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Dragons Done with Blanco - April 21, 2013

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Featuring Michael Westbay (a.k.a. westbaystars)

Michael Westbay has been blogging about Pro Yakyu since before the word "blog" entered the vernacular. Here he writes about Pro Yakyu in general, and the Yokohama BayStars in particular.

Dragons Done with Blanco - April 21, 2013

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Chunichi's manager, Takagi-kantoku, talked a lot this past off season about how well he knows Tony Blanco's weaknesses and how little the team needed him.

Blanco just hit a home run in each of the three games of the BayStars hosting Chunichi in Yokohama over the weekend. Going back to the season opening series against Chunichi, Blanco homered in that final game, making it four games in a row against the Dragons.

Takagi-kantoku is so worried about Blanco now that, in the 11th inning with two outs and nobody on, he had Blanco intentionally walked. This comes after being intentionally walked in the 9th inning with one out and a runner on second. The Dragons have been burnt to the tune of 4 home runs, 10 RBIs, and .400/1.000/1.556 line for batting average, slugging, and OPS. It's no wonder that Takagi-kantoku doesn't want to see Blanco swing the bat any more.

Nonetheless, after showers in the morning, the skies started clearing up around noon, and the game started at 2:00. Despite Daisuke Miura starting for Yokohama, a sure indicator of a quick game, the final play didn't occur until 6 minutes before 7:00 in the evening. That's almost a 5 hour long ball game.

The BayStars struck first in the bottom of the first inning on a pair of hits and a wild pitch by Dragon starter Souma Yamaguchi. The leadoff home run by Blanco in the 4th was followed up on with singles by Alex Ramirez and, an out later, Kenjiro Matsumoto, putting runners at first and second with one out. Shuto Takajyoh then grounded a ball to the left side that looked like a sure 5-4-3 double play. But the ball went through Hector Luna's legs and into left field! Ramirez scores from second, and Yokohama takes a 3-0 lead.

With a lack of offense behind him, Yamaguchi took matters into his hown hands and hit a one out solo home run to left field in the top of the 5th inning to cut the BayStars' lead to 2. That was the only run Miura gave up through 6 innings. The problem came with the relief corp.

Shinji Ohhara walked the number 8 Dragon batter, Ryosuke Hirata to lead off the top of the 7th. Pinch hitter Atsushi Fujii followed with a single up the middle. Then Yohei Ohshima sacrificed the two runners along. That was it for Ohhara. Shigeru Kaga allowed Masahiro Araki to sacrifice fly Hirata home before getting Luna to ground out to third. The lead was cut to 1 run.

And that slim lead didn't last long. Kazuhiro Wada welcomed his former team mate, Jorge Sosa, to the mound with a single to left to open the 7th inning. Two outs later, the biggest pain in Yokohama's side since he left the bay, Motonobu Tanishige, drives in the tying run with a single up the middle.

Both teams had ample opportunities to score more runs. Chunichi ended up stranding 12 base runners while Yokohama stranded 15. Chunichi's biggest opportunity was perhaps the 12th inning when with two down and the bases loaded, Hirokazu lined the ball hard toward left, but right at shortstop Takehiro Ishikawa. That catch guaranteed Yokohama a tie at worst.

But the game ended up being won on a leadoff base hit by the previous day's hero, Takayuki Kajitani, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Keijiro Matsumoto (in for the injured Sho Aranami, who suffered a depressed fracture in his right cheek bone head sliding into third on Friday Thursday), then 19 year old catcher Shuto Takajyoh drove in the first sayonara run of his baseball career with a single to left. At 19 years and 11 months old, Takajyoh is the first teenager in the Central League since a kid by the name of Hideki Matsui hit a sayonara home run against the Dragons on May 31, 1994 at Tokyo Dome, 19 years ago.

[Date and details of Aranami's injury added.]
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