Sunday, April 15, 2012

Week in Review April 8 - 15

With a couple wins this weekend over Hanshin, the Dragons salvaged what would have been a tough week.  Since last Sunday when Chunichi dropped a game against Yakult, the Dragons tied one and lost two at the Tokyo Dome, then won two out of three against the Tigers in Osaka.  Totaling a 2-4-1 record over that span.  Here are some highlights:
  • The offense struggled during the team's winless streak, scoring only 6 total runs in their 5 losses.
  • Pitching remained solid over the last week.  Chunichi's current team ERA stands at 1.80, still tops in all of the NPB.
  • Rookie Shinji Tajima picked up his first career win.  He pitched 4 scoreless innings on Saturday against Hanshin after Yadai Kawai was yanked early.  Kawai gave up 3 runs (2 ER) over two innings after the Dragons' offense had spotted him a 6-0 lead in the top of the 1st.  Kawai did contribute a RBI single to the 1st inning rally.
  • Masa Yamamoto became the oldest pitcher to ever start and win a NPB game.  It was a very deserving victory as Yamamoto pitched 8 scoreless innings Sunday against the Tigers.  He cruised through the first seven innings on less than 80 pitches, then escaped a jam in the 8th by getting a flyball for the third out with men on base.  Iwase pitched a scoreless 9th to preserve the win.
  • Tony Blanco and Victor Diaz were sent down to ni-gun.  Blanco struggled after earning his way back into the starting lineup.  Thursday was an especially bad day for him, 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.  After the two strikeouts, he apparently told coaches he wasn't seeing the ball well and asked to be taken out of the game.  He was taken off the active roster the next day.  I've been getting a little frustrated with how Blanco has been jerked around over the last couple years.  After two very solid years in 2009 & 2010, Blanco had an injury-riddled season in 2011.  Yet he was still was one of the better hitters on the team down the stretch and in the playoffs last year.  The griping about his play and trips to ni-gun are nothing new, they go back to the last regime and even to 2010.  Blanco could be a good player again for this team, but every game and slump he has is over analyzed and somehow the coaches can't understand why he seems nervous.  He clearly was never a favorite of Takagi from the start, as the manager basically said Blanco was inferior to Yamasaki in camp.  Blanco isn't the future at 1st for the Dragons, Morino probably is as soon as Shuhei Takahashi is ready to take over 3rd.  I just hope Blanco isn't too mentally beaten down to be productive when Yamasaki  breaks down from over use, most likely in the near future.  Both Blanco and Diaz have gotten off to solid starts at the plate in ni-gun.
  • Kenshin Kawakami is still having problems with his back, it doesn't sound like he will be available for at least a couple more weeks.
  • Shuhei Takahashi has been getting a chance to play every day in ni-gun.  So far he's hit .240 with 6 hits, 2 doubles and 2 RBIs over 7 games.
  • Former Dragon Wei-Yin Chen got his first start for the Baltimore Orioles.  He went 5 and 2/3 innings giving up 4 runs (2 earned) and received a no-decision against the Yankees.

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