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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Regular Season: Dragons vs Baystars @Nagoya Dome, April 5th-7th; Wakamatsu's Defiance, Oguma's shutout, Jordan's first start

In the weekday games this week brought the Dragons up against fellow 2015 strugglers the Yokohama DeNA Baystars. The Baystars are under new management with former player Alex Ramirez, affectionately known as "Rami-chan," has had some mixed but overall poor results to start the season. The Dragons were coming back to Nagoya on the back of a two losses and a win against the Swallows away at Jingu and would be looking to continue the bounce back to form.

When you looked at the scoreline of Game 10 this season you would have been fooled into thinking it was a boring affair, but thanks to the exploits of Shunta Wakamatsu, it was anything but as the young pitcher contributed with both bat and ball to seal the win. The game was to be without captain Ryosuke Hirata however who was de-registered from the first-team after it was reported he was suffering from a groin complaint. This changed the batting line-up a bit and it would be a second consecutive promotion for the rising star, Shuhei Takahashi who slotted in at 3 to replace the injured Hirata. Viciedo would have a change of defensive position as he was moved to left-field while Tetsuya Tani took up duties at first. Yusuke Matsui would take-up position in right-field.

It was a story of what could have been for the Baystars however as they often got on base to either encounter a bit of Wakamatsu brilliance or a bit of DeNA impotence.

Our story starts at the Nagoya dome with Wakamatsu making his second appearance of the season after a solid outing against Hiroshima in the previous home fixtures. Worries appeared over the pitcher's ability to back-up his breakout season last year, but he seems to have overcome his pre-season shakes to show some unwavering confidence.

Early on, Wakamatsu was not hitting his stride as one would hope as he gave up a hit to his first batter when Tatsuhiro Shibata split second and first to get his first base of the night. Not to be discouraged however, the young Dragons pitcher then took 2 straight strike-outs and an easy groundout to finish of the inning. Heart-attack moments were to come however as Wakamatsu started the 2nd inning mowing through Aranami and Romak. He would walk one and allow two hits to allow the bases to be loaded with Shibata back to bat. With the flow of things seemingly running away from him, fans began gnawing on their hats expecting another early cough-up. However, Wakamatsu showed great character throwing down his trusty change-up to get a groundout and end the inning.

Tani's good form would continue in the second inning as he got on base and stole a bag in his first plate appearance of the day, but Matsui and Donoue couldn't help the in-form utility man get into score as they were consecutively dismissed.

Wakamatsu takes out Tsutsugo with the patented change-up
Wakamatsu would again enter cardiac arrest territory in the 3rd inning as he gave up a hit to Yanagita, had Lopes ground out to second, give up a walk to Tsutsugo, have Aranami ground out and walk Romak to once again load the bases. Hat gnawing recommenced but it would be Wakamatsu that would show great courage to strikeout Kuramoto and end the inning. A clenched fist to celebrate, Wakamatsu walked away from the mound revved up and ready to continue.

King clutch would have more to say in the outcome of the game. In the top of the third inning, Shota Sugiyama would get a triple to stand on the 3rd base with no outs and the pitcher coming up to take guard. Wakamatsu clearly brimming with confidence did what he needed to do as his sacrifice fly to right field sent his catcher home. An RBI made in the battery. 1-0.

The game would remain a battle between the pitchers as neither team was willing to give an inch. Wakamatsu kept his cool to pitch out 7 complete innings as Tajima manage to hold while Fukutani made his 4th save of the season to make is a 1-0 shutout win over DeNA. Also this happened:

 The Dragons only managed 3 hits today against the Baystars' 9 in what you would have to say was a lucky win. However, all credit must go to the battery today who kept the Baystars out in critical moments.

Wakamatsu was obviously the hero today and his shutout and winning RBI is the first time that such a statistic has occurred in the NPB for 5 years, and the first time in 29 years for the Dragons with Kasuhiro Kawabata being the last in a game against the Taiyo Whales back in 1987.

Here's a short highlights package:

Game 11 would make for more interesting reading with a surprise starting debut given to the ever-improving Ryosuke Oguma. Oguma already has one win this season when he started from the bull-pen against Hiroshima in game 6 to replace Hiroto Fuku who gave up 5 runs early on. Oguma has done very well in his time on the mound as a reliever and Tanishige was obviously impressed enough by the Shiga Prefecture native to give him time in the starting rotation. Guillermo Moscoso would start for DeNA having had a successful time out against the Giants in Yokohama in his last start.

Things would start well for the Dragons as Oguma successfully saw off the first attack giving up one walk while going through the order. Moscoso would return in kind in the first Dragons bat, but it would prove to be much more costly. With Araki walked to first base, Takahashi Shuhei would make his first bat of the day. The in-form youngster minced no words with the Baystars pitcher as he launched him into the right-field bleachers to make it 2-0 to the Dragons in the first inning.

Oguma would do a fantastic job of keeping the Baystars batters quiet as he only gave up one hit the entire game to Lopez in the 4th. Apart from that hiccup, Oguma's stamped his presence on the game with fantastic patience, poise and control ensuring that the Baystars line-up wouldn't get even a sniff of a run. Chunichi would extend their lead in the 7th as Donoue got on base and thanks to a bunt from Katsura and a sacrifice fly from Oguma, the #63 stood on third ready to be sent home. Ohshima would oblige and the centre-field speedster hit one into right-field to made it 3-0.

Oguma would close out 9 innings conceding only one hit, giving up only one walk, taking 5 strikeouts and throwing only 93 balls. An embarrassing showing from the Baystars perhaps, but Oguma put on what was a near-perfect shut-out for a pitcher that has only gone from strength to strength this year.

Shuhei and Oguma's performances today surely had many Chunichi fans in a jocular mood heading heading home from the dome.

Some highlights:

Game 12 would lack the highs and lows of either game in another close-knit, low scoring, 12 inning contest. It would be Jordan Norberto's first stint on the starting mound and Anderson Hernandez would be removed from the team to accommodate his countryman. Yoshiki Sunada would start for the Baystars.

Things started out shaky for the Dominican as he gave up a hit and a walk in his first inning, but it would end up being meaningless.

It would take until the 4th inning before the scoring would begin and it would be thanks to Naomichi Donoue that the Dragons would take the lead. Takahashi would take dead-ball to get on base, while a hit up the middle from the restored Nobumasa Fukuda would put runners on first and second. A poor hit to second-base had Fukuda ground out at second while Fujii made his ground before Donoue made a great lunging effort to get into first to score Takahashi to make it 1-0.

Jordan would not have the greatest of days out as the first scoring hit of his pitching ended up being a home-run to Hiroyuki Shirasaki. Jordan, formerly a relief specialist, was showing his exhaustion and in the 7th inning he was replaced by Matayoshi.

A good chance would come around for the Dragons in the 8th to turn the drawing scoreline around. Nanita got on base, pinch-hitting for Tajima and was soon followed by Oshima. Masahiko Morino would then make his return to the first-team as he pinch-hit for Araki only to ground out but move pinch-runner Kudo, onto 3rd. Shuhei would take guard at 2 out but with Kudo in a scoring position, but the young magician would not make it count.

The game would disappointingly peeter out in the extended innings to leave the game a 1-1 draw. Fujii would make some way to returning to form with 2 hits in his 4 at-bats while Jordan looked tidy in his first time on the starting mound.


All in all a very good 3 games from the Dragons where 3 pitchers showed how to shut-down teams well. Baystars clearly need work, but the Dragons have shown great progression this season so far. Well done boys!

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