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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Series Wrap: Swallows v Dragons @ Jingu Stadium, June 19-21; First opening series win in 8 years

The Dragons opened the 2020 season with the first good impression they've made to the year in 8 years as they took 2 games off the Swallows at Jingu with one convincing performance and one not as much so. 

Friday night's game was a slug fest as both team aces gave up hits like a pitching machine. 35 hits in total for the first game of the season marked a somewhat surreal beginning to the year. Dayan Viciedo's first homer of the year seemed to start things off well but a Tetsuto Yamada homer in the bottom of the same inning saw the Swallows take the lead. 

It was to be a topsy-turvy, close, affair and it took the Dragons until the 7th inning to get back on parity as Yota Kyoda and Shuhei Takahashi drove in 3 runs. Into extras, it was the Dragons that would come out on top as a Donoue grounder and a Abe single put the away team two in front. Toshiya Okada would load the bases in the bottom of the 10th to make for a tense ending, but he would finish in style, striking out young prodigy, Munetaka Murakami to end the game. 

It was a night for hitters. More than usual for Jingu. Yudai Ono only got through 4 innings after giving up 6 earned runs but the bullpen was able to hold it together for the rest of the game with only Hiroshi Suzuki giving up further runs. Ono just didn't have "it" on the day but luckily the team still pulled though. 

Saturday's game was a different tale as the batters quietened with Ryuya Ogawa and Kazuki Yoshimi on the mound. Yoshimi put in a solid 5 innings which were tarnished by 3 runs given up through 2 homers to Yamada and Murakami. The Dragons were able to claw 2 runs back but ultimately couldn't match the long-ball prowess of the Swallows middle-order. Shuhei's and Takuya Kinoshita's multi-hit games were just about the only thing to write home about in a relatively disappointing performance. 2019 #2 pick, Yuki Hashimoto made his professional debut in this game pitching a clean inning of relief.

The series decider would be decided by Kodai Umetsu's stunning performance on
the mound. The righty hurler threw a peachy 7 innings for 5 strikeouts looking to get impressive spin on his fastball, keeping the Swallows out of contention. Kyoda's 2-4un homer in the 2nd made life easier for Umetsu earlier, while an additional run added in the 6th made things comfortable where Umetsu himself scored. Credit must go to the Swallows too however as Hiroki Yamada pitched pretty well despite the homer given to Kyoda.

Overall, you can only be happy with the result. Ono exploding was perhaps not the greatest thing to watch but given he seems to require rhythm more than and other Dragons pitcher, I think we'll see him settle a little later on. Kazuki Yoshimi, despite being billed as someone with a good record against the Swallows, basically did was I expected would happen, ate a few innings for too many runs. My guess is that next week against the Carp, his spot will be taken by Shinnosuke Ogasawara. 

The Dragons will stay in the Kanto region to face the Baystars in Yokohama before the team have their home opener against the Carp on the weekend.

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