In the last series before inter-league play, the Dragons faced off against the Swallows for their second series against the Tokyo team in Aichi. The record against the Swallows hasn’t been bad this year but with Swallows killer Drew Naylor out with injury, would his replacements be able to replicate his ability?
In Game 7 against the Swallows this year Valdes would take up responsibilities on the mound for the Dragons, while Naruse would be his opponent for the evening for the Swallows.
In a change to the line-up, Ricardo Nanita was elevated to the #3 spot. Ohshima was given a run there against the Baystars and Hirata had been hitting there before his injury, but the elevation up the order was given to the Dominican veteran as he continues his impressive form.
Shota Sugiyama would be the first to open the scoring as his triple in the 3rd to send Viciedo and Donoue into score, 2-0. The Dragons would further extend their lead in the 3rd inning as a Hirata double allowed Araki to score to make it 3-0. Ohshima continued his great form (possible all-star?) with a triple to allow Sugiyama to score while Araki obliged his outfielder with a single to stretch the lead to 5-0 in the 4th. It wouldn’t all be smooth sailing though as Iihara struck back for the Swallows in the 5th with a 2-run homer.
Sakaguchi would then put Yakult in reaching distance with his three base hit that sent home Ohbiki and Hiyane, 5-4 in the 6th. Valdes would then be withdrawn in the 7th inning for Yu Sato who, showing his inexperience, put two on base before a wild pitch put both runners into scoring positions. Sato was then withdrawn for Okada who walked his first batter to really put the pressure on with bases loaded. Ohbiki would be the man to claim the RBI but at the expense of a double-play, 5-5. From 5-0 down the Swallows had crawled back onto level terms. The Dragons would be the ones to chortle at the end of proceedings however as Nanita’s sac-fly allowed Ohshima to score again to take the lead 6-5. Shinji Tajima would be called on in the 9th inning to save the game and did so with aplomb.
Okada claimed his second win of the season while Tajima kept his scoreless record intact while claiming his 2nd save of the year. Nanita was the hero of the night for hitting the winning runs while Araki and Ohshima both claimed a hit a piece.
A close win that was almost taken away from the team at the death (not unlike the last loss that the Swallows inflicted on us in their last visit) but the team held on. It was perhaps a strange decision for Tanishige to throw Sato into the fray at such an important juncture, but young lads need to be exposed to these high pressure situations.
Saturday’s game would be contested between Jordan Norberto and Hirofumi Yamanaka. Jordan has been in great form since starting his Chunichi career and has proven to be an important piece of the starting rotation this year (and one of the only consistent components at that).
Scoring would start late in the 6th but Hatakeyama would be the one to get the scoreboard moving as his RBI single allowed Yamada to score to put the Swallows 0-1 up. This however sprang the Dragons into life as consecutive blows from Nanita and Viciedo invited Hirata to clean-up and even up the scores. Kamezawa would then claim the lead, as today’s third baseman hit a 2 RBI single to put the scores at 3-1. The Swallows would continue the sparring however through Sakaguchi who sent one home while consecutive RBI singles from Kawabata and Hatakeyama put the Swallows 3-4 to the good. Not great pitching from Okada who was brought in to relieve for Jordan at the start of the inning. Daisuke Sobue was brought in to limit the damage but he couldn’t stop Imanami from getting on base off as Araki let one past him which subsequently let one in to extend the lead to 3-5. The Dragons would get back within one from a Hirata solo homer in 8th.
The Swallows however would extend their lead again in the bottom of the inning through Nakamura who scored Takeuchi to make it 4-6. At the top of the 9th however, the Dragons would expose the hole left by Tony Barnette’s return to the MLB as his replacement Ondrusek gave up an RBI single to Ohshima before Kei Nomoto hit with a sac-fly to even things up at 6-6!
Into extra innings now and it was to be the Swallows that would prevail in the 11th with Hiroto Fuku pitching. Nakamura batted in the winning runs as he did last time the Swallows visited Nagoya, while Hiyane extended the lead to 6-9. The Dragons were unable to rally in the 11th giving the Swallows a last gasp win.
Jordan pitched well again today as he fanned 7 batters but walked 5 in his 6 innings. Tajima also kept his spotless record going as he claimed the only hold for the Dragons on the night. Kamezawa was the surprise with the bat tonight as his 3 hits rendered 2 RBIs in a very successful night for the infield utility man. Ohshima, Nanita and Hirata all otherwise pitched in with 2 hits a piece in a fairly productive night for the line-up. The game was won and lost in the bullpen today however particularly with Okada’s shocking give away of 4 runs.
The final game of the series would see Kazuki Yoshimi maintain his spot in the starting rotation following his first win last week against the Giants. Juri Hara, the rookie, would start for the Swallows. It would be a story of Hispanic heraldry as Nanita and Viciedo made big contributions.
It would be Nanita who would open proceedings in the 1st inning as his RBI single allowed Ohshima to score to open things at 1-0. Nanita would be at it again in the 3rd inning as he double the Dragons lead with a solo homer, 2-0.
It wouldn’t stop there in the inning as Donoue’s double sent Viciedo home, 3-0. The Swallows finally made a reply through the virtuous Tetsuto Yamada as last year’s “Triple 3” man added to his collection of RBIs as he hit Ohbiki home in the 4th. Yoshimi however was otherwise doing his job of keeping the Swallows honest and it was through that pressure created that Viciedo was able to do his thing in the 7th inning. With Ohshima and Nanita on base the Cuban took no pity on the first pitch from Matsuoka as he mashed a towering homer into the back screen for a 3-run homerun! 6-1!
Fukutani was given relief duties in the 8th but it was Okada who would close off the inning in a relatively low pressure situation compared to the previous day to celebrate a bit 6-1 win.
The “Mash Brothers” or “El Masho Duo” were the standouts on the night. Nanita grabbed two hits, including a homerun and milked a walk for his 2 RBIs. Viciedo would also take two hits, including his wonderful dong, for 3 RBIs in a fantastic showing from the #3 and #4. Yoshimi only conceded 3 hits against a loaded Swallows line-up which speaks volumes of his value to the team while Ryuya Ogawa and Sobue both took home holds in a game where the bullpen looked much healthier.
2 wins from 3 for the Dragons in the last game before the inter-league break. A good way to go out. The loss and the almost loss in the first game will be of worry to Tanshige but the results are all that matter and a series win is always a good thing.
Ahead of the interl-league break, our first draft pick in 2015, Shinnosuke Ogasawara is set to make his pro debut in a start against the Softbank Hawks. This is a game we were never likely to win anyway, so hopefully the message to Ogasawara is to go out there and do his thing without too much pressure. Looking forward to seeing how the young fella will go! He will become the first HS rookie to debut in the opening game of the inter-league play since its inception 14 years ago!