Tonight at the Kyocera Dome, Lotte bats launched a 10-hit barrage against Orix starter Chihiro Kaneko – 2 doubles, a triple, and throwing in 2 walks for good measure. The Baby-Faced Killer took the mound for Our Marines, looking at times super sharp, holding Orix to hits in only two innings and recording 10 outs in a row at one point. I don’t even have to tell you how this one ended up, do I? Orix 4, Lotte 1. Egads.
Runners In Scoring Position? What Should We Do?
If you’ve watched Lotte this year you probably will not be surprised to learn that Our Marines are leading all of NPB in OBP. Itoh’s small ball mentality requires runners to get on bases in bunches. You will also not be surprised to know that Lotte’s batting average with runners in scoring position is a very limp .223, easily the worst in the PL (and second worst in NPB.) The constant refrain, especially this month, is that we need to get more RBIs, that the batters need to deliver when the runners are in a position to score.
Tonight, Lotte batters hit into 3 soul-crushing double plays, 1 by Iguchi and 2 by Satozaki. Iguchi had an otherwise decent night – 2-4 with a pair of singles, but Satozaki’s night was just universally awful. His other at-bat was with runners on second and third and two outs, and he flied out weakly to left.
Ohmatsu had yet another strong game at the plate, going 2-4 with a double. He had a harmless error in the first while playing first, but he’s not in the game for his defense. Daichi also went 2-4 but had a critical strikeout in the 4th with runners at second and third with no outs.
The only Lotte run came in that fourth inning, and it was about the smallest small ball way to knock in a run. Iguchi led off with a single, and after an Imae fly out Ohmatsu launched a double to the right field corner. T OGINO was up next, and he rolled an infield single to 2B scoring Iguchi and putting Lotte up 1-0. That…. Was it.
But How Was The Pitching?
Alternately superb and awful, honestly! Karakawa got into a first inning jam thanks to some Yakety Sax-style hijinks in the field, but no runs and no hits, so all was well. The Baby-Faced Killer mowed down the next 10 batters and was looking about as sharp as he gets. In contrast to Lotte, though, Orix bats were quite efficient at taking advantage of opportunities.
Takahashi led off the 5th with a double, and a little bloopy flop shot by Itoh brought him in after a sac bunt. 2 hits, 1 run, tie game.
In the 6th, Orix would put the game away. Itoi led off with a single, and Lee Dae Ho blasted a pitch just inside the right field foul pole to make it a 3-1 Orix lead. Still no outs in the inning – Baldiris smacked a double. Eeek. Quick outs by Takahashi and Hara and it looked like Karakawa would get out without further damage, but T OGINO misplayed a fly ball from Itoh that was generously called a double. 4-1 Orix, and that was that.
Karakawa took the loss with 7 IP, 6 hits and 4 ER, while Kaneko went the distance despite the 10 hits.
Lotte is now 6-8 in June, and the PL lead is still miraculously there, though only 1 game now with everyone – everyone – breathing down Our Marines’ necks. Furuya gets his first start of the year – maybe of any year, I don’t remember him starting before though he did have a ni-gun no-no about a month ago – to try to restore some dignity to the month.