the man, the moment, the dude, Dayan Viciedo. Squaring up his foe, allowing the count to go to full, El Tank saw his moment and connected sweetly with a delivery in the middle of the plate. Sensing the homerun immediately, Viciedo dropped his bat in the “to hell with you bat” style and pumped up as ever jogged the diamond, 3-7.
It would be the last of the scoring as Tajima closed out the 9th for no score to cap off an exciting come from behind victory.
3 big dingers in a great turn around win for the Dragons and yet another poor showing from the Baystars.
Game 25 would be a different affair all together with the ever predictably unpredictable Daisuke Yamai on the mound. Yasutomo Kubo would pull the strings with the ball for the Baystars. Both pitchers were winless going into this game. Who would be the first to break their streak if either?
The scoring would start early in the bottom of the first. Yamai induced Aranami into a ground out to start things off. Ishikawa now stepped up to the plate and on a count of 2-1, launched Yamai into the stands to grab a solo home run to rattle the Dragons early, 1-0.
Otosaka fell victim to a change up while Tsusugo got to base. Ide would however give Yamai one of his only 2 strikeouts of the game to end the inning.
The Baystars continued their assault in the third. Aranami flew out to centre but Ishikawa took a sneaky bunt option which caught all by surprise and beat Yamai on the bounce as he ran through first base. Otosaka next up hit a double to move runners onto 2nd and 3rd. With Tsutsugo next up and more than a few worries adding up over Yamai’s pitching, it was no surprise that the big Yokohama hitter would make something happen. A hit to the short-stop would see Tsutsugo out at first, but it allowed Ishikawa to run home and score to make it, 2-0. Ide would be the last batter of the inning as his foul ball was caught by Viciedo.
Still showing dangerous signs, something that couldn’t be said of the Dragons line-up, the ‘stars took to the 4th inning. It would be a near carbon copy of the 1st inning as Kuramoto ground out at second allowing Hyuma to walk-up. Then, on a count of 1-0, Hyuma dispatched Yamai into the stands just right of the backscreen to make it 3-0. Yamai was visibly disappointed as he should be. He hadn’t thrown too bad stuff up to this point but, well, it only takes one bad ball.
Yamai would unfortunately be at the end of another dinger in the 6th as after a strike, Tsutsugo got his 8th homer of the season in almost the exact same spot as Hyuma. A change-up delivery in the outside track was punished with authority to put the Baystars 4-0 to the good.
Yamai would close out the inning with no further messy situations, but conceding 3 homeruns in 6 innings musn’t be a great feeling.
The Dragons would mount a counter-attack of sorts in the top of the 7th inning with Nanita leading off with a double. Hirata then managed a single to put runners on 1st and 2nd. Donoue now stepped up to survey the situation and the infielder would continue his good form with the bat as he hit a single to let Nanita run home, 4-1. Sugiyama’s single would then load up the bases with Morino coming in to pinch-hit for Yamai. The veteran would read his pitches well and elect to walk to take the score to 4-2. Kubo, who had pitched well, was withdrawn for Tanaka who up until today had a 0.00 ERA for the season. Ohshima was able to hit a sack fly off Tanaka to allow Hirata to score to make it 4-3. Kamezawa was withdrawn for Tani to pinch-hit, but the man in form couldn’t make anything happen as he ground into a double play to end the inning.
The bottom of the 7th inning brought Iwase to the mound and Tani onto second base to replace Kamezawa who had a fantastic game defensively showing his speed when ground fielding.
Tobashira started off the proceedings with a single. Kuwahara was brought in to pinch-hit for Tanaka but couldn’t make the best of his chance as he flew out. Aranami was then withdrawn for Jamie Romak who was given a walk by Iwase to put runners on 1st and 2nd. Thanks to a rare mis-field from Donoue, Ishikawa then helped load the bases with what probably should have been the start of a double play. Otosaka would be the hero as his single scored two batters to move the score to 6-3. Tsusugo would not let up as he also singled to send Ishikawa home, 7-3. Iwase, not doing his job, was taken off for Achira, the man doing the work in the 2-gun. And while he loaded the bases after fanning Yanagida, he escaped by inducing a ground out from Hyuma to end the inning.
The final nail in the coffin came in the top of the 8th as after Achira dismissed Tobashira, Kuwahara took a liking to tasty looking middle of the box straight ball and scored the 4th Baystars homerun of the night, 8-3.
The Dragons tried their hardest to fight back in the 9th but it would be to no avail as Gifu native, Tomoya Mikami shut the Chunichi batting line-up down to end the game.
Not a great start lead to a minor comeback but Iwase not hitting his straps meant that the game was taken away from the Dragons despite turning the tide. Had it been a different pitcher maybe it would have been a different story but we’ll never know. There were some good performances with the bat with Ohshima, Nanita, Hirata, Donoue and Sugiyama all registering two hits a piece, but it wasn’t a line-up that combined well enough together today. Credit goes to Kubo for crafting good game at the start of the game to set-up the win for the Baystars. Major questions still over Yamai’s head with some wondering why a younger starter isn’t given a chance ahead of him, but as a stop-gap while Ohno is out, Yamai appears to be the man that Tanishige wants. Credit I think needs to go to Achira who made his first appearance this season for the first team and did well despite conceding a homerun. Hopefully he will be considered for long-relief duties in future.
Into Game 26 of the season and it was to be Oguma, who was one hit away from a no-hitter in his last start against the Baystars took the mound against the Baystars. Yoshiki Sunada, yet to claim a win this season was his opponent in the final game of the series before the Dragons moved to Hiroshima for the weekend games.
Iwase removed from the first team as the only change in registration following his less than average performance.
It was an unusually cagey opening that would be broken in the third inning by the Baystars. A double from Tobashira started things before Sunada failed in his attempt to bunt. It wouldn’t matter however as one of yesterday’s homerun heroes, Masayuki Kuwahara continued where he left off hitting another one into the bleachers to open the scores at 2-0. Ishikawa and Otosaka could not add to the bracket and left the lead at two.
It would be an immediate reply from the Dragons as Sunada walked Viciedo to begin the innings. Nanita was beaten by a changeup, but the ever influential Ryosuke Hirata was brought to the plate. The captain has made his presence known since returning from injury at the outfielder would add to his homerun tally for the season with a lovely strike into the left stand, 2-2.
Donoue would be walked to follow up, but Katsura fly-out and Donoue’s failed steal ended the inning prematurely.
Oguma kept up his good job as he kept the Baystars quiet. An error made by Takahashi in the 5th was the only black mark on an otherwise good defensive performance.
The 6th inning would be opened up by Takahashi and the young star would well make up for his mistake in the field, slamming another homerun into the left stand. 2-3 the score!
Viciedo would continue things with a single and Nanita would add to that with a single that allowed the Cuban to move to third base.
Obviously sensing danger, Ramirez decided to substitute in Zach Petrick for Sunada. It wouldn’t stop a thing as Hirata made another telling contribution by singling Viciedo on his way home.
Donoue was caught at second to tally the first out of the inning bringing Iori Katsura to the plate. Katsura has shown a penchant for homers and today would be no different as he whalloped a 3-run homerun to send the scores to 2-7!
It was a magnificent bat-flip to follow as Katsura hit a fantastic no-doubter to continue the heated competition for the catcher’s spot between he and Sugiyama and had Tanishige grinning ear to ear.
Oguma continued the mayhem as he hit a double but Ohshima and Araki couldn’t take advantage.
The last of the scoring would come in the 7th inning. Nogawa would replace Petrick, and start things off by walking Shuhei. Lack of control was noticeable as he also walked Viciedo. Now correcting, Nogawa struck out Nanita and induced a ground out from Hirata but it was a timely triple from Donoue that sent Shuhei and Viciedo home to score and make it 2-9.
Hiroto Fuku was given the ball for the last 2 innings and the young lefty did well to close out the remaining innings under little pressure. He was able to strike out Romak and Tobashira in a row while inducing a ground out from Yamashita to end the inning and a fantastic hard hitting display.
All things went to plan for the Dragons today and Oguma gained a little more confidence after being battered by the Carp a week ago. No one can underestimate the influence of Hirata though as it seemed the whole team took a lift when he started doing his thing.
Overall a very positive series for the Dragons where we saw plenty of dingers and most importantly a series win.