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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Series Wrap: Dragons vs Tigers @Koshien Stadium, 12 April - 14 April; Hanshin derailed in slugfest

I always enjoy playing the Tigers. The main reason is that the outcome in completing unpredictable. Both teams have high potential if they all perform, but they very rarely do perform up to expectation which I think is what makes the match-ups fun. I also have friendly banter with Tigers blogger, T-Ray which probably helps too.

I honestly went into this series prepared to lose it and maybe nick one win, in the end an unlikely battering of Tigers ace Randy Messenger in game one followed by a more routine victory for Yuya Yanagi in the second game of the series gave the Dragons their first taste of .500+ ball since 2016.

  • Game 12: Dragons 9 - 4 Tigers
  • Game 13: Dragons 10 - 2 Tigers
  • Game 14: Dragons 2 - 5 Tigers

The Dragons took the Tigers by the scruff of the neck with Messenger on the mound pounding in 6 runs in the first 6 innings without reply. Dayan Viciedo was the destroyer as he slapped two two-run homers.

 A small fightback from the Tigers in the 7th to narrow the to gap to 2 runs would be blown away with a 3-run 9th inning including RBIs from Yota Kyoda, Issei Endo and Masataka Iryo. Yu Sato was the only pitcher not to cover themselves in glory as he gave up 3 runs in 19 pitches but the game was closed out well by a relay of Tanimoto, Rodriguez and the newly promoted Raidel Martinez. Ryosuke Hirata was out of the line-up but Endo provided adequate cover in the end in right-field. Oshima was moved down the line-up to 6th where he went 3-2. Endo and Viciedo were the only other two batters with multi-hit games. 

Yuya Yanagi would start the second game of the series and once again earn instant run support in the top of the first inning through Viciedo's RBI double. The Dragons would further turn the game on its head in the 4th as Yota Kyoda hit the team's first grand slam of the season. 

Further salt would be rubbed into the wounds of the Tigers in the 8th as Naomichi Donoue also teed off with a grand slam of his own. 
Amassing 17 hits and 10 runs, the Dragons ran riot off the pitching of Iwasada and Tsuguru Iwazaki. Yanagi otherwise completed his second quality start of the season while Tajima and Daisuke Sobue mopped up the remaining innings. Takuma Kato showed off his wares as he punched out a runner at second. Kato's prominent arm has been taken note of by Central League clubs with runners in the league so far the least likely to attempt a steal on his watch.

A game containing two grand slams for one side is quite a rarity and this was only the third time in Dragons history for this to phenomena to occur. The first was in 1969 between Shinichi Eto and Takumi Ejima against Hiroshima while the second game some 25 years later between Kazuyoshi Tatsunami and Mel Hall in 1995 against Yakult. This is the 26th time this has happened in NPB history and the first time ever the Tigers have been on the receiving end. 

The final game of the series had disaster written all over it with Kazuki Yoshimi pitching outside of he favoured Nagoya Dome, against Yuki Nishi in damp conditions. The mound at Koshien seems hard to adjust to at the best of times but it seemed even tougher than usual with a bit of water on top. The game was decided on a poor 4th inning showing from Yoshimi who gave up 5 runs after only recording one out in the inning including a 2RBI single to pitcher, Yuki Nishi. Takuma Kato and Yota Kyoda would record the only RBIs for the Dragons on teh night while the Dragons relief relay of Matayoshi, Sato, Tanimoto and Sobue kept the team in the mix. Viciedo and Kato were the only Dragons to record multi-hit games while Masaru Watanabe would claim his first pro-hit and steal. 

Overall an eventful series with plenty of fun to be had out of the first two games. Performance in the final game was however underwhelming and a dark note to finish on. It echoes what Yoshimi has seemingly become and that is a Dome specialist. Yoshimi needs to be more effective at other stadiums if he's going to be a central piece in the rotation, but it's looking as though Kashara, Yanagi and Romero are going to be the central 3 to take the team forward with the current reckoning. 

In other news, if you're keen to know about how top prospect Akira Neo is going, I do recommend checking out Eleven Sports Japan's free broadcast of farm games. He has shown good promise with the glove but has seen a steady slide down the order from second to 8th. Neo is currently batting .146 after 90 PA and has seemed to struggle to adapt so far. This hasn't stopped management from giving him a lot of time to work it out. Shun Ishikawa continues to rake as he's .409 after 71 PA with a 1.057 OPS. Hayato Mizowaki as well, who has seen most of his time on the farm at third base so far, has continued where he left of last year hitting .285 with a more modest .690 OPS. Steven Moya also continues bat 300+ and has a team high 4 homeruns so far. 

Out of the pitchers, Akiyoshi Katsuno, the 2018 #3 pick has looked one of the better starters with 3.04 ERA over 23.2 IP while Hiroto Fuku looks the best of the relievers with a 1.93 ERA over 9.1 IP (this is identical to Raidel Martinez' line on the farm as well, except with far fewer strikeouts.)

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