After a hoodoo shaking 2-1 series win over the Swallows in the opening weekend, the Dragons were taken back to earth very quickly with a short trip on the Fukutoshin line out to Yokohama. While Yuya Yanagi and Takumi Yamamoto put up valiant efforts to keep their team in the hunt, but Yuichiro Okano was given a rough introduction to the NPB with a less than glorious start on Thursday.
Baystars 3-0 Dragons
Yuya Yanagi made his first start of the year against the team that he almost signed for back in the 2016 draft. Tyler Austin and Toshiro Miyazaki were the destroyers for the Baystars as Austin went 4-4 with and RBI and Miyazaki hit the nail in the coffin solo homer in the 6th.
The Dragons managed to match the Baystars in hits with Yohei Oshima going 4-3 in the lead-off spot. The team however was unable to convert their any chances as Haruhiro Hamaguchi went 8 1/3 innings in a quality start. Yanagi threw 6 innings for 8 strikeouts, but wasn't economical with his pitch could as he threw 120 pitches in only 6 innings. Hiroshi Suzuki had 2 clean innings with 2 strikeouts to mop up the game but ultimately the Dragons line-up would not respond to an otherwise decent outing from their starter.
Baystars 3-2 Dragons
The diminutive Takumi Yamamoto was given his first run in the opening rotation at the tender age of 20 years old. The youngster from Takarazuka in Hyogo prefecture put up 5 steady frames that were disrupted by a go ahead homerun from Takayuki Kajitani. The Dragons had opened the scoring in the 2nd inning with Shuhei Takahashi's first homerun of the season in front of his hometown crowd.
Despite mustering 10 hits, the lack of cutthroat ability with runners in scoring positions meant the team would lose out in a close game.
Dayan Viciedo, Toshiki Abe, Yota Kyoda and Yohei Oshima all had mutl-hit games but it was the misfiring middle-order sans Ryosuke Hirata that didn't put things together while Issei Endo and Zoilo Almonte in the 2 and 3 spots went hit-less. On a different day, keeping a team to 3-runs would have been easy to defeat, but early season form hasn't been encouraging yet.
Baystars 10-2 Dragons
My big hope for an immediate impact in the rotation, Yuichiro Okano, was shot down in flames as his introduction to NPB was a rough one. The Dragons started the game with Yuya Gunji behind the plate for his starting debut to create the first Dragons rookie battery since 2016 with Shinnosuke Ogasawara and Takuya Kinoshita. They also proved to be the first battery to make their NPB starting debut together since spring of 1937.
The Baystars took 5 runs off 5 innings including a homerun given to Tyler Austin in the 1st inning with a juicy chest high meat ball. Yuya Sakamoto on the mound for Yokohama was in good form as he took 5Ks in 6 innings keeping the Dragons to just one hit. Whilst Okano gave up 5, the relief pitching wasn't much better as fellow rookie, Yuki Hashimoto gave up 2 more in 2 innings despite 4Ks (a 2-run homer to Kajitani) while Hiroshi Suzuki faired even worse with a 3-run dinger given up to Toshiro Miyazaki.
The Dragons clawed back 2-runs through a Yohei Oshima hit and a Toshiki Abe homer, but it was all too little too late as the pitching staff let the team down.
Overall, the first two games were winnable but the key cogs in the line-up just didnt' fire when required. Oshima is batting .400 through the first 6 games of the season; you can't expect much more from a lead-off hitter. Almonte conversely is currently hitting .263 with Viciedo averaging .231. Fukuda and Hirata similarly haven't done what has been required either. Not a great look from your clean-up hitters.
Yoda looks to have been platooning Fukuda and Almonte which looks good on paper, but Almonte is a switch hitter so you'd assume he could be a regular but I think the manager is doing his best to fit two of his better hitters in the line-up as often as possible. Fukuda can be so dangerous when he's on but it seems like he's only hot for a couple of months a year. Let's hope he can find his bat after warming up over the opening 2 series.
The rotation will go through a second turn in the next home series against the Carp where Yudai Ono faces up to Daiichi Ohsera who has been somewhat of a thorn in the Dragons side the last couple of years. (What's a few complete game shutouts between friends?) The Dragons have however been good against the Carp at home, so this should be a good contest if Ono has found his feet.
News from the Front
* Dragons golden boy, Akira Neo looks like he'll get a promotion to the top team for the first home series of the year after doing pretty well on the farm going 16-5 over 5 games batting 3rd and fielding at second.