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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Series Wrap: Dragons vs Giants @Tokyo Dome, 31 May - 2 June; Giants too strong at home

The Giants have largely outclassed the Dragons this year and this series was not to be much different as, apart from an encouraging dismantling of Giants rookie, Yuki Takahashi, it was all down hill after that as the Giants were able to keep the Dragons out.
  • Game 49: Dragons 7-3 Giants
  • Game 50: Dragons 5-6 Giants
  • Game 51: Dragons 1-3 Giants
Game 49
Yuya Yanagi continued his handy contributions as probably the second most consistent starter for the Dragons this year. He took his 5th win of the year on the back of 6Ks in 6 innings for 3 earned runs.

The Dragons and Giants would exchange blows in the opening stanza but it was the Dragons through Shuhei Takahashi that would take the initiative in the 3rd as the aforementioned drove in two with his double. The Dragons would add to the damage as Dayan Viciedo and Shuhei Takahashi hit back-to-back homeruns to force the score to 6-1. 
The Giants would pinch two more runs off Yanagi's pitching, including a Takumi Oshiro solo homer, but the Dragons would put the finishing touches on the win with an Issei Endo solo homer off Seiji Tahara. 

The bullpen would otherwise hold their nerve through 4 innings with Toshiya Okada, Keisuke Tanimoro, Joely Rodriguez and Raidel Martinez closing out a positive win. 

Shuhei would finish the game with 2 hits meaning he would just miss the mark for most modasho in a month. He still however can be happy he accompanies such luminaries as Tetsuharu Kawakami and Ichiro Suzuki in equaling the record. Yota Kyoda would be the only other to have a multi-hit game but it was once again Shuhei, doing what a good captain does, leading by example to help claim the win.

Game 50
The pendulum swung toward the Giants as a close game was unfortunately decided by a walk-off loss care of newly instated closer, Joely Rodriguez. 

Tatsuya Shimizu had kept the Giants at bay through 5 scoreless frames but Yoda will be wondering "what if" after his replacement, Ryosuke Oguma loaded up the the bases putting Shinji Tajima in direct danger.

The Dragons had  achieved a 4-0 lead thanks to a Dayan Viciedo 2-run shot and a Toshiki Abe 2RBI single.
Tajima would however surrender a grand slam to Christian Villenueva with 3 of those runs were pinned on Oguma. Tajima would give up another solo shot to Shinnosuke Abe who registered his 400th career long shot to give the Giants the lead. 
The Dragons were able to claw back an equalising run in the 9th care of a Seiji Kobayashi passed ball, but Hayato Sakamoto's single after Toshiyuki Kamei stole second base was enough to win the ball game for the men in Orange. 

Game 51
Shun Yamaguchi kept the Dragons out as he improved on his last outing in Nagoya. It was however to be Hayato Sakamoto that would reap with the bat with two defining plate appearances that would decide the game. 

Enny Romero was re-instated to the top team for this game following Steven Moya's limited effectiveness in the line-up. The Dragons would take first blood as Dayan Viciedo's hit to third base was fumbled by Christian Villenueva allowing Issei Endo to score. It would however be more Romero thigh-slapping frustration as Sakamoto smacked a solo shot to even things up in the 3rd. A following 2-run dinger in the 5th would be enough to push the Giants ahead and win them the game. 
Both pitchers dominated in this game with only 11 hits being managed between the two teams. Romero did relatively well on his first start back, but Yamaguchi pitched similarly well meaning some brilliance from Hayato Sakamoto was the difference. Toshiya Okada and Keisuke Tanimoto both picked up scoreless relief innings to finish the game while Shuhei Takahashi was the only Dragons bat with a multi-hit game. Iori Katsura, replacing Shota Ono, recorded his first hit in 3 years as he was ushered back in after being injured and otherwise left to the wolves by Shigekazu Mori. 

Shuhei has quietened a little bit in recent games, but not by that much. He now tops the league for average as he's batting .346. He not quite as impressive in other categories, but is 7th in the league in OPS, OBP and slugging. He is however not even in the top 30 for walks which is a point of concern as he currently averages 1 walk per 16 plate appearances.He is also striking out 6.56% of the time which is a bit below the best of the top batters this season. His IsoD, which measures plate discipline, is one of the worse among qualified batters at 0.48 while his BABIP is .390 which is a minor drop since last week, but shows Shuhei is still hitting way too many balls in play to be sustainable. I'm afraid that the Pacific League boys are going to put a lot of pressure on him.

Not a great way to close out the Central League standing before inter-league but off we go. The Dragons will play the Softbank Hawks in Fukuoka on Tuesday night to begin their campaign. This is the same fixture as with 2016 when a young Shinnosuke Ogasawara made his professional debut. Takuma Achira will at least get his chance at redemption as he takes on Dutch international, Rick van den Hurk. Daisuke Yamai appears to be starting on Wednesday.

How the Dragons will use the DH will be an interesting point to look out for. At the moment, it looks like it will be a complete waste as there doesn't seem to have been a call for Zoilo Almonte. It looks as though it will be a battle of who is least worst at fielding as it has been in years past. Last year we saw Alex Guerrero DH with Atsushi Fujii in left. Not so much of an improvement with the bat, but and improvement on defense. This time we'll probably see something similar with maybe Kosuke Ito in left and Masataka Iryo at DH. The only other option to get anything resembling power would be Yusuke Matsui based on the current roster.

Lastly, for a bit of fun, manager Yoda has been referred to by many fans as "肩幅番長" (katahaba bancho) or 'broad shouldered leader.' Yoda has been known for the breadth of his shoulders since his days as a fireball reliever in the early 90s. This somewhat fortunate picture give you an idea of just how wide his shoulders are.

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