Just a couple of quick notes...
The Swallows game at Nagoya Dome get underway at 3pm. Very big game for Yakult as Takehiko Oshimoto takes the mound for the Swallows; he's 0-1 with a 3.24 ERA (8 G, 8.1 IP) against the Dragons this season. Opposing him will be 33-year-old lefty Takashi Ogasawara; he's 1-1 with a 4.18 ERA (5 G, 28 IP) against the Swallows so far this year.
The Swallows have had 2 majors problems recently:
An inconsistent offense that has scored only 8 runs during their current 6-game losing streaking, including being shut-out twice;
And a struggling bullpen that has, at times, struggled to hold the lead.
The table-setters really need to get on base most consistently. Now that Norichika Aoki is starting to swing a better bat, it's that much more important for the players above him to get on base. Over this current 6-game losing streak, the Swallows' 1-2 hitters are a pathetic 8-for-46 with only 3 runs scored.
But blaming only the top 2-hitters is too easy. The 4-5-6 batters have also been awful: 14-for-68 with only 1 RBI.
Meanwhile, Aoki is 11-for-21 and doing everything he can to get on base. Maybe Aoki needs to go on another slump -- this team only appears to know how to play well only when Aoki is slumping.
As for the pitching core... Losing both Ryota Igarashi and Chang-Yong Lim was a big deal. But Igarashi is now back, meaning the pen should begin to rebound. Still, it's quite troubling when your bullpen acts much like a sieve against the opponents offense (last 6 games: 16.1 IP, 16 ER).
If the Swallows lose today, they could give up third place to the surging Tigers.
Speaking of the Tigers, they take on the Bay Stars at Koshien tonight (game time 6pm). Shinobu Fukuhara goes for his first victory since June 6th (a span of 5 starts) and 1-1 with a 5.23 ERA (2 G, 10.1 IP) against the Bay Stars. Yokohama counters with Stephen Randolph, their late-season foreign import that has been lights out for them so far (4 G, 2-1, 1.38 ERA, 26 IP, 35 K). Should be a good game to watch.