This series takes place at Kyocera Dome which was where we opened the season in 2016. This was not only the first series I covered, but also one where Dayan Viciedo went absolutely berserk. (Game 1, 2, 3) Would this be an omen? Probably not, but it's always fun to reminisce.
Dragons 3 - 2 Tigers
Good Points: Ogasawara quality start, Mori not overworking Ogasawara, Shuhei modasho
Bad Points: The line-up still done broke.
Shinnosuke Ogasawara would secure his first win of the season where he pitched a magical seven innings keeping the Tigers very honest giving up only 3 hits one of which was to render the two RBIs against Yoshio Itoi. Itoi opened the scoring for the Tigers in the 1st frame taking Ogasawara deep for 2-run homer after the Dragons had taken a 1-run lead through a Shintaro Fujinami wild pitch.
Fujinami would once again be at the centre of things in 5th inning as he loaded up the bases only to walk Yota Kyoda to give-up the equalising run. A pro-active Kanemoto went straight to the bullpen following and was able to keep the Dragons out until the 8th where a dribble single between second and first from Fukuda allowed Ryosuke Hirata to score.
It would be a tricky ending to the game in the 9th with Tajima on the mound as he gave up a lead-off double to Oyama. This followed by a sac-bunt from Itohara brought a pinch-runner in Ueda out with the Tigers catcher Umeno at the plate. The Tigers looked to be after a squeeze play and after Umeno dropped the bunt, Tajima's quick glove work to Matsui, his ensuing tag and throw to the first to enact the double ended what was to be a fairly anticlimactic ending for Tigers fans. At all seemed to end so suddenly and in such an odd fashion but the Dragons came away with the win.
In the analysis, there's a lot wrong with the way we bat. Whenever the lead-off hitters seem to get on base, the clean-up malfunctions and when the clean-up actually hits, it's when no one is on base. Oshima and Kyoda got on base 5 times between them in this game, but Almonte and Viciedo went hitless. The lower order seemed to click a bit better with Fukuda moving down to 7th pushing Hirata into 5th and Shuhei into 6th in the order. But still, they're not putting it together yet which is frustrating considering how reasonably well the team did last year in this department.無駄のない完璧なフィールディングの田島— のもとけ (@dnomotoke) 2018年4月6日
Dragons 1 - 3 Tigers
Good points: Dillon Gee's arm not falling off, Hirata continuing to rack-up hits
Bad Points: Viciedo. Kyoda and Viciedo tacos (たこ or Tako in Japanese refers to ' octopus, which is round...like a zero. In this case, zero hits)
We seem to be able to get hits but not where it counts. The Dragons hit 8 to the Tigers 4 in this game, and still found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreline. Dillon Gee also pitched a 125 complete game for some reason. Why? Only Mori knows. He did pitch well I guess?
The Tigers took the lead in the first through an infield splittling RBI single from our beloved Kosuke Fukudome who continues to rake at a ripe old age of 40. The Tigers would increase their lead through an Oyama 2-run homer in the 4th and that would be just about it. The Dragons would get one back in the 6th through Almonte and had a good chance to convert more runs soon after but a strikeout from Fukuda ended hope there. With bases loaded in the 8th, Fukuda would shoot himself and the team in the foot once more hitting into a double play.
Fukuda and Viciedo, two projected important parts of the clean-up are both averaging under .200 with RISP. Viciedo in fact is averaging .100 despite otherwise hitting .323. Shuhei once again reached base twice today while Hirata reached 3 times. Shuhei and Hirata conversely average .375 with RISP and both sport OPS's in the .830 - 1.000 range. I think Hirata needs to be a candidate for taking Almonte's spot at 3 while Almonte drops to 4 or 5. Shuhei I'm quite happy to keep where he is as I think the extra protection has helped his production. Viciedo's lack of ability with RISP is very concerning. He has never been all that strong in this regard (2016: .232, 2017: .196) which makes me wonder how much of his struggles are mental. He's a good hitter when he's on but something seems to happen to him when runners are on second or third base.
A disappointing loss and a game that requires a lot of reflection.
Dragons 9-7 Tigers
Good Points: Almonte finding the middle of his bat, Kasahara QS, Kyoda Modasho
Bad Points: Matayoshi stealing Kasahara's win by being bad, Ono getting beaned
I've written each of these reports after each game and I have to eat my words about Zoilo Almonte very quickly as he went 5-4 with 4 RBIs to lead the Dragons to a 9-7 victory over the Tigers to capture the first series win of the season.
The line-up came together well with Almonte finding form and Hirata backing him up in the #5 slot.
Shotaro Kasahara started the game against veteran Tigers southpaw Atsushi Nomi. Kasahara got through a tidy 6 innings work that only included 2 walks and one earned run. Nomi conversely only lasted 4.1 innings after, perhaps unluckily, giving up 5 runs. His replacement Ishizaki would however get tossed after he beaned Shota Ono with bases loaded. Ono was withdrawn for Masato Matsui immediately after. Early reports suggest that the result is just bruising.
With the score at 5-1 things were looking comfortable particularly with a relatively strong bullpen to come, but one of those pillars of the set-up gang, Katsuki Matayoshi, had a particularly bad day at the office giving up all manner of hits and walks to give the Tigers a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the 7th. It was not however to last long however as Mateo of the Tigers continued the theme of generally reliable relievers having a bad day. 2 walks and an infield hit later, Zoilo Almonte was brought to the plate where his well timed single drove in two runs for the visitors while a Hirata single moments later would push the score to 6-9. Oyama would chalk one up for the hosts in the 9th off Tajima's pitching, but that would be all she wrote in a topsy turvy game of good relievers having a bad day.
A first series win to start the season. I still reserve judgement on the bats, but they got through their work in game 3 after struggling for the first few games. Almonte at #3 may still work while Hirata seems like a good fit at 5. Viciedo's longevity at 4 concerns me however as while he averages .343 with a .995 OPS as of Sunday's game, he has an average of .083 with RISP. I guess it's only a matter of time, but I am concerned he's seizing up when opportunities present themselves.