Series Preview: Hiroshima Carp 5/7-5/8

That's one big carp!
The Swallows meet up with the Carp for a quick two game series in Matsuyama with the Swallows as the "home" team, even though Matsuyama is much closer to Hiroshima than Tokyo. The Carp sit just one game back of the Swallows, so this is an important series in terms of deciding who will be the CL leader when interleague play rolls around.

The Carp will have the benefit of facing the bottom half of our rotation. The bullpen is in a little bit of disarray with the demoting of Kenichi Matsuoka, our struggling setup man. He was removed from the active roster and will have to wait 10 days before he is eligible to return. He had the one bad outing versus the Dragons, but he hasn't been as sharp overall this season. Tony Barnette is the likely candidate to replace Matusoka as top setup man. He has been very reliable this year with a miniscule 0.93 ERA.

The Swallows' bats had an off day when Yoshimi battled the Yakult Swallows. They had a successful series overall though, taking two of three from last year's Central League champions. After the mini-series against the Carp, they get to face the Dragons again. The Swallows are tied with the Carp for the CL lead in batting average, at .272.

The Carp are fresh off of a series win versus the Baystars, and will be motivated to grab two wins against us after going winless in our first series. There is a possibility that the Swallows will run into Carp ace Kenta Maeda, winner of last year's Sawamura Award (Cy Young equivalent). He hasn't found the same success this year, sporting a 4.78 ERA to this point, but he is still someone to be wary of.
Don't let his unbecoming features fool you.
3 to Watch:
1. Jun Hirose, Carp - He's batting .391, nuff said.
2. Chad Tracy, Carp - After a slow start he's starting to pick it up as he adjusts to Japanese pitching and strike zone. He's up to .292 and he leads the CL in doubles with 10.
3. Wladimir Balentien, Swallows - He had a 6-12 series vs. the Dragons and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Prediction: I'll take the easy way out and say we split the series. I'll throw in a bench-clearing brawl though, since Kosuke Matsui did bean one of their guys last series.

notes: maybe the Dragons' offensive explosion in our last game had to do more with the incompetence of Matsuoka than the resurgence of a prolific offense; they were shutout by the Giants yesterday and only mustered four hits.

© 2011, copyright Julian Jowise


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