Summary: These notes are about a game that took place on Tuesday, June 7. Nippon Ham edged Chunichi 1-0 in a great pitcher's duel.
What a pitching matchup. Yu Darvish was his usual self, striking out 10 with no walks and three hits in another shutout, running his personal scoreless streak to 44 innings. But Wei-Yin Chen managed to keep up with him and pitched a game that would have earned him a "w" under normal circumstances.
Darvish did everything well - he kept everything down, or unhittably high in the zone; got ahead of nearly ever batter; got into only two three-ball counts; surrendered virtually zero hard contact. Catcher Keiji Koyama managed two of Chunichi's three hits, a single off an early-count fastball, and another off a slider that got a little too much of the plate. The only other Dragons batter to look remotely competent was Kazuhiro Wada, who hit the hardest ball off Darvish, a sharp line drive that Fighters second baseman Kensuke Tanaka made a great jumping play on. Wada also hit an opposite field single to lead off the seventh inning, which after a sacrifice bunt by Takahiro Saeki turned into the only Dragons threat of the evening. But Darvish subverted that minor threat by dominating Ryosuke Hirata, who could only vaguely defend the strike zone, and Masahiko Morino, who struck out on three pitches.
You couldn't say that Chen matched Darvish pitch for pitch, but he put up a dominant performance in his own way. Chen scattered four hits in an eight-inning compete game, needing only 88 pitches to work through Nippon Ham's lineup three and a half times. The difference in the game came in the top of the seventh, when Chen surrendered an uncharacteristic walk to Atsunori Inaba, then hung a slider to Sho Nakata on an 0-2 count. Nakata smacked a double off the left field wall, with the ball bouncing far enough from Wada to allow Inaba to score from first. Chen wasn't rattled though, and with Nakata still on second, mowed down Tomohiro Nioka, Dai Kan Yoh, and Micah Hoffpauir.
Though the results differed by the slimmest of margins, the two pitchers took differing approaches on the mound. Darvish's arsenal is such that he can feature a couple of different looks. In this game, he featured at the power end of his range, relying on his four-seam, cutter and tailing two-seam/one-seam/shuuto. When Chunichi's hitters started fouling the hard stuff off, Darvish would go to his slider or curve for a different look.
Chen, by comparison, kept things a lot simpler. He fed Nippon Ham a strict diet of fastballs and sliders, showing great location and keeping nearly everything on the edges of the strike zone. To make an unfair comparison, he lacked Darvish's velocity and movement, but he worked quickly, threw strikes, and knew what he wanted to do with each hitter. It definitely felt like he was pitching to contact, but it worked as he mostly limited the Fighters to infield pop ups and lazy fly balls.
I don't really have anything more to say about this game, so I'll close with this remarkable fact. Darvish's opening day: seven innings pitched, seven runs, seven earned. Darvish since then: 69 innings pitched, six runs, five earned.