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Monday, April 10, 2017

Weekly Wrap: Misery, First Win, Misery (4th April - 9th April)

Game 4
Carp 7 - 1 Dragons

WP: Yusuke Nomura 7IP 1ER 7SO                              Viciedo 4-2
LP: Shunta Wakamatsu 3IP 3ER 4SO                           Tanaka 3-2, Arai 3-2, Nomura 3-2
                                                                                       HR: Eldred (1st), Mizowaki (3rd)

Yet more runs given up in the first few innings saw the Dragons fall behind as a 2-run homer to Brad Eldred as he took a liking to a Wakamatsu change-up. That was followed up by a Kosuke Tanaka's single saw the Carp 3 up in quick fashion.

In the bottom of the 3rd, Wakamatsu was changed out for Hayato Mizowaki who promptly showed his credentials by putting in a stubborn at bat and eventually launching Yusuke Nomura into the stands for his first professional home run. 

Masahiro Araki would come up to bat shortly after, and after striking out, Mori made the decision to make the pitching change by swapping out Araki allowing Mizowaki to play out the rest of the game at second. At this point Takuya Mitsuma would come into the game once more, pitching out yet another two scoreless innings. Following Mitsuma would be Takuya Asao who with much desire to see out his job perhaps tried a bit too hard. His pitching was all over the place and in his one inning he gave up 4 earned runs including 4 hits and 2 walks given up. 

Jordan Norberto and Toshiya Okada would close out the rest of the game scoreless, but it was to be a sombre day for Dragons fans where they were significantly humbled at home. A 4th consecutive loss marked the worst start to a season since 1980 where the Dragons finished last. The only shining light that season was Kenichi Yazawa's .369 average batting title season, but can this team muster even one such individual?

Game 5

Carp 3 - 3 Dragons

SP; Tomoya Yagi IP 3 0/3, ER 2, SO 2                    Oshima 5-4, Guerrero 6-3
SP; Hiroki Tokoda IP 6 1/3 ER 3 SO 6                     Arai 3-2
                      HR: Eldred (2nd)

The Dragons mustered 13 hits in this game but didn't do enough to pull the wool over the eyes of the defending champions. The 9th inning had many talking points, but before we get there, let's discuss the journey.

Dragons opened the scoring as a centre-field liner from Guerrero was enough to send Oshima home. The Carp would however reply almost immediately as in the top of the 2nd  as Eldred hit his second homer in as many games to put two on the board and take the lead. 
Tomoya Yagi would be befelled in the 3rd  as he copped one to the leg from a return hit from Takahiro Arai. Concerned for the veteran's health, Matayoshi was brought out from the bullpen. In the 5th inning the Dragons would even things up through Hirata and they would take the lead as Guerrero's sac-fly helped score Oshima who had been helped to third by a Kyoda bunt. Good pitching from Matayoshi and Okada saw the Dragons reach the 9th with their lead in tact but that's when things started to get...interesting.

For the second time this season Shinji Tajima was brought out of the bullpen to try and save the game. After getting the first out, Tajima walked Maru and Arai to put runners in scoring positions. With the "godly" Seiya Suzuki at the plate danger was all abounds. Suzuki would put a hit out into left field that was met by Atsushi Fujii who launched a laser beam to Sugiyama to claim what was to be a very important out....but. The decision went to video referral and the out decision was overturned giving the Carp their equaliser. 
It doesn't matter how many times I look at this, it's out. The freeze frame I saw of this during the game which has since been deleted was much more conclusive, but it is daylight robbery. Tajima should not have put the team in that situation to begin with, but this is just rubbing salt into the wounds. However, that being said, without this drama we wouldn't have had the next play by Yota Kyoda. His diving catch off Eldred ended the inning and boy it was a beauty.
At the bottom of the 9th the Dragons got close to winning it as Oshima was advanced to 2nd by another Kyoda bunt and 3rd through a Guerrero grounder but the king of the clean-up, Dayan Viciedo struck out when he was needed most to bring the game into extra innings.
A few more of the bullpen arms were given some innings as Iwase looked much like his old self whiffing two batters in his one inning of relief while Daisuke Sobue and Takuya Mitsuma all put in scoreless shifts. I wonder if this means something. Sobue and Mitsuma were used as closers on the farm last year and Iwase is the closer of legends. Maybe Mori was testing the waters? We'll see.

The team batted really well today and deserved to win. Not often you muster that many hits and fail to register the win. Viciedo's inclusion needs to be questioned and I'm almost hoping the team dump him and put in someone like Ishioka or Ishikawa to get some at-bats. A couple of singles a game is not what he was recruited for. The Donoue-Kyoda combo in the middle-infield combined well and it was good to see Mori finally drop Araki. Kyoda did his job superbly at number two in the batting line up registering a hit and successfully laying down 2 sac-bunts. Oshima was on fire, picking up the modasho along with Guerrero which was also great to see. Tajima's performance was the only worry this time around....a shame really.

Game 6

Carp 5 - 3 Dragons

WP: Kazuki Yabuta 1IP 0ER 0SO                               Oshima 6-4, Viciedo 6-4, Hirata 5-3
LP: Toshiya Okada 0/3 2ER 0SO                                Tanaka 5-3, Eldred 3-2
                                                                                     HR: Oshima (7th)

It was to be another extended game tonight as the Dragons took on the Carp in the 3rd and final game of the round at Nagoya Dome. RBI's from Seiya Suzuki and Brad Eldred put the carp 3-0 to the good in the 5th but the Dragons kept inching their way back into the game. Oshima's first homer of the season put things within 2 runs in the 7th.
Oshima again was involved in getting the Dragons on an even keel when he was scored by Guerrero following his double base hit. Viciedo would follow up to score Guerrero putting the Dragons back in the game in the bottom of the 9th. Hirata and Kudo would try their best to put Chunichi on top, but the game was destined to go into extra innings once more.
Hitoki Iwase and Takuya Mitsuma once again showed off effortless work as they shut down the Carp in their respective innings, but it was the Samurai Japan representative, Toshiya Okada that would put the Dragons in a jam. With one out on the board, Okada gave up 3 consecutive hits to load the bases. Sobue was brought in to try and control the situation but he gave up a sac-fly to Takahiro Arai that ultimately put 2 more runs on the board after a poor fielding mix up.
In the bottom of the 11th, chasing the game, Oshima and Kyoda got on base but it was their clean up that would fail them as both Guerrero and Viciedo capitulated to end the game.

Another...sad performance. The Dragons well out-batted their opponents putting up 15 hits on the board to the Carp's 9. Quite a feat when you consider the struggles of last year but this goes back to what I said when we played the Giants. The lineup just feels a bit disjointed. A big problem is Viciedo not getting those extra base hits. He connected superbly today with 4 hits in his 6 at-bats, but he's not Hector Luna. We don't need a guy that hits for average in that #4 spot in the line-up. I hope this is the start of him building some confidence to go longer later in the season, but it isn't why he's there.

It was a poor series at home and marks a winless opening 6 games, the equal worst start to any season in Chunichi colours. Poor by any person's standards. The positives I have seen are the new faces being given time. Hayato Mizowaki started in game 6 at second base and Yota Kyoda has started all but one game this season at short where he has been very respectable despite his rookie status. Takuya Mitsuma as well is still bamboozling batters and is yet to concede a run so far this season. Power to him.

Otherwise, an interesting statistic that has popped up for the Dragons. While they are last on the points table, they are top of UZR rankings believe it or not. The performance in the field hasn't been lacking.

Okada has been sent down to the farm to work on his stuff while the Dragons  have the worst average with RISP in the league (.127). They had stranded 13 runners as of the end of the Carp series.

Game 7

Baystars 5 - 7 Dragons

WP: Katsuki Matayoshi 3IP 0ER 1SO                              Viciedo 2-2, Hirata 3-2
LP: Kota Suda 1 1/3 IP 2 ER 1SO                                     Kajitani 5-3, Tanaka 3-2
                                                                                           HR: Kajitani (3rd)

Chunichi would register their first win of the season over the Yokohama DeNA Baystars on Friday night, as a another poor start from "staff ace" Yudai Ono, was saved by some good relief pitching and good batting at the right times.

DeNA catcher Tobashira opened the scoring in the 2nd and the 'Stars extended their lead to 2 with Takayuki Kajitani's solo homer in the 3rd.
However, with bases loaded, Ryosuke Hirata hit a timely double to put the Dragons 3-2 to the good. Yota Kyoda's impressive performances continued with his RBI single in to score Hirata to extend the lead to 4-2. It wasn't however to be all cherry blossoms for the Dragons as the 'Stars were back on even terms by the 5th inning following RBI's from Hiroyasu Tanaka and Toshiro Miyazaki. Yokohama would then retake the lead in the 5th as Tanaka once again proved decisive to the put the scores to 4-5 on the night. Matayoshi was brought in following the 5-run leak from Ono's pitching and he soaked up the pressure magnificently allowing the Dragons to rally in the 7th inning where Viciedo evened things up before Kyoda and Fujii gave the Chunichi faithful a 2-run lead.
Shinji Tajima was once again brought in to protect a small lead but for the first time this year, the closer knocked off all three batters in a row to retire the side, claim the win and claim his first save of the year.

A relieving first win to the season that came in very entertaining fashion. Mori and Oshima had a good laugh about it.
Game 8

DeNA 1 -1 Dragons

SP: Shunta Wakamatsu 8IP 1ER 5SO                       5-2 Oshima, 5-2 Araki
SP: Kenta Ishida 7IP 1ER 9SO                                 3-2 Tsutsugo, 5-2 Lopes

A battle of the starting pitchers, but it was Kenta Ishida who was the most impressive as he fanned 9 batters in his 7 innings in an impressive showing. Shunta Wakamatsu put in a good shift as well, but I feel as though Mori was guilty of trusting his man a bit too much as it was in Wakamatsu's 7th inning that the tying run was given up after Oshima had opened the scoring in the 3rd inning.
The bullpen got a good run-out once again as for the third time this season a game entered extra innings. Tajima, Iwase, Sobue, Ogawa, Mitsuma and Sato all pitched in and kept the game scoreless. Surely the team must be getting tired from these all-nighters.

Another draw on the board, but credit must go to the Baystars pitching for keeping a handle on what has been a fairly productive Chunichi line-up of late.

The highlight for me, was, apart from Wakamatsu's fairly good start was Iwase's relief inning. He struck out two and just looks so much better than he did last year. There's a sense of hunger in his pitching now that I feel wasn't there last year. He looks good.
Game 9

DeNA 2-1 Dragons

WP: Haruhiro Hamaguchi 6 1/3IP 1ER 6SO                 Kuwahata 4-2, Miyazaki 4-2
LP: Kazuki Yoshimi 7IP 2ER 7SO                                Viciedo 3-2, Oshima 4-2
                                                                                        HR: Kajitani (6th)

A narrow loss would be the reward for a much improved pitching display from Kazuki Yoshimi.
The Dragons took the lead in the 2nd inning as Naomichi Donoue scored Viciedo but it was a 2-run homer from Kajitani in the 6th that would prove the be the decider as the Dragons failed to muster up a come back.
Fine pitching fro Suda and Yamasaki shut down the line-up in the final innings to see out a narrow Baystars victory.

The Dragons were perhaps unlucky not to walk away with more from this series but the pitching from the Baystars was superb; particularly in the final two games. Much improved starts from Wakamatsu and Yoshimi were good signs, but another pretty poor showing from Ono is a worry particularly when it's happening in Nagoya.

Two very different series that I think shows a little bit where each team is at. The Carp are still likely to be a force this year despite my predictions to the contrary while the Baystars feel to me to be in a similar position to where they were last year but with a bit more oompf to their pitching. The beginning of the season for the Dragons hasn't been one to write home about but I have faith it will pick up when things settle.

Good things to see so far is the consistency of Oshima who averaging .467 following the Baystars series and even though I keep criticising Viciedo, he does keep getting contact on the ball and taking his walks. He's sitting on a .435 average (With one whole extra base hit and 3 RBIs). As for the relieving pitchers, most haven't conceded a run yet with only Okada and Asao being the main culprits and both have been sent to the farm to tune up since. Tajima is the only reliever on the current roster that doesn't have a 0.00 ERA.

It was a tough week, but I always try to look at the positive like how the more games we play the closer Yanagi and Ogasawara are to returning to the first team or how close Viciedo is to murdering a meatball pitch and sending him on a 30 game homerun streak. I only ask for simple things.

Anyway, until next week, DORAHO~!

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