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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Series Wrap: Dragons vs Marines @ ZoZo Marine Stadium 14 June - 17 June; Bullpen blowup but wily wins in rain extended series

Another road trip, this time to the East took the Dragons to a visit to the Chiba Marines. The Marines have been hitting long-balls like no other team this season somewhat in thanks to their "homerun lagoons" added to the stadium this year but it hasn't been enough to see them as an established force.

A series of high emotions highlighted by a walk-off loss in game two of the series had Dragons fans in all-sorts but it was ultimately another successful series on the road.

On a personal note, this marks 6 years since I saw my first NPB game in the same fixture back in 2013. Both teams have changed somewhat dramatically since then; probably for the best.
  • Game 61: Dragons 4-1 Marines
  • Game 62: Dragons 7-8 Marines
  • Game 63: Dragons 5-4 Marines
Game 61

Yuya Yanagi was on fire in his start against the Marines as he threw down a complete game surrendering only one run, a Brandon Laird homer. Yanagi fanned 13 batters through his 9 innings for his 7th win and first complete game of the season. 
The Dragons took the lead through Shuhei Takahashi in the 4th but Laird's homer evened things up in the 7th. The Dragons would however pile on the pressure in the 9th against Kota Futaki, also on the road to a complete game up until that point. Yohei Oshima stole second whole a poor throw allowed him to advance to third. Dayan Viciedo would give the Dragons the lead with an RBI single while Shuhei Takahashi blasted a 2-run jack into the back screen to give the Dragons breathing space and ultimately the win. 
A great pitchers battle ended in a survival of the fittest as Yanagi outlasted Futaki over the course of 9 innings. While Yanagi championed on the mound, it was Shuhei with the bat, going 4-3 with 3RBIs that won it for his team.

Game 62

Saturday's game was rained out and the fixtures were shifted a day. Game 62 of the Dragons season would start on Sunday with Tatsuya Shimizu on the mound against Mike Bolsinger

The Dragons took the ascendancy in the 2nd with Atsushi Fujii and Yota Kyoda batting in a run a piece. Kyoda would follow up with an RBI single in the 4th while Yohei Oshima would add another in the 5th innings. Kyoda would then notch his 3rd RBI of the night with a 3-base hit in the top of the 6th. 

The Marines would claim a run back in the 7th through Daiichi Suzuki but further scoring plays from Kyoda and Masataka Iryo pushed the Dragons to a comfortable lead in the top of the 8th. Another solo homer to Hiromi Oka in the bottom of the inning would take some wind out of the sails, but all was well leading in to the 9th inning.

Shinji Tajima was rolled out with a 5-run buffer where he would promptly throw 3 of them away firstly giving up another solo homerun to Daiichi Suzuki. Tajima left runners on 1st and 3rd before being pulled for Raidel Martinez. The lofty Cuban however would have no answers as he gave up hits to Shogo Nakamura and Yuta Fujioka to restrict the Dragons lead to just one run. Martinez was able to take care of Ryuyhei Tamura but a hit and a walk later Martinez was withdrawn. Joely Rodriguez would take the mound in a high pressure, bases loaded situation where, on a 3-2 count, gave up the winning hit to Suzuki to give the Dragons their second walk-off loss in 3 games. 

The Dragons had no answer to Daiichi Suzuki's clutch hitting and the mentality wasn't there for the pitchers to hold onto a large lead in the 9th inning. On the balance of the game however, it deserved to be a close finish as Shimizu got away with a bit after he had 5 hits an 5 walks off his pitching. 

With the bat, it was Yota Kyoda who shone brightest with his 2 hits and 3 RBIs. Masataka Iryo also managed his second career modasho while Oshima, Nobumasa Fukuda and Fujii all had 2-hit games.

We may have bemoaned Hiroshi Suzuki continually shouldering runners, but he never quite blew up quite like Martinez has...

A video of Yota Kyoda kicking up a fuss at the end of the game has been found when he kicks the edge of the dugout flinging his glove on the ground in frustration. If nothing else, this has increased my love of him. Mentally, very strong and absolutely hates losing. Given the performance he put in on the night, one can hardly blame him.

Game 63

Before anything started, news of Shinji Tajima's demotion hit camp with Junki Ito coming in to replace him.

An unusual Monday game in Chiba was greeted by an Enny Romero in search of his 4th win of the season. Romero was able to rip 11Ks from the Lotte line-up despite giving up 4 runs, including a Shogo Nakamura 2-run blast in the 2nd. 

The Dragons put up 4 runs in the 4th off Lotte rookie, Toshiya Nakamura. Yohei Oshima, Dayan Viciedo, Nobumasa Fukuda and Atsushi Fujii all got among the RBIs to cancel out Nakamura's homer in the 2nd. The lead would be pushed to 3 runs in the top of the 6th through Viciedo scoring Oshima after he stole second base. 

The Marines would take the game within one run after 2011 Japan Series nemesis, Ikuhiro Kiyota doubled and then was scored by Hiromi Oka. Takashi Ogino would then in turn score Oka to put the scores at 4-5. 

The Raidel Martinez experience would cause some nerves as he gave up a leadoff double to Oka. A skillful bunt from Ryuhei Tamura would put runners on 1st and 3rd to further the clench. To make matters worse, pinch-runner Ryo Miki would steal second to increase the pressure on Martinez to get his outs. Surely with the previous evening fresh in his mind, Martinez struck out Ogino, aided in the ground out of Yuta Fujioka and struck out Daiichi Suzuki to end the game in style. Not something the team will want to see repeated again. If this is going to be a feature of the Dragons games, they're going to have to show a cardiac arrest warning before broadcast, or at least before Martinez pitches...

Viciedo was the best of the bats with 2 hits and 2 RBIs. Romero had a solid, dangerous outing, while the all-Latin American relay of Joely Rodriguez and Raidel Martinez closed out the game.

A series that the Dragons will take. It was hard fought and they were perhaps unlucky not to claim a sweep. Questions will remain of Raidel Martinez as closer but there's nothing to say he won't grow into the role. The key issue however will be replacing him when he leaves for international duty next month. That's roughly 20 games where we'll need to decide on a different set-up pattern.

In some good news, Ryosuke Hirata made big progress in his rehabilitation from a calf strain as he started on the farm on today and otherwise seemed to have a lot of fun doing it.
The Dragons will be back in Nagoya on the 18th for a 3-game series against the Seibu Lions.

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