After a wonderful start to the previous series, things did not go so well for Our Marines in the Rakuten series, and the wheels are spinning a bit. There seems to be the vague scent of panic in the air for some reason (I say ‘for some reason’ as it’s just 10% of the way into the season) as players have been swapped en masse between ichi-gun and ni-gun.
Fortunately we have a 3 game set with the Worst Team in the Pacific League this week. Unfortunately 2 of their 4 wins this season have come at the expense of the Men from Chiba. The series starts at Omiya on Tuesday before moving to Seibu Dump for the final two games.
By Steve Novosel Hideaki Wakui brushed away his first two sub-par starts as a member of Chiba Lotte and turned in a vintage Wakui start versus his old team as Our Marines came from behind to win a thrilling contest at Omiya Park Baseball Stadium, 3-2.
Asamura would end up having a stellar game – 3 hits total and a huge run saving catch at second in the sixth inning. But here’s the thing; outside of Asamura’s hits, Wakui would allow just one other hit. His line on the night: 7 IP, 5 hits, 1 HBP, 2 runs, no walks, and 8 Ks. Very solid.
The Lotte Attack
Last time Makita threw against Chiba – the home opener two weeks ago – he was great, 5 hits and one run in an 8 inning performance. This time, Chiba batters were able to get plenty of wood on his pitches, knocking him around for 9 hits in 7 innings of work. But even with those 9 hits runs were a bit hard to come by – Lotte runners were twice gunned down at the plate.
That changed in the fourth – Imae reached on an error, and Kakunaka reached via single. Ohmatsu (getting the start in left) smashed a double to the right field corner to bring in Kakunaka (Imae had previously been thrown out at the plate) and tie the game. Shades of 2009!
Seibu got that run right back via a double by Ransom (the only non-Asamura hit off Wakui after the first) in the 5th – back to a 2-1 deficit. But the Lotte attack wasn’t finished. In the sixth, Imae cranked a double to center to bring in Nemoto and tie the game at 2-2. That brought up Kakunaka, who singled in front of Akiyama in center. Imae held at third, but Akiyama threw home, the ball was in the dirt and skipped past Ginjiro at home – Imae raced in, the error and smart base running made it a 3-2 Lotte lead!
Thanks to Wakui going plenty deep into this one, only sterling set-up man Carlos Rosa and closer Nishino needed to be called in. Rosa recorded a pair of swinging Ks and gave up a single, almost getting Asamura on a swinging K as well before losing him to a walk. He coerced Akiyama into flying out to mid center to end the threat.
And Nishino? He’s settling nicely into the closer spot – a leadoff walk to Ransom led to nothing as the three necessary outs followed swiftly after, and Chiba walked off the field a winner.
By Steve Novosel New Lefty Ace Furuya threw a pair of quality starts in his first two game. That streak would end tonight but he (and the team) would win anyway as Chiba took the second game of the three game set with Seibu, 6-2.
Let’s talk a bit about Furuya. One of the keys to his success as a starter has been his ability to limit baserunners off of walks – just 29 in 89 IP last year – but tonight he was uncharacteristically wild, meting our 6 passes (5 BB and a HBP) in 5 innings of work. Half of those came in his final inning (the 5th) and despite the sketchy control he was still able to get outs, and the Kittycats could only squeak out a pair of runs.
Not nearly as good as his previous two starts – I’d say he was much worse than his first start vs Seibu – but the difference between that one and this one is the team could still win. How?
1) Lots and lots of hits. For the 6th game of the last 7, Men of Lotte recorded double digit hits, this time 12 (and 10 off starter Nogami). Despite blowing chances with two on in both the first and second inning, Chiba would score 6 runs in the middle four innings. Huffman would go 2-3 with a walk and an RBI, Nemoto 2-4 with a sac fly, Iguchi… wait a second.
2) Power. Iguchi grounded into a mood-killing double play in the first, but redeemed himself in the best way, leading off the 5th and 7th with large, large arches to deep left. Both left no doubt – check out Nogami’s reaction in the 5th:
(If the embed doesn’t work click here)
3) Great pen-manship. Matsunaga, Masuda, Carlos Rosa, and Nishino picked up where Furuya left off, and kept the Seibu chances to a minimum, only allowing 4 baserunners (3 via the walk and 1 by hit) in 4 innings work. Sounds like last year!
The series is won, but we need more. Our Marines go for the sweep tomorrow evening at Seibu Dump.