When Chunichi and Lotte get together, brevity and subtlety tend to go AWOL0. These last two games with the Dragons at QVC Marine Field were no exception. Saturday’s showdown required a furious comeback from 6 runs down and yet another one to tie it again, but Our Marines fell short in the 12th inning, losing 10-8. But runs came in bunches again on Sunday, and Lotte roared back from 2 runs down not once but twice, ultimately cruising to a very pleasing 9-5 win. And with that, my friends, the 2013 Interleague Series has ended.
0 Much like this post, I must say.
I must tell you the truth – I didn’t know what to think about this game when it ended and 2 days later, I still don’t know.
On one hand, the pitching got pummeled to the tune of 10 runs, 22 hits, and 3 homers including an insanely big, 2-run 12th inning, game-winning jack by Matt Clark. Our ace Naruse got beat up at home by light-hitting Chunichi – 6 runs, 4 of them earned. The defense committed 4 errors. 4! 4!!
None of this is remotely good.
On the other hand, down 7-1 in the 8th inning, Our Marines said “NO SEÑOR you will NOT win in that fashion in our stadium, you will have to find some other way to win but you are NOT going to do it that way!”1 and scored 6 to tie the game. And in the 9th after a costly, costly throwing error by Imae let Chunichi take the lead again, Our Marines said “NO! Absolutely NOT! NO! You cannot win like that either! You must find some other way to win but not like that, definitely NOT like that!” and tied the game on a superb 2-out, bottom of the 9th smashy smash by Iguchi.2
1 Perhaps they didn’t say it exactly like that?
2 Of course, the Dragons did eventually find a way to win that all parties could agree upon. Dammit.
This is all good.
So maybe my feelings on this game are just entertained ambivalence? How else should one feel about the second longest 12-inning game in Japanese history, beating one of my favorite games ever by 2 minutes and only 10 minutes shorter than the longest ever? After all, these two teams played a 15-inning tie and a 12-inning Lotte win on back-to-back nights in November 2010 – what else should we expect?
A (Not So) Quick Rundown
Chunichi got off to a quick start in the first thanks to an Araki (5-7 with 3 runs scored on the night) double – actually a triple but a fielding error was charged to Ishimine for fumbling the ball – and a single by Clark. Rapidly 1-0 Chunichi.
But just as rapidly – no, even rapidlier – Nemoto tied the game on the first pitch he saw from Dragons starter Ohno. Hello, left stands, and welcome to your tie game.
Despite 6 more Lotte baserunners over the next 6 innings, that first pitch was pretty much it for Our Marines. There was not a whole heck of a lot coming across the plate. On the other half of the scorecard, though, it was Batting Festa for Chunichi. An unearned run in the 4th, another regular run in the 5th, 3 more runs in the 7th – Naruse pulled (a rather miserable outing – 6 1/3, 110 pitches, 10 hits, 6 runs (4 earned), a pair of walks, only 3 Ks and a 2 run homer by Luna. I think we’ve seen better from him), Ueno in and also ineffective. A solo shot by Oshima off Ueno to lead off the 8th and whoops, it’s 7-1 Dragons. Hmmph.
But the Lotte 8th? Magic, folks. Ohno, Suzuki, Kobayashi, Nakata – none of these Chunichi arms could slow down the Lotte attack. First it was Ishimine with a single, then Nemoto. Then a double from T OGINO plates Ishimine, and another by Iguchi-saaaan! plates two more. Ooooh….. Imae and Saburo make it two outs but a walk comes next to Daichi and there goes Kakunaka with a single up the middle – Kawamoto in for Emura, light-hitting Kawamoto, and he drills a liner off the third base bag! Iguchi in, Daichi in, and Our Marines were BACK! All the way to an unbelievable 7-7 tie!
Our joy was short lived, though. Masuda came in and gave up quick singles with no outs to Iwasaki and Fujii. He coaxed a DP out of
Doala Morino, sending Iwasaki to third. Ibata lines a hot shot to Imae, who makes a nice play on the ball, fires to first and auuuuuggh! Throwing error…. All that effort wasted, 8-7 Chunichi.
But no, not really – as I mentioned earlier, Iguchi was having none of that, he was tying the game in the bottom of the 9th. This one just had to go to extra innings. Why not, with this much fun? I should add it was already over 4 hours at this point.
Extra Time, Extra Drama
The day was patrolled by Naruse, Ueno, and Masuda, but the evening went to Matsunaga, Carlos Rosa, Hattori, and Nakagoh. Unfortunately only 3 of the 4 could get the job done3.
Lotte had the first real chance – bases loaded, 2 outs in the 10th, Nemoto at the plate – but it was a weak fly ball ending the inning. Mottainai. Chunichi managed the rare 4 hits in an inning yet no runs scored and no double plays feat (thanks to a nifty pickoff by Rosa) in the 11th, and the Chiba bats went meekly in the bottom of the 11th.
3 If you can call Rosa’s 4-hits-but-somehow-no-runs outing “getting it done”
That led to Nakagoh in the 12th, just needing 3 outs to guarantee a tie and a miracle escape. But Our Marines ran fresh out of miracles, and with Araki on first Matt Clark leveled a Nakagoh pitch about as far as could be… leveled, way way way into the upper reaches of right field. He posed for some time, threw the bat down with force, and strutted home.
This was how it would all end, 5:44 of exhausting baseball. A combined 18 runs (5 homers) and 36 hits on the evening for these two teams. The game was a 14:00 start and went on so long that the Lotte ouendan launched into the “Summer Evening” song.
I have no mixed feelings about this game. Sunday’s end of interleague play was a warm blanket on a cool autumn evening, the ice-cold beer after a hard day’s work, that indescribable X that you need and you didn’t know you needed until you got it. I liked it, in short.
Birthday Boy Yuta Ohmine got the start vs 74-year-old Masa Yamamoto. Whoops! That should be 47-year old, but in baseball years that’s basically 74 (though amazingly, even though he’s been playing in NPB since 1986, Yamamoto is still a reasonably effective pitcher.) Ohmine has hit a few recent speed bumps since starting the season quite strongly – he hasn’t made it longer than 3 innings in his last 3 starts (including this one, sadly), though there was no reason he should have been pulled in his start at Koshien last weekend. Still, with a bit of rain in the area and some recently-hot Chunichi bats, there was cause for concern.
And For Good Reason
Ohmine went from awful to very nice to even more awful in the course of his 2 1/3 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 5 ER (though with 4 Ks) outing. First inning, leadoff batter Oshima drew a quick walk, and when Araki squared to bunt him to second (yes, with no outs in the first! Lovely!) Ohmine fired one right off Araki’s helmet. Whoops. The umps discussed the pitch to see if it was an intentionally dangerous pitch (and automatic ejection) but Ohmine stayed in. A strikeout to Clark brought up Luna, who was soon driving a deep liner to right center past the glove of Ishimine (I’d rate that a Okada 4, Craig gave it an Okada 3, so the official ruling was Okada 3.5). 2 runs in, 2-0 Dragons.
Ohmine is not Mr Pitch Through Adversity, to say the least, but down 2-0 he pitched a very solid 2nd inning – 2 Ks and a meaningless single.
Bottom 2, T OGINO at the plate, T OGINO singling to lead off! Daichi up, he’s singling as well, and of course T OGINO is off to third. Runners on the corners, no outs for Emura…. Squeeeeeze, played perfectly. T OGINO races in and Lotte is on the board! But of course there’s more – Ishimine cranks a double to center and Daichi is in to tie it! What, still not done??? Nope! Nemoto draws a walk, and there’s good ol Kakunaka breaking up the tie with another single – Ishimine in, Our Marines up 3-2!
Alas, the Bad Ohmine came back in the third. 3 hits and a walk, Ohmine is gone, Fujioka (about the only pitcher who didn’t go on Saturday, no joke) in for the long haul. All told, Chunichi would pick up 3 runs of their own, grabbing back the lead and running it to 5-3 Dragons. The details are unimportant, honestly.
We Ain’t Going Out Like That
Fujioka settled in nicely. He was everything that he rarely is as a starter – efficient, keeping the at bats short, keeping runners off the paths, generally. All in all he went 4 2/3 of 4 hit, no run, 48 pitch ball to stabilize the team and set the stage for the later innings. Fantastic work, and I expect to see a rejuvenated Fujioka back in the rotation when PL play kicks off again.
Lotte Lucky 7 – still a 5-3 Chunichi lead. It’s time to make a move, and Our Marines made that move masterfully. Fukutani (rookie who shut down the Chiba chance in the 10th the night before) is in. Nemoto says “VENGEANCE IS MINE” with a single, Kakunaka says “Yeah, me too, MAN!” with one of his own. After an Iguchi K, Imae is up. No, Imae is belting a double to right center! Nemoto in, (“TOLD YOU SO!!” he screams, perhaps) Kakunaka in (“Yeah, me too!”), tie gaaaaame!
Saburo is up with the chance to get the lead, but it’s Saburo so of course he walks instead. T OGINO now has a chance, and he loops a fly to right center – the outfielders are in for some reason so Oshima has gotta race back… and he gets it. Man. Daichi draws a walk to load ‘em up for Emura – Nooooo, NOT Emura but the other birthday boy, OHMATSU! Hard hitting, fan favorite Ohmatsu. Everybody loves Ohmatsu. Even Seibu fans love Ohmatsu, I’m sure. Ohmatsu. We need you! WE GOT YOU! Ohmatsu rifles a ball between second and first past a diving Araki! Imae in, Hayasaka (PR for Saburo) in, and on a bad throw from right Daichi in as well! From down to 3-5 to up 8-5! Amazing!!! We (ahem, OK, I) went crazy!
The game was over then. We all knew it. The happy song was played DURING the 7th inning. The rarely used “Chance 2″ theme was sung. Fin. But just for fun, Kakunaka and Imae collaborated on an 8th-inning insurance run to make it a beautiful 9-5 Lotte victory. Fujioka, Imae, and of course Ohmatsu are the heroes, and as the clouds parted and the skies turned blue, Our Smiling Marines finished interleague with a nice 2 game lead over the rest of the PL. Fantastic.
I’m really stoked about the rest of the season now (as if I wasn’t before). We still have a bit over half the season to go, it’s going to be an interesting run to the PL flag!