Chunichi's current poor stretch is pushing them out of the CL race, what was only a few game gap between them and playoff position has now stretched to 7.5 games as the Dragons have lost their last six games. A freefalling BayStars team may be the only thing that prevents the Dragons from their first last-place finish in a long time.
The season started promisingly as the Dragons remained in the top three for a good portion of the first half of the year. But with all of the CL teams bunched together so tightly it didn't take much of a stumble for Chunichi to fall to sixth. Pitching has been their main problem, the offence has been surprisingly good with even some sizable contributions from younger players. Early in the season the bullpen was the main culprit, costing the Dragons several games that they should have had in hand. Since then the starting pitching has faltered as well. Ohno has been steady, but the rest of the rotation has been uneven to bad since the start of interleague play. Again Yoshimi, who was excellent when available, has been out for a while. They should probably keep him on the shelf for the rest of the year at this point anyway.
Honestly, I've been surprised by the performance of the bullpen this year. I expected some potential shakiness out of rotation, there was uncertainty there, but I was hopeful. The Chunichi bullpen now has 22 losses, games when the Dragons had the lead and lost it in the late innings. That's the most in the Central, DeNA is the next highest with 17, Yakult only has 5. Closing has also been an issue for the Dragons, long-time closer Hitoki Iwase who is still on the roster hasn't pitched this year at ichi-gun or ni-gun. Koji Fukutani has been chosen to be the next closer and was solid early in the season, but has had some difficulties since. Still he has been one of the better arms in the pen and may turn out to be great closer, but he's not there yet. Takuya Asao appears to no longer be a closing option as it sounds that we will potentially transition into being a starter.
So Dragons' fans, it doesn't look good right now, but if the Dragons do turn things around it will have to start with the pitching. They've just signed two foreign pitchers, Rafeal Perez and Drew Naylor, hopefully they will help, either way it's nice to see the front office at least making an attempt to improve the team's fortunes midseason.