Thursday, May 31, 2007

Darvish Watch: Episode 9

A bounce back game seemed in order for young Yu Darvish, coming off a humiliating performance against the Japan-top SoftBank Hawks. His 6 consecutive complete game streak had been broken and a new string of successes perhaps lied ahead. What would the Fighters do against the Central-top Yomiuri Giants in this inter-league matchup? Would Darvish's 1st inning struggles continue, or would he show a bit sharper control? Outside the Hawks, the 2 through 6 of the Giants has to be the most feared bunch of hitters in Japan right now.

Here's the 1st inning for you:

Takahashi: single past 3rd
Tani: foul tip strikeout (notice he was swinging)
Ogasawara: RBI double
Lee: RBI ground out to 1st
Nioka: ground out to 3rd

The Giants are one of the few teams to put a real hitter in the #2 hole. Part of that has to do with the use of a pitcher in the lineup in the Central, but it should probably be the rule rather than the exception in both leagues. Darvish didn't walk or hit anyone, but the Giants probably had studied the control problems and were sitting on anything around the plate. When a pitcher exhibits control problems in certain situations, hitters are smart enough to know that he will be trying to correct those problems with fastballs and stuff located in the strike zone. Knowing that is enough to get a slight advantage, especially if it's the 1st inning.

Darvish had surrendered a 2-0 lead before his team had even come to bat. Fortunately, on this day the Fighters lived up to their namesake and picked up their struggling ace. 4 runs in the bottom of the 1st on a two run triple by outfielder Eichi Koyano, and a 2 run shot by the very next batter, 22-year old Yukio Tanaka. Back in business.

Over the remaining 8 innings both teams were held scoreless. The Giants only managed 4 hits and no other baserunners over that span, while Giants rookie starter Norihito Kaneto continued his brilliant 2007 with 2 hits and a walk over 8. He went 1-2-3 in the final 4 frames of the contest, but his offense couldn't get anything going against Yu Darvish. Darvish finished his comnplete game victory with only 109 pitches in the books, and struck out 5 against no walks. He had it all working in holding down one of the best lineups in the sport, and helped the Fighters earn a two game sweep of the Giants to move up in the Pacific standings. Click below for updated stats:

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