For the 5th time in the month of August, Our Marines have won a series, this time vs Orix. That’s every series so far this month, for those of you counting at home. In Game 1, the team won 5-2 behind the start of Karakawa and timely hits from Imae, Kakunaka, and Braz. In Game 3, New Lefty Ace Furuya + a strong pen combined with a pair of timely hits from birthday boy Daichi for a 3-1 win. Overall, Lotte won 2 of 31 and has now moved to within 4.5 games of Rakuten and sits 2.5 games up on third place Softbank.
1Please note that Game 2 was a crime against humanity. I will mention it in the briefest way possible, but suffice it to say that it sucked. Also note that the final game of the Rakuten series (which we did not write up) was not worth mentioning, other than we lost 3-1.
Friday was the always popular Black Black night and my first game at QVC in two weeks. The Baby-Faced Killer took the mound for this one, and while it can definitely not be said that he was the reason the team won the game he did plenty to keep the game within reach. This game marked the 4th decent start for young Karakawa out of his last 6, so it is cause for some optimism.
Orix got on the board first, though, thanks to a leadoff double by Hirano and a timely single by Itoi to make it 1-0 Buffs after one inning. Yuki got out of the inning without further damage.
Our Marines struck back quickly and furiously, though. In the bottom of the first T OGINO led off with an infield single, and after an Okada sac bunt and an Iguchi pop-out, Imae brought in Ogino with a timely single to right! The not-especially-fleet-of-foot Imae stole second, and Kakunaka brought him in with an RBI single as well. That brought up Braz, who calmly belted a pitch from Nishi into the teeming black uniformed masses in right – an offensive assault that made it 4-1 Lotte after one inning. Party on.
Karakawa gave up a homer to the extraordinarily light-hitting Miyazaki in the second to make it 4-2 Chiba, but that was it for the Orix scoring. The Baby-Faced Killer would go only 5 innings, giving up 6 hits and 2 runs plus a walk and a K, but that was enough for the win. Why? The pen was yet again really strong. The now-standard combo of Uchi, Carlos Rosa, Matsunaga, and Masuda went the final 4 innings giving up no runs on 4 hits and a walk matched with 4 strikeouts. Uchi had two of those but all four guys were equally solid. Given the extreme holes in our rotation right now it’s great that Itoh-kantoku can count on the relievers to step up when needed.
Our Marines got one more insurance run in the 5th, as Hisao and T OGINO led off with singles. Okada smacked a sac chopper to first, but for some reason Heiuchi thought the ball was foul and loitered in no-mans-land between 2nd and 3rd, so the sac turned into a double play. No matter – Imae was there for the rescue with another RBI hit, this one a double to left that wasn’t far at all from going out of the park. That made our final score of 5-2 – Imae, Kakunaka and Braz the heroes!
There’s almost nothing good to be said about this one. Almost.
Ohtani got the start in game 2, and in only 23 pitches managed to record what I think is the Worst Pitching Performance of the Yeartm. In those 23 pitches, Ohtani recorded one out (a sac bunt), threw 14 balls (resulting in 3 walks), and was pulled after a Baldiris grand slam. At no point in time did it feel like Ohtani was going to get an out, and the only strikes were on pitches that were swung on.
So down 4-0 super quickly, Itoh just had to go the pen and push onto the mound his workhorse, Fujioka. Now here’s the good part – the only nice thing that could be said about this game: It definitely does not show up in the box score for Fujioka, but he pitched REALLY well under duress. His line was 7 IP, 3 ER with 3 hits and 7 walks on 121 pitches, but if you didn’t watch the game you can’t know that two of those walks and one of the runs came when he was clearly not ready to be pitching in the first, and two more walks and the other two runs came after he had thrown well over 100 pitches and should have been pulled. It was a rather remarkable bit of work given the situation.
Lotte bats? Eh! Doesn’t matter. This game was over in the first inning, nothing to do but drink beer and wait for the next game. 8-1 Orix, if you’re interested.
Furuya – you are our New Lefty Ace and quite honestly, you have set such a high standard for your performance that it is probably unfair for me to be slightly disappointed in your outing on Sunday. Actually, you pitched quite well – retiring the first 8 batters and only giving up 2 hits and a walk through 5 innnings – but got into a rough spot in the 6th and had to be relieved by Uchi. Still, this start continued your string over very strong outings – that’s only 3 earned runs total in the past 5 starts for a 0.83 ERA in that span. You have definitely earned the title of New Lefty Ace.
Our Marines got to Buffs starter Brandon Dickson juuuust enough to support Furuya and the pen. The big blows came from our second year All-Star shortstop Daichi Suzuki, who on his 24th birthday delivered a nice timely single to right in the 4th inning to score Imae for the first run of the game, and Satozaki who immediately followed up Daichi’s single with one of his own to score Kakunaka (2-4 on the evening and warming up nicely – he’s on an 8 game hitting streak) and make it a 2-0 game.
As mentioned, Uchi took over for Furuya in the 6th after Orix put runners on 2nd and 3rd with just one out, and big masher Lee Dae Ho coming up. Uchi got Lee out on a very deep fly to right, but this allowed Adachi to score from third and narrowed the lead to 2-1.
This run was nothing to worry about, as Our Marines would get it right back in the bottom of the inning. Braz took a pitch off the elbow with one out2 to bring up Daichi again, and this time Daichi hit a ball to almost the same spot as the one in the 4th but harder, rolling to the wall for his 9th triple of the year and scoring pinch runner Ohmatsu from first. Of course the birthday boy would be the player of the game!
2Braz would be taken out of the game for Ohmatsu, but apparently he’s OK other than a bruise.
The same cast of characters as Friday’s game one came out of the pen to close out this one. Uchi (as mentioned), Carlos Rosa, Matsunaga, and Masuda shut down the Buffalo bats for 3 2/3 innings, recording 4 Ks with no walks and just two hits, both off Masuda with 2 outs in the 9th. Maybe a little bit of tension there, but Masuda made a good play to get to the bag for the final out of the 9th.
It almost doesn’t need to be mentioned because it’s so routine at this point, but Captain Okada made a spectacular running, twisting, jumping catch in the 3rd to rob Hirano of a hit. You can see the photo of the play next to this article (from the Marines site).
Up next is the really critical stretch – home against Seibu and on the road vs Rakuten. Two more series wins and Our Marines are in pretty decent shape for the last stretch of the season. 19 of the last 30 games are at QVC!