Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Chunichi Drops First Game of Hiroshima Series, Playoff Chances Near Zero

With last night's 5-3 loss to Hiroshima the Dragons are now 5 1/2 games behind the Carp with seven games left to play.  After failing to make up much ground this past weekend, only one game in the standings, it was already reaching "needing a miracle" territory for the Dragons.  Last night's loss was the next to last nail in the 2013 season coffin. 

Chunichi had Kawakami on the mound for the game and he pitched well, leaving the game with a 3-2 Dragons lead after six.  The Carp took the lead in the top of the 7th with some clutch hitting off of Mise and Asao.  The Hiroshima bullpen held the lead from there.

It would take an all-time collapse now by Hiroshima for the Dragons to make the playoffs and that's not going to happen.  Hiroshima is playing some good ball right now, right when they needed to.  They may even make it to .500 by the end of the season, maybe for the first time all season.  If they do make it into the playoffs, hopefully they will at least knock off Hanshin and Yomiuri in the Climax.  They don't the same talent as those teams, but with good pitching they have a chance, the Dragons have shown that over the past several years.

I'll at least be rooting for Rakuten this year.  They are the Pacific League team I pull for and have a good shot to do some damage.  They're a lot better than the last time they made the playoffs with the 41 year old "zombie corpse" (per the Eagles blog) of Takeshi Yamasaki as one of their main players.  He did hit 39 homers that year though, plus three more in the playoffs.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Chunichi Up Against the Ropes

The chances of Chunichi keeping their postseason steak going are starting to look slim, but they still have opportunities to fight back into a playoff spot.  With eleven games left Chunichi is chasing Hiroshima by 5.5 games.  Definitely a big hill to climb, but fortunately the Dragons will be playing a weaker opponent this weekend in Yokohama while Hiroshima will facing Yomiuri in Tokyo.  Also, four of Chunichi's final 11 will be against the Carp including a series starting Tuesday at the Nagoya Dome.  So this next six game stretch will be Chunichi's best opportunity to make up ground.  If they aren't within a game or two of Hiroshima by next Friday you can stick a fork in 'em, but I'm holding out hope that the Dragons can make a run.  Momentum isn't currently on Chunichi's side, as they've been playing about .500 ball this month while Hiroshima has gone 11-4 this September.  Still if the Dragons can close the gap and apply some pressure, they are by far a more playoff-hardened group than the Carp who only have a handful of guys who have played in a professional postseason game.  It won't be easy, but it's not over, stay fired up Dragons fans!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Coming Down the Stretch... Chunichi @ Hiroshima Carp, Sep. 3 - 5

Chunichi and Hiroshima, each with 25 games left in the season, will face off this week in a three game series that starts tomorrow night.  Hiroshima currently holds a two game lead over the Dragons for third place and for the final berth to the playoffs in the Central League.  The two teams will play one more head-to-head series at the end of month, but this upcoming series may have a huge impact on which of these teams advances to the playoffs. 

I don't think Chunichi can afford to lose this series, they definitely can't afford to be swept.  Asking a team that's been winning only 44% of their games to make up three or five games over the final twenty-two is probably too much.  On the other hand if the Dragons could sweep or take two of three things could be very interesting down the stretch. 

Winning this series won't be easy for Chunichi, they'll be in playing at Mazda Stadium in Hiroshima and though Chunichi has been a better road team than a home team this year I assume the Hiroshima fans will be in force to support a team on the verge of making the playoffs after a very, very long drought.  Hiroshima will also be throwing two of their best pitchers, Kenta Maeda is scheduled for Game 1 and he's obviously having a great season.  In the past Chunichi has done moderately well against Maeda but this season he's been dominant.  Kan Otake will likely pitch in one of the other two games.  Otake always seems to do better against Chunichi than he does against the rest of the league, so he'll be tough.  Kyohei Nakamura may get the other start for Hiroshima, it would be his turn, but they also may go with someone else because of magnitude of this series.

It looks like Chunichi will counter Hiroshima's starters with Kenichi Nakata, Yudai Ono and Kenshin Kawakami.  Nakata had a rough start last time out against Yakult.  Hopefully he can bounce back, he's been a key contributor this year.  Ono's been on a good streak, but will be pitching on less than a week's rest.  Kawakami's pitched well in his two starts since returning from injury though he hasn't gone deep into games, but with how well Chunichi's bullpen has been going they shouldn't need him to.

Both teams are evenly matched so the series, and in turn the season, could be turned either way by just a play or two.  The first game looks like a tough match-up, but if Chunchi can keep it close and make it a battle of the bullpens they could win it.  The second match-up is a coin flip and Chunichi probably has a slight advantage in the third game.  I think the Dragons can take two out of three and keep things interesting, but we shall see.  It's getting to be that time of the season, so let's get fired up Dragons fans!!!