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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Regular Season: Dragons vs Tigers @Koshien, May 17th – 19th; Close but no cigar

After what we can call a fairly “meh” series in terms of results against the Carp it was now time to switch focus to another dosey-doe with the Tigers.

The first game would be a show of youth against experience with Yu Sato lining up against Randy Messenger. Sato would be hoping to build on his first career win against the Baystars.

The Dragons would be the one to set the wheels rolling and in a spectacular way. On a full-count in his first at-bat of the evening, Ryosuke Hirata pulled a ball into the left stands to bring up his 5th homer of the season.

Already close to half of his total last season (11). Haraguchi would however come back to haunt the dragons in the 2nd as he evened things up while Takayama pushed the scored into Hanshin’s favour at 3-1. Hirata would be at the centre of good things again in the 8th as his hit brought the Dragons back within reaching distance. Pinch-hitting specialist, Kei Nomoto would then step-up to put the Dragons on an even footing with a timely single in the 9th to even the scores at 3-3.  That wouldn’t be the end of the fun however, as with bases loaded, Atsushi Fujii was given the chance to put the Dragons in front and the switch-hitter obliged with a sac-fly into left field. Some mayhem ensued as Endo was then found out at second to end the inning. Koji Fukutani was in the heat-seat once more for the bottom of the 9th but he was able to keep the Tigers quiet and seal a close 3-4 win in the picturesque Koshien stadium.

Donoue and Hirata were the key men with the bat as the captain snagged two RBIs while Donoue racked up 2 hits. Tajima took home winning honours for his scoreless inning while Dolis for the Tigers took the loss.

The game would also be marked by the 25th consecutive game where Shinji Tajima remained scoreless. A magnificent milestone for the relief pitcher as he set a new Central league record. Tajima has been in top form and has shown experience and verve where his partner, Matayoshi hasn’t.

Up next, the game would feature another youth vs experience battle on the mound as a winless Daisuke Yamai took on Hanshin’s 22 yo. Yuya Yokoyama.

Haraguchi would continue his haranguing form against the Dragons as his RBI sent Itayama home in the bottom of the 2nd. The Dragons would reply in the 4th when Nanita helped send Hirata home to even things up at 1-1. The lead wouldn’t last long however as in the bottom of the same inning, Yamai loaded up the bases. A wild pitch was followed by a dead ball against Yamato that clearly showed the veteran is struggling with his control.  Toritani would however hit a sac-fly to allow a single runner home to reclaim the lead at 2-1. The Tigers furthered their lead in the 5th with a solo homer from Gomez which would prove to be Yamai’s last inning of the night.

The Dragons wouldn’t go out without a whimper though as in the top of the 8th with Fujii and Araki on base, Hirata hit a single to move Chunichi within a run of evening the tables. With runners in promising positions and Viciedo and Nanita to come, there was hope of a come-back, but it was to be for naught as both fell victim to Yuya Ando. That would prove to be the end of the scoring as Fujikawa was brought in by the Tigers to make the save and claim an important win.

Yamai’s inability to do anything of use has to ring alarm bells. How many losses is he going to have to get before Tanishige decides to get rid of him? I know injuries are bad, but surely there has to be someone that will do a better job? Games with Yamai starting are all but a default loss at present.

Hirata was the main man with the bat as he snaffled an RBI and two walks for his trouble. Apart from the captain, there were minimal contributions across the board with most of the top order taking a hit.

The last game of the series was to be another close encounter of the baseball kind as Shintaro Fujinami faced off again Shunta Wakamatsu .  

Yamai found himself de-registered from the team for the first time this season, while catcher Takuma Kato was brought in to bolster the catching stocks.

Scoring would start in the 1st with the big Cuban, Dayan Viciedo helping Ohshima home to open the scores at 1-0. Fujinami’s control was clearly lacking as he walked Donoue and threw a wild pitch to allow Hirata to score to extend Chunichi’s lead. The lead however would be taken away from the Dragons in the bottom of the 6th as Toritani and Fukudome hit a single and a double respectively to put the scores at 2-2.  In the bottom of the 9th with extra inning looming, Matayoshi was given the ball to replace Fuku after the latter saw Fukudome off, but it was to a be a folly of a decision as the pitcher loaded up the bases and allowed a single to Haraguchi to end the game with a walk-off win to the Tigers.

A game of much finer margins that was probably, unfortunately, lost at the death thanks to some off colour clutch pitching. Viciedo did his job and how as he claimed 3 hits and a walk in his 4 at-bats while Sugiyama as well contributed two hits a walk plus a sac-hit to end a very productive game.

A win combined with two close losses away from home isn’t the worst way to end the week. The Dragons had their chances to win in the last two games but simply couldn’t produce at the right moments. Up next await the Giants; let’s see what we can do against them. 

On a bit of side news, former Dragons slugger, Matt Clark has made the trip back to Japan to play for the Orix Buffaloes for the rest of the season. I wish him all the best. 


  1. Nice. FYI it's Dolis with an L.

    1. Thanks. I didn't bother looking it up. Wouldn't be the first time I've had a stab in the dark and have been wrong.