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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Weekly Dragons Wrap: Highs and lows with the Swallows; Tattles with the Tigers (26th April - 30th April)

The Dragons took on the Swallows in Nagoya and the Tigers at Koshien in two match-ups where Chunichi haven't looked out of depth this season. The Swallows look in trouble this year and there seem to be more than a few vulnerabilities that can be exploited with the Tigers. Two winnable series ahead. 

Another net win for the Dragons as they took the series against the Swallows. An extra innings loss in the 2nd game of the series was the only blight on a fairly positive series which saw some positive changes to personnel make a difference. Masato Matsui continued his first team stay as he has been outperforming Shota Sugiyama and Takuya Kinoshita, Kyohei Kamezawa continued his sustained run in the first team as well. 

Game 21

Swallows 2 - 4 Dragons

WP: Jordan Norberto 7 2/3 IP 2ER 9SO                              Guerrero 3-2, Matsui 3-2
LP: Hirofumi Yamanaka 7IP 4ER 1SO                                Yamada 4-2
                                                                                        HR: Guerrero (2nd), Matsui (6th)

In Toyohashi, Alex Guerrero who had been put on notice by Chunichi staff to pick up his game or take his bat and ball and head down to the farm put the Dragons in front in the 2nd inning through a 3-run homerun. 
Jordan Norberto kept throwing heat on the mound to keep the Swallows completely off balance as he whiffed 9 batters in his 7 and a bit innings. In contrast his opposite number only managed one strikeout against a Dragons lineup making a lot of contact. Masato Matsui would put the Dragons further ahead in the 6th with a solo shot; his second homer in pro ball and first since 2014. 
Tetsuto Yamada would ensure the Swallows would walk away with something as he drove in Sakaguchi and Araki in the top of the 8th, but safe pitching from Mitsuma to set up the save for Tajima ensured no further damaged was earned in a morale boosting win. 

Game 22

Swallows 8 - 7 Dragons

WP: Ryo Akiyoshi 2IP 0ER 2SO                                           Balentien 5-4, Yuhei 5-3
LP: Hitoki Iwase  1IP 2ER 0SO                                             Oshima 5-2
                                                                                       HR: Viciedo (4th), Obiki (8th)

Another Iwase relief inning, another loss as he gave up his 3rd loss of the season as this game went into extras following a late game implosion from the Dragons. 

The Dragons were sent well on the way as they took another early lead through Guerreros 2RBI single in the second inning. Yakult would even things up in the 4th through RBIs from Balentien and Yuhei Nakamura, but the lead was restored shortly after through a Viciedo solo shot. 
Now feeling encouraged, the Dragons put on another two runs in the 5th from a 2RBI single from Oshima set up by a lead-off double from Kamezawa and an Araki walk. Joe Buchanan was withdrawn shortly after as the American's season ERA was blown out by this start. 

More runs were to come as the Swallows put themselves within 2 of the home team through another Nakamura RBI in the 6th leading to Kazuki Yoshimi's withdrawal for Yu Sato. Sato and Mitsuma would get through their work but in the top of the 8th with Daisuke Sobue pitching, the former Toyota man gave up a 3-run homer to Keiji Obiki to level the scores. 
The Dragons failed to muster in the 9th and we would head into familiar territory with extra innings. It would take until the 11th inning before Iwase took to the mound and gave up two earned runs two Yuhei to put the Swallows ahead at 8-6. Kudo and Fujii would give fans hope of a turn around in the bottom of the inning as the latter scored the former, but it wasn't to be as Oshima's fly-out to centre ended the game at 8-7

Game 23

Swallows 0-2 Dragons

WP: Katsuki Matayoshi 7IP 0ER 3SO                                  Viciedo 3-1, Donoue 3-1
LP: Juri Hara 5IP 1ER 5SO                                                   Takeuchi 3-2

In stark contrast to the previous night's hit-fest, it would be a much meeker performance from both sides as Katsuki Matayoshi kept the Swallows in lock down for 7 well pitched innings. 

Another early start for the Dragons set the tone. Kamezawa's lead-off single, turned into a double by a Balentien fumble, followed by Araki's sac-bunt gave Oshima the perfect opportunity as he seized an RBI single. Viciedo was able to follow up to score Oshima to put the Dragons 2-0 up at the drop of a hat. 

Katsuki Matayoshi's "conversion" (he was a starter once upon a time...I know I keep banging on about that) proved even further dividends as the Okinawa native kept the explosive bats of the previous night well under wraps. Support from Mitsuma and Tajima ensured the lead was protected and another win sealed. Tajima claimed his 6th save of the season while Matayoshi took his second win in as many starts.

A largely positive series blighted only by the game that got away. What should have been a fairly easy win was taken away by some unfortunate relief pitching but you can't expect your pitchers to keep a clean slate every single game. Just a pity it coincided with a game where the bats produced relatively well!

Another week, another round against the Tigers, but this time in Hyogo prefecture at the historical Koshien stadium. Not to be as successful this time around. A battle would be won but the war ultimately lost to the tenacious Tigers.

Game 24

Dragons 0 - 6 Tigers

WP: Randy Messenger 7IP 0ER 6SO                               Uemoto 3-2, Campbell 4-2
LP: Yudai Ono 7IP 6ER 5SO                                            Viciedo 3-1
                                                                                    HR: Nakatani (5th)

It was all Tigers on Friday as Ono was shown how to pitch by Randy Messenger in a 6-0 shutout loss. The Tigers took the lead after a timely single from Campbell followed by a Hojo sac-fly put the Tigers 2-0 up. Masahiro Nakatani's solo homer in the 5th would see the Tigers further their lead while further maraudering from Uemoto and Itoi in the 7th saw Ono concede another 3 earned runs to earn him another rest on the pine.
Shota Suzuki, who made his first appearance in over a year, took out the bottom of the 8th inning, but it was to be the Tigers that would close out the game in style.

Game 25

Dragons 6 - 3 Tigers

WP: Takuya Mitsuma 1IP 0ER 1SO                                  Fujii 5-3, Oshima 4-2
LP:  Rafael Dolis 2/3IP 3ER 1SO                                      Uemoto 5-3
                                                                                      HR: Itoi (1st)

Aoyanagi v Valdes at Koshien on Saturday and both would give up 2 run first innings as the Dragons started off with a lead off hit from Kamezawa and a walk to Kyoda that allowed Hirata and Fujii to tap runs home. Itoi's homer in the bottom of the inning would essentially chalk off the good start to put the Tigers back on level terms. Oshima would put the Dragons back ahead in the 2nd while the Tigers would strike back in the following inning through Fumiya Hojo. With both bullpens holding on, it was left to the closers to see who could hold their nerve. Saves leader Rafael Dolis was rocked as he let off 4 hits and a walk in quick succession to see the Dragons take a 3-run lead. 

Tajima would once again take the 9th and it was the Chunichi closer that would claim the save and the third win of the season against the Tigers. 

Game 26

Dragons 2 - 3 Tigers

WP: Kentaro Kuwahara 1IP 0ER 1SO                               Itoi 4-3
LP: Daisuke Sobue 2IP 1ER                                               Araki 4-2, Oshima 5-2

A come from behind win for the Tigers as the Dragons took another early lead in the first through a Donoue RBI single on loaded bases and a Campbell error. Hanshin would be back on level terms in the third as Fukudome cleaned up with bases loaded to send two home. It would however be the Tigers that would take the initiative late in the game as Sobue loaded the bases to bring Hojo's hot bat to the plate and the Tigers short-stop would put his team ahead 3-2. 

Takahashi would then take up the ball for the Tigers in the 9th and keep his old side under control to seal a close win on home soil.

2 very interesting series with no obvious weaknesses exposed. Sobue's 2 losses sour things and I do hope he reassesses himself. He's a good arm to have in the bullpen, but hopefully he doesn't fall off the wagon. Lots of ups and downs this week but overall, we'll call it a draw. 

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