The week began at the Tokyo Dome with a 2-0 victory powered by a strong performance by Yudai Ono and the bullpen, Hitoki Iwase got the save. The second game of the series ended in a 2-2 tie after Yomiuri scored an unearned run off of Iwase in the 9th. The Dragons came back to win the third game 3-2, erasing a 9th inning 1-run deficit with a Masahiko Morino RBI double and a bases loaded HBP of pinch-hitter Shigeo Yanagida. Daisuke Yamai got the save in that one, his first of the season.
Maximo Nelson got the start for the first game of the Yakult series. It was his first of the season, and only his second ichi-gun appearance this year. He's missed most of the season with injury. Maximo was chased after a bad 4th inning where he gave up 5 runs and Yakult went on to win that game 9-2. Chunichi pulled away late in the second game at Jingu winning 8-4, it was their first win at Jingu this year in their 7th try. The Dragons won the final game of the series 4-2, holding the Swallows scoreless after the first inning. Yamauchi out-dueled Tateyama and Yamai picked up another save.
All together it was a 4-1-1 week bringing the Dragons back to within 4 1/2 games of the Giants. With a favorable schedule and a lot of home games coming up over the next couple weeks Chunichi should be in contention for another CL championship until the bitter end.
- About the only cloud hanging over last week was the situation with Hitoki Iwase. After giving up the lead in the Giants tie, and likely after some conversation with the coaches, he apparently asked to be removed from the ichi-gun roster. He reported to ni-gun and and also underwent some medical examinations, all of which were reported as negative. I'm not sure what will happen with Iwase, he's currently the NPB's all-time leader in saves, but he may not get another shot as Chunichi's closer. The Dragons have a lot of other options: Sosa, Tajima and they are currently going with Yamai. Plus Takuya Asao was always thought to be the closer-in-waiting and he may be back later in the season. If one of the other guys has good success closing out games, I don't think Iwase will get another shot this year. Takagi needs to find someone he has confidence in as the closer by the time the playoffs arrive.
- Morino was a star at the plate this week: 7/23 6 RBI, one game-winning RBI and a game-tying RBI in the 9th of a game.
- Ibata and Ohshima each had monster games this weekend. On Saturday Ibata was 3 for 3 with a HR, 3 runs scored and two BB. On Sunday Ohshima was 5 for 5 with 4 runs scored (all 4 of the game for Chunichi), now that's being a leadoff hitter!
- Interesting choice by Takagi to go with Yamai as the closer, though it looked like the right one this week. Yamai recorded two saves this week and finished another game without giving up any runs. Yamai has pitched beautifully this year out of the bullpen, but has been somewhat inconsistent over his career. Tajima has been great as well, but as a rookie, he probably isn't the right guy for the closer spot just yet. Jorge Sosa is the guy I would have gone with, he did get an opportunity a couple weeks ago and did blow one save in two chances, still he has been overpowering and it was the first run he's given up this year, in 44 innings. At this point there is basically no evidence that Sosa is hittable at the NPB level and he had moments of dominance in the MLB years ago. I would think that that would be pretty intimidating to opposing NPB hitters in the 9th. Now that Yamai has been chosen though, I think they should stick with him as long as he's having success.