The second round of the interleague series would see the Dragons encounter a different type of poultry to the Hawks in the Rakuten Eagles. The game took place in Nagoya for the first home games of the Pac-Cen battles.
In Game 1, Jordan Norberto lined up against Takahiro Shiomi for this one with the Dominican looking for his 4th win of the season.
The Eagles were the ones to take the early initiative through Zelous Wheeler who trundled a ball over the right stand to take the lead 0-1 in the 2nd.
The Dragons struck back immediately in the bottom of the inning as a Nobumasa Fukuda sac-fly allowed Viciedo to score to put things back to 1-1. That’s the way things would stay until the 7th inning when Ginji, pinch-hitting for Shiomi, got one away to take the lead for the Eagles once more. Okajima would pile on more pressure with another RBI single to slowly start to take the game away at 1-3. The Dragons would not be able to break the Rakuten bullpen however as the batting line-up failed once again to break through. It was even between both sides with 5 hits a piece, but the Eagles made it count and pitched well to seal the win.
Game 2 would mark the comeback to the first team for Yudai Ohno who has been out since early May with elbow soreness. A vital piece of the puzzle returns and makes the starting rotation look all the more impressive. Yoshimi, Ohno, Jordan and Wakamatsu have all looked good this season with still some question marks over Valdes and Ogasawara.
Ohno however wouldn’t make the greatest of comebacks as the Eagles didn’t allow him to get his rhythm going in the 1st as Mogi struck first blood with a bunt and run that allowed Okajima to get in to score. Zelous Wheeler contributed once more as his ground-out to second was followed by Yoshimochi coming in to score. Nakagawa would keep the pressure on after Matsui was walked as he copied Wheeler’s example allowing Mogi to score to make it 0-3. The Dragons continued to knock on the door all game to try and get something out of the result, but 0-3 would be the end score.
8 Dragons hits to the Eagles 5 was perhaps some bitter reading as with a bit more luck (and a more honed Ohno) the result could have easily gone the other way. Araki, Nanita and Fukuda all posted two hits each while Ohno’s return was marked with 2 Ks, 3 walks (all in the first inning) and 3 hits conceded. If we forget the first inning, we could call it a decent comeback!
Eager for revenge, the Dragons wanted to avoid the sweep on Sunday. Kazuki Yoshimi’s safe hands were entrusted with the ball to try and set up the first win at home in the interleague period.
The 0-0 lock would be broken in the 6th through Dayan Viciedo as a poor throw from Mogi allowed Yoshimi and Ohshima to scurry home to make the score 2-0. And that would be all she wrote! The Dragons held on for a close victory that the Eagles never really looked like endangering. Only 3 hits today from the Dragons which is some cause for worry particularly as one of them came from the pitcher, but a win is a win is a win. Yoshimi grabbed his 3rd win of the season while Tajima snatched his 3rd save.
Not a great series from the batters, but there’s not much you can do about that. The Eagles have been good this season and maybe this was another case for the gulf between the two leagues. The Dragons sit on 2W 4L against interleague opponents so far this year. Will be interesting to see if we can even get .500. The coaches don’t seem to be taking it all overly seriously though with time given to a few newer members, particularly Ogasawara.
In back office news however, the Dragons have signed a new pitcher. Another lad from the Dominican Winter League, a team-mate of current Dragon Juan Jaime even (and even a former team-mate of Viciedo in the Majors), former White Sox pitcher, Leyson Septimo. It is likely that he will be used as a closer to compete with the misfiring Koji Fukutani. That does however raise the question of who out of Nanita, Viciedo, Valdes and Jordan will be given the flick to make room for him, but that’s something we’ll find out I guess. Maybe if Oguma returns we’ll see Valdes de-regged to make room for him.