It was a mixed bag but ultimately a good ending to the week as the Dragons went down 2-1 to the DeNA Yokohama Baystars but picked up 2 wins against the cellar dwelling Yakult Swallows.
Dragons 4 - 9 Baystars
WP: Koshiaki Fujioka 1IP 0ER 0SO Tsutsugo 3-3, Miyazaki 4-2
LP: Raul Valdes 5 2/3IP 3ER 5SO Viciedo 3-2, Oshima 3-2
HR: Viciedo (3rd), Tsutsugo (3rd)
Raul Valdes and Yu Sato were lit up by the Baystars as they cruised to a 4-9 victory over the Dragons in Yokohama. The Cuban veteran's added days of pitching seems to be catching up to him.
The Dragons took an early lead in the first through Viciedo while a poor throw allowed Oshima to score to make it 2-0. The Baystars would however match the Dragons pound for pound as in the bottom of the inning RBIs to Tsutsugo and Miyazaki put the 'Stars back on level terms.
The pendulum would however swing the Dragons way in the top of the 3rd as Viciedo's 8th homerun of the campaign put his team 2 clear.
But as with pendulum swings, they have to return eventually and a mirrored 2-run homer from Tsutsugo in the bottom of the inning put things back on level terms.
It would take until the 6th inning before the Stars would take the lead through former Yakult Swallow, Hiroyasu Tanaka while hits to Miyazaki and Tobashira with bases loaded in the 7th sent the Baystars clear at 9-4 and on their way to a healthy victory.
In the midst of all the runs, Yuya Yanagi made a quiet debut on the mound pitching a scoreless relief inning.
Dragons 4 -2 Baystars
WP: Shota Suzuki 6IP 2ER 4SO Kyoda 4-4, Oshima 4-2
LP: Joe Wieland 8IP 3ER 7SO Kuwahara 4-2
HR: Viciedo (9th)
Yota Kyoda stole the show with 4-4 a the top of the order while Shota Suzuki continued his fine run of form to notch his 2nd win of the season.
An in the park homerun, credited as a triple with a throwing error, from Kyoda would start the scoring as poor awareness from the DeNA fielders and electric legs from the rookie saw the Dragons 2-0 up in the third.
The 'Stars would reply though a Suzuki wild pitch in the bottom of the inning. In the 4th the Baystars would find themselves level after Suzuki loaded the based and allowed a walk to Wieland. It was not however to be fatal as Wileland returned the favour of a wild pitch in the 6th to allow the Dragons the lead and it was to be Dayan Viciedo for the second game in a row firing one over the fences in the 9th to give his team a comfortable cushion which Shinji Tajima used to grab the save.
Dragons 5 - 13 Baystars
WP: Kento Kumabara 5IP 5ER 5SO Kamezawa 4-3, Kinoshita 2-2
LP: Jordan Norberto 5IP 5ER 5SO Miyazaki 5-4, Kuwahara 4-3
HR: Hirata (2nd), Kamezawa (4th), Viciedo (5th)
3 home runs from the Dragons lineup was not nearly enough as it was Jordan Norberto's turn to get caned as he gave up 5ER (10 in total under his pitching) in what can only be described as a dumpster fire of a performance from the pitchers and fielders.
|Hirata's 2nd inning bomb|
|Kamezawa joins the action in the 4th|
But the Yokohama team would pull away with gusto in the bottom of the inning with Tanaka, Kuramoto and Kuwahara batting in 4 more runs. The damage would continue this time with Yu Sato on the mound with 3 extra runs from Miyazaki, Tanaka and Shimozono.
Not a nice way to end the series but two fairly costly starts from the Latin aces didn't help the team much. The Dragons have struggled in Yokohama of late but at least the 3 homers in the final proved that there is potential pop in the bats still.
Viciedo's return to form has apparently coincided with the arrival of his family. The Cuban slugger has been tripping back and forth between Japan and the States, but is now with his wife and children which may well be helping him concentrate behind the plate and swing with more conviction.
Swallows 2 - 3 Dragons
WP: Koji Fukutani 1IP 0ER 0SO Guerrero 4-2, Fujii 4-2
LP: Ryo Akiyoshi 1IP 3ER 1SO Sakaguchi 4-2
HR: Araki (4th)
A rally in the 9th and a former #1 draft pick relay in the bullpen secured a win for the Dragons in the final inning off a usually solid Ryo Akiyoshi.
2015 top pick, Shinnosuke Ogasawara did his best to keep the Swallows down through his 5 innings, but he wasn't able to stop Keiji Obiki's RBI single and Takahiro Araki's solo homer to give the Swallows a 2-0 lead.
Ogaswara was to be relieved by 2016's top draft pick, Yuya Yanagi who threw 2 scoreless innings before 2012's #1 pick, Koji Fukutani pitched out the 9th for no runs. The Dragons would rally in the bottom of the 9th however as with 2 outs on the board, Akiyoshi gave up consecutive hits to Oshima, Viciedo and Guerrero to put the Dragons level before a Fujii double secured a walk-off win.
There's nothing quite like walk off but it does typify a lot of the Swallows season this year. Akiyoshi capitulates for what has to be at least the 3rd time against the Dragons this year by memory. He has an ERA of 9.45 against the Dragons this year in 6 2/3 innings of work.
Swallows 2 - 4 Dragons
WP: Hitoki Iwase 1IP 0ER 0SO Guerrero 4-2, Fujii 4-2
LP: Taichi Ishiyama 1/3IP 1ER 0SO Yuhei 3-2, Omatsu 3-2
Hitoki Iwase picked up his first win in over 2 years as the Dragons left it late again after Katsuki Matayoshi pitched 7 for 2 runs.
The Swallows took the lead in the first as Matayoshi walked home Imanari after loading up the bases. Yuhei's timely RBI single into right field would give the Swallows a 2-0 lead in the 5th, but the Dragons would be back on level terms shortly after through Guerrero and Hirata in the 6th. With the wind blowing the Dragons way, Fujii's triple in the 8th allowed Alex Guerrero to score and a poor throwing error from Obiki on the same play allowed Fujii to score to put the Dragons 4-2 up.
Shinji Tajima would clean up in the 9th allowing one batter on base before wrapping up a series win and claiming his 13th save of the year.
Swallows 7 - 1 Dragons
WP: Tomoya Hoshi 7IP 1ER 4SO Balentien 5-3, Yachi 4-2
LP: Raul Valdes 2IP 6ER 2SO Hirata 4-3, Viciedo 4-2
HR; Guerrero (6th)
Guerrero's 10th homer of the season was the only saving grace as Raul Valdes got lit up in the second inning by a Swallows line-up back with a vengeance.
The Swallows piled on the misery early on in the 2nd as a tired looking, frustrated Valdes gave up hit after hit and the away team nibbled there way to a 6-0 lead. Yuya Yanagi was given his first meaningful time on the mound as emergency long relief and he put in a respectable performance where he took 4 strikeouts in 3 innings for one earned run give up to Balentien in the 4th.
Guerrero's homer would come in the 6th, a solo shot over the left fence at the Nagoya Dome, but by then the team was already plenty deflated and looked no where near mounting a comeback.
In the fallout, Valdes was de-registered from the team to be given some rest on the farm team. The Cuban veteran has been pitching on short breaks and often for no reward. It must be tiring both mentally and physically despite the low velocity he throws at.
Overall, the Dragons appear to be hitting some kind of form but are still very prone to blowouts. Norberto's 5 runs against the 'Stars and Valdes 6 against the Swallows marked that inconsistency. The bats for the most part are producing which is more than we could say about last year.
The Dragons therefore head into the inter-league break in 5th place leading the Swallows, but how much change are they likely to get out of the Pacific League teams that are by an large supposed to be stronger than their Central League opponents.