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A Series in Sendai: 23-25 August, 2013

***Updated 8/25 10:45 PM***

As Steve mentioned at the conclusion of the Seibu series post, Our Marines are heading north to Sendai on Friday for a pivotal 3 game set between the top two teams in the PL. Thanks to Lotte’s 12-5 run, combined with a five game losing streak for Rakuten, we sit only 2.5 games back of the first place Eagles heading in. With our three most reliable pitchers of 2013 slated to start this weekend, hopefully we can at least take 2 of 3 and win our 7th series in a row.

Photo from Sponichi.  Tanaka rears back and fires a 156-km/h fastball to strike out Fukuura in the 6th.

Photo from Sponichi. Tanaka rears back and fires a 156-km/h fastball to strike out Fukuura for the third out in the 6th.

Game 1, August 23: Eagles 5, Marines 0

Friday’s game featured a match-up between our 9-3 Nishino, and some guy named Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka’s been in the news recently…something about starting the year 17-0 while riding a 21 game winning streak over the last 363 days. Meanwhile, Nishino is returning from a brief 2 week hiatus due to some discomfort in his pitching shoulder.

Could this be the night that Tanaka’s streak came to an end? Last time around versus Ma-kun, we were two outs away from doing just that, but ultimately failed. Nishino certainly thought he had a chance to best Tanaka tonight, and actually was the stronger pitcher through the first four innings. Nishino was perfect the first time through the Eagles lineup, and didn’t give up his first hit until the 5th. The Lotte bats had a chance to strike early in the first inning, loading the bases thanks to an Okada lead off double, an Iguchi HBP, and a Kakunaka walk. But Chiba couldn’t capitalize on the 2-out bases loaded opportunity that resulted from Tanaka’s early issues, as Saburo was punched out looking on a 3-2 pitch to ever-so-frustratingly end the inning.

Our Marines did manage at least one base runner in 6 out of 7 Tanaka innings pitched, but failed to produce a run all night. Meanwhile, Rakuten finally got to Nishino in the 5th inning getting their first two hits of the night. The Eagles plated one run in the inning on a Shimauchi sac fly to make it 1-0. Chiba had a chance to strike back in the top of the 6th, but Tanaka got a big 2-out strikeout of Fukuura on some 156-km/h heat, stranding Imae and Daichi in scoring position.

Rakuten blew the game open in the bottom of the 6th, chasing Nishino from the game on a 2-run 1-out double by Casey McGehee to make it 3-0. Nishino had struck out the first batter of the inning, but was pulled after giving up three straight hits and the two runs on the aforementioned McGehee double. Nishino was charged with one more run, as Hattori came in and allowed a hit to his first batter Masuda, knocking in McGehee making the score 4-0.

The rest was pretty much history. Rakuten scored one more off Ledezma in the 7th, moving on to a 5-0 victory. Tanaka is now 18-0, extending his winning streak to 22 wins in the last calendar year. It was a valiant effort by Nishino going toe-to-toe & round-for-round with Tanaka through 4 innings, but in the end there was no way Rakuten’s ace was going to allow his team to lose six in a row.

 

G.G. Sato and Imae celebrate G.G.'s grand slam in the first inning.

Photo from Nikkan Sports. G.G. Sato and Imae celebrate G.G.’s grand slam in the first inning.

Game 2, August 24: Eagles 7, Marines 5

Last Saturday, Our Marines were the victims of a first inning grand slam by Orix’s Baldiris. This Saturday, we were the perpetrators of such first inning brutality versus Rakuten. Iguchi and Imae each had a two out base hit in the top of the first, followed by a Kakunaka walk to load the bases. Next up, getting the rare start in left field, the veteran journeyman and fan favorite G.G. Sato walked up to the plate with the bases loaded. First pitch swinging…Crack!…Way Back…Way Back…Gone! A grand slam to left center! 4-0 Chiba Lotte in the first!!!

So ya, I mentioned that last weekend we gave up a first inning grand slam to Orix. The difference between that game and this Saturday’s game in Sendai you ask? We had no signs of even hinting at making a comeback in last weekend’s game. On Saturday, Rakuten wasted little time getting back in the game, tying it at 4-4 by the time we completed the 4th inning. By the time it was all said and done, Rakuten scored seven unanswered runs and went on to a 7-5 victory.

Despite the seven unanswered runs, we had chances to strike back. Saburo, Kakunaka and Imae all had two hit performaces at the plate, while Nemoto had a 3-5 modasho. Chiba failed to convert on three chances with RISP after the G.G. grand slam. After Rakuten’s closer Rasner left with an injury in the 9th, Lotte finally managed to score one run on an Imae RBI single, but it was too little too late.

Rakuten’s starter Wataru Karashima survived the rough first inning going a full 5 innings and earning the win.1 Meanwhile, our New Lefty Ace Furuya was pulled after giving up three runs in three innings, barely escaping the 3rd with the lead in tact. The bullpen couldn’t hold the 4-3 lead for long, Hattori allowed the tying run in the 4th and was he was also charged with the go ahead run in the 5th after he was relieved by Ueno.

1 Credit to Karashima for lasting so long in the game. With two runners reaching base after the G.G. grand slam, someone on Twitter who shall remain nameless, pleaded to Hoshino to keep Karashima in the game as long as possible so we could keep scoring runs. Well, he stayed in the game and kept putting 0’s on the board after that.

It looks like our streak of taking 2 of 3 games in each series will stop at 6. Hopefully, we can salvage one win in Sendai and pull back within 3.5 games of the Eagles. Otherwise, we’ll be down 5.5 to a team nobody wants to go on the road against in Stage 2 of the Climax Series.

Capture

Balloons fill the air as Enomoto’s sayonara hit makes its way through the gap.

Game 3, August 25: Eagles 6x, Marines 5

I’m not sure where to start with this one. After two difficult losses on Friday and Saturday, Sunday’s defeat was absolutely crushing. It looked like we were going to take at least one game in Sendai, but once again we blew a 4-0 lead and went down in defeat. Let’s get to the recap:

Craig Brazell got things going with a solo HR in the 2nd to make it 1-0 early on. Braz also got an RBI on Chiba’s second run of the game, knocking in Kakunaka (who cleverly advanced from 2nd to 3rd on an Imae ground out in the previous AB) on a line drive sac fly to center. Lotte scored again on a line drive sac fly to center in the 5th, this time it was Okada knocking in Fukuura. Later in the inning, Kaukunaka drove in Daichi Suzuki on an RBI single to LF to make it 4-0 Marines. The pair of Kakunaka and Daichi had the only multi-hit games for Lotte on a night in which we had 9 hits total as a team. Kakunaka went 2-3 with an RBI single, double, HBP and walk. Daichi had a triple in the 3rd (a lead off triple no less, in which no one was able to bring him home) and a double in 6th.

Ok, so it’s 4-0 after 6 innings. Greisinger has thrown 75 pitches thus far and had given up only two hits.1 Then with one out Ginji Akaminai and Andruw Jones hit back to back singles. With Ginji on third, Casey McGehee drove him in on a sac fly for the Eagles’ first run. The next batter Masuda sent a big fly to right center for a two-run home run, pulling the Eagles even closer at 4-3. Greisinger was chased from the game by a single from the next batter, Kaz Matsui. Uchi came in relief but gave up 2 two-out singles of his own that led to a 4-4 tie. Uchi managed to escape the inning with the tie in tact when Okajima lined out on a very sharply hit ball to first.

1Rakuten ended up with 13 hits. You do the math.

Despite Lotte loading the bases in the 7th, the game remained tied until the 8th inning when T. Ogino sent a home run down the left field line to give Lotte the 5-4 lead. The lead held through the bottom half of the inning with Carlos Rosa escaping a 2 out bases loaded jam by popping up Shima to end the threat.

In came PL saves leader, and a well rested Masuda to close the 9th. It didn’t start well for Masuda though, as he gave up a lead off single to Shimauchi. The single turned into 3 bases for Shimauchi, thanks to a very untimely two base error in right by Ishimine. The next batter Okajima drove in Shimauchi on a single to LF to tie things at 5. A sac bunt and intentional walk later, in came Aoi Enomoto to PH for Andrew Jones. Fun fact about Enomoto: this was his first AB in 2013 and only his 20th the 21 year, 1 month, 1 day old’s career. This was certainly an AB he’ll remember for this rest of his life, as he golfed a 2-2 pitch deep into the right center field gap, driving in the winning run for a 6-5 sayonara victory.

So there you have it. Rakuten swept us back to 5.5 games behind, looking up at them in the standings in second place. Please refer back to the opening paragraph of this post for a case example of how quickly fortunes can change in baseball. Luckily, we are still alive and very much kicking as we prepare for the stretch run, but now only a game up on SoftBank for second place. There remains 3.5 games separating us and 4th place Seibu for the 3rd Climax Series spot.

Comments 16

  1. Not a surprising result I suppose, though it is a bit disappointing. We certainly had our chances early – the Saburo strikeout was brutal (as was starting him in the first place), and the Fukuura for OGINO substitution made no sense.

    I also worry about Nishino – he looked great early but I wonder if he was rushed back too soon for the big series.

    Anyway, 2 out of 3 is still a great result.

  2. I had high hopes for this game, until I saw a report saying there were thoughts of adding a spot for this game to the Marines Museum if Nishino could beat Ma-kun. I’m too superstitious. ^^;

    But the line-up was so funky too! I don’t understand why Saburo gets played as much as he does (when we could bring Ohmatsu back!), but especially in a game this big and publicized, I really wanted to see Braz. Or at least someone that can hit…
    Speaking of which, I think I was more surprised by Saburo’s hit in today’s game than by G.G.’s grand slam. lol

    I’m with Steve about Nishino. He was playing so well, I was really thinking he’d do it. I hope he gets whatever rest he needs.

    By the way, I will be in Tokorozawa/Makuhari next month from 15th-17th! (Birthday trip. lol) I’ve already been claimed for the games and the night of the 16th, but let me know if either of you are going to be there! I can still bop around and possibly hangout after the other two. πŸ™‚

    1. Well, it looks like we won’t be winning 2 of 3 this time around.

      I’ll leave the Saburo bashing for the comments section haha.

      Hannah, the 15th & 16th are holiday day games, which is good. Maybe I’ll cash in my “one game a month” card under my wife’s policy and we can meet up afterward. Even better, I’ll see if Oji-chan and Oba-chan can watch Kenta, then my wife can join me at the game too.

    2. I’m starting to think the δΈ‰ in Saburo stands for δΈ‰ζŒ―. I used to really like him, but this year… πŸ™
      This whole series was awful. Just when it looked like we’d take a game (maybe even get a shut-out?!), it all falls apart. So many things went wrong from the Lucky 7th. And I thought Masuda had a really bad record in Sendai? I woulda like to see someone else close for last night’s game. :/

      My plans for the trip are kinda weird, so I’ll explain what I can. ^^; 15th I’ll be in in-field jiyuuseki, 1st base side. After the game I gotta check into my hotel in Ikebukuro but am otherwise free. 16th not sure what ticket my friend is buying me, but I’ll be… somewhere. Afterwards I change hotels and have dinner plans. On the 17th I’ll be in the outfield at QVC. No plans before the game in the off-chance you guys don’t have work!

      Seibu Dump… I’m really looking forward to seeing how it got that name. lol

      1. See I need to disclose fully – I’ve never liked Saburo. I think he’s got an average arm in the field but at best minus range, which is why he never plays in the field anymore. And at the plate he is brutal in everything but OBP. Check out his advanced stats for this year:

        http://baseballdata.jp/playerB/11385.html

        He only hits fastballs and changeups, he’s getting eaten alive on anything breaking. Only .140 with runners in scoring position, too. He was just as bad last year, even:

        http://baseballdata.jp/2012/playerB/11385.html

        What bugs me the most is that he rarely seems to be putting out any effort. Look at 2012 – 5 for 251 on balls to the infield! Not that you expect many hits on infield balls but you’d think there’d be more bobbles than that. A lot more. And he was batting 4th all last year…

        Agreed on Masuda, he’s getting eaten alive there. Matsunaga would have been a better choice.

        I will do the gaiya on games I go to – I strongly dislike Seibu Dome but it’s fun in the outfield. On the 17th, I’m up for some outfield seating for sure. I just don’t like it when it is exceptionally hot or crowded, but it surely won’t be on a Tuesday v Orix!

        1. I can totally see why! I still have super basic knowledge, but before I started teaching myself this season, I knew NOTHING about baseball. Aside from Ohmatsu, I just like the players everyone else did ’cause I assumed they were good. Looking at his stats, I don’t like what I see. (Plus he always looks tired and miserable. It kinda makes me mad now. lol) There’s gotta be room to let some other guys fill the space he’s taking…

          Well, if you’re up for dinner and/or drinks after the Sunday game (preferably in Saitama or Tokyo ^^;), lemme know. I will definitely be outfield on Tuesday, and I’ll try to track you down if we’re outfield on the Monday as well! Hopefully Craig can make it out to one of them too! πŸ™‚

        2. Saburo is really the only older player that everybody likes and I can’t understand why. Fukuura is no longer awesome as he got old but he was a monster at the plate and in the field for many years, plus he’s a local guy and super fun-loving. Ohmatsu is also great, or at least used to be. He was very much the Next Big Thing until his drives started dying at the track in 2011 with the new ball.

          Well, I basically have no fixed plans for 15-17 other than go to games and hang out before/during/after, so it should be easy to meet up!

      2. Well, then I’ll keep my schedule free post-game on the 15th! If anything comes up this time around, just let me know. πŸ™‚
        I just hope I have the energy to survive this long weekend! ^^;;

  3. I’m in a really grumpy mood this morning thanks to this series. Fun fact: We’ve lost 9 of the last 12 games when Saburo has played. He’s certainly not giving us offense or defense, and that little stat shoots any holes in the “Veteran moxie” theory of why he’s starting.

    Not that he is at fault for this. We SHOULD have scored more runs, but 4-0 leads in back-to-back nights should be enough.

    The leadoff “triple” in the 9th of the last game – was ruled (and should have been ruled) a single + error. Nasty time for an error.

    I don’t understand how Greisinger could look so good all game and then so bad in the 7th. Another fun fact – we’ve only had one starter go 7 innings in the past 14 games. Haven’t had a complete game since June.

    1. Thanks Steve. Fixed the “triple” mistake. I didn’t even notice the error at the time. Was a bit distracted at the moment, heard a big hit and saw a runner reach third. Wow, after seeing the replay, I feel about 30% worse about that game.

      I’ll probably go the 15th or 16th with my wife. If you have time for a quick hello before or after the game, let me know.

      1. I couldn’t possibly feel worse about that game. I drove around miserably for a few hours after it.

        Of course, last time I felt this miserable about a sweep when we needed some wins, we went on a huge tear and won it all in 2010. So who knows.

  4. Sorry Hannah, I was reading the schedule wrong. I was wondering why you guys were taking about Seibu Dome. I got my dates confused with the next weekend series at home.

  5. Ok, now that I’ve finally learned how to read a calendar…
    I’ve already tried to start making plans for the 3 day weekend series at QVC 21, 22, or 23.

    If those plans fall through…I can probably join Steve for one of the Seibu Dome games, or come after work and meet up in the outfield on the 17th. Anyway, I’ll let you know.

    1. Don’t forget – season’s almost over so if you’re going to watch more games this year you better get it done.

      I have a chance at making it to 50 total – at 32 now πŸ˜‰

    2. No worries! If you guys can make it, I think it’d be fun to go out after that Sunday game in Saitama or at least meet up at one of the fields, but I understand you have a lot going on. If only I could make it to more than 5 games outside Nagoya a year. T__T

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