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Friday, May 3, 2019

Series Wrap: Dragons vs Giants @Tokyo Dome, 30 April - 2 May; Giants take first series of the Reiwa era

This series, straddling the new imperial eras of Heisei and Reiwa, would be an unfortunate one for Dragons fans as, while the team were able to close out the Heisei era on a positive, winning note, the Reiwa era started with 2 demoralizing losses.
  • Game 25: Dragons 3-1 Giants
  • Game 26: Dragons 1-5 Giants
  • Game 27: Dragons 3-9 Giants
In the final game of the reign of the Emperor Heisei, 19 y/o Kosuke Ito would make his first-team debut batting lead-off no less and fielding in left. He marked his first PA with a hit and otherwise threw himself around in the field narrowly missing a wall bouncing catch early in the game.
Yudai Ono showed he is the Giants enemy number one as he went to town, throwing more Ks than a disengaged teenager on WhatsApp. Ono didn't quite do the damage to the Giants that he did in the opposite fixture earlier in April, but he still took 8Ks in 7 IP leaving him with a 10.13 K/9 for the season and a 1.04 WHIP. Not bad reading. The match-up was kind with Giants rookie Yuki Takahashi taking the mound, but even he got through 7. He however was rocked by a Fukuda 3-run jack in the top of the 2nd inning from which the Giants never recovered.
Kyoda had the only multi-hit game while Joely Rodriguez picked up his 11th hold and Hiroshi Suzuki his 9th save.

The first game of the Reiwa era would see a fairly predictable result as 40 y/o Daisuke Yamai threw down against NPB's arguably best hurler in Tomoyuki Sugano. Sugano showed his class claiming a complete game which would have been a shut-out had it not been for Dayan Viciedo's RBI single to centre in the 9th. 
A haphazard opening inning from Yamai that loaded the bases saw the floodgates open as Toshiyuki Kamei, Dai-Kang Yang, Yasuhiro Yamamoto and Seiji Kobayashi all added RBIs, some clean and some in between ground outs. The first homerun of the Reiwa era by Hayato Sakamoto would be the final scoring play for the Giants in the 2nd inning to close out a comfortable win for the Edo Leviathans.
Masaru Watanabe made his starting debut as he lead-off and claimed a hit while Kyoda and Viciedo had multi-hit games. 

The spotlight would be on Enny Romero for the final game of the series as it was his walk from Taylor Jungmann that helped give the Dragons the lead in the 4th inning after Ryosuke Hirata singled to drive in two runs. 

Romero was pitching well but it started to get ugly as he gave up a solo homerun to pinch-hitting, former Dragon, Alex Guererro in the  bottom of the fourth inning. It would however all come tumbling down in the 5th.
It started harmlessly by giving up another solo shot to the erstwhile power-impaired catcher, Ginjiro Sumitani. What seemed a minor bruise with no one on base was compounded when walks given to former major leaguers, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Christian Villenueva, ended in some bullshit. With 2 outs already recorded, Kazuma Okamoto skied what looked like a straight forward fly-ball that struck the roof causing confusion between Yota Kyoda and Shuhei Takahashi who weren't prepared for the change in trajectory. Given the situation, Nakajima was already in full-flight and ran into home to even up the scores.
Whether this distracted Romero or not, with Yang at the plate, he shook off Takuma Kato's sign to favour a fastball inside that was dispatched into the stands to give the Giants a 6-3 lead. Romero, frustrated with himself, tossed his glove into the dirt. I don't blame him.

Villenueva and Sakamoto contributed 3 more runs to end the game 9-3 despite both teams managing 10 hits a piece. 4 homers surrendered to the Giants doesn't look good and it certainly made the difference. Viciedo otherwise had a modasho game while Hirata and Toshiki Abe both registered 2-hits a piece.
On his return to the top team, Toshiya Okada pitched a scoreless inning to end the evening on a high note.

Overall, a series to forget. A series that reminds us of our mortality and perhaps where we really should be overall in the standings. The Giants looked strong and we didn't. Romero was lit-up which is surprising but Ono keeps showing his return to ace form so that is reassuring.

Some other information; @robertsan_CD is a new account on Twitter I've found and he is a Dragons data collector. All the information is in Japanese but he is one of the most knowledgeable fans I've found. He's recently uploaded an infographic on the farm team for March-April and he keeps pumping out interesting stuff. I strongly recommend following him.

Other news, Koji Fukutani has been stretched out on the farm and will likely start one of the next 6 games. Yoda seems to be using this stretch to fiddle with his rotation a bit which I approve of. Hiroto Fuku and Shun Ishikawa were promoted today to replace Taiki Mitsumata and Daisuke Sobue. Mitsumata just hasn't registered a hit while Sobue probably needs a rest.

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