Friends, this was a hard-fought win. I said in yesterday’s writeup that this one was a must win, and win we did. It was classic playoff baseball – Our Marines needed some heroics to overcome the great pitching of Rakuten’s Norimoto and boy did we get it both from the mound and at the plate.
Today’s pitching matchup featured rookie Norimoto vs our own Seth Greisinger. Coming into the game, I wasn’t sure at all what to expect from Seth. Much like Game 1’s starter Naruse, Seth’s been great in the past but has missed a lot of time this year. It was initially thought that he wouldn’t be able to join the team at all this series as he had been out injured, but a strong rehab outing last week in a Phoenix League game convinced the staff to bring him up.
What a great choice. Even going on 4 days rest, Seth was fantastic. His line for the night was a strong 6 IP, no walks, 5 K, and 5 hits with no runs allowed. He stood to earn the victory until… Wait.
In the first inning, though, Seth got in a bit of trouble. Okajikma hit the first pitch he threw for a single, and on the bunt attempt Nemoto dropped the ball at first and got tangled with Fujita. He was on the ground for a bit but stayed in the game – but it put Seth in big trouble with runners on first and second with no outs. After a sac bunt, Andruw Jones smashed a liner to Imae, who snagged it and dove immediately to third to double off Okajima. Superb play!
Our Marines had a hard time getting anything going thanks to the awesome work by Norimoto – the young starter went a full 9 innings (125 pitches!) and striking out 11. He was very, very tough at preventing runners from getting to base, to say the least. Through the first 6 innings, Lotte batters only got 2 runners on, in fact. That changed in the 7th – Iguchi and Imae singles led off the inning – BIG chance. Kakunaka couldn’t bring anyone in, though – he flied to second. That brought in Braz – he grounded one up the middle, Norimoto couldn’t handle it, Iguchi in, 1-0 Lotte!
Would it be enough? Rosa and Masuda took over for Greisinger – they kept it at zero runs. Norimoto kept us off the board again as well. It came down to the 9th inning, and in came Uchi. Great.
Well, maybe not – with one out in the 9th, Uchi hung one to Jones, and he lined it into the left field stands. Ohhh shiiii… And McGehee singled right after. We’ve seen this before in Sendai, too many times. But no, Masuda hit into an inning ending DP, and we were off to extras.
Norimoto changed to Kaneto, and for once Itoh-kantoku stayed with Braz vs a lefty. And BOY DID IT PAY OFF as Braz smashed a liner just inside the right field foul pole for a go-ahead homer! We in the visitor cheering section went NUTS. NUTS! 2-1 Lotte!
And we weren’t even done – Daichi and Kiyota singled, Satozaki bumped them to second and third, and Nemoto singled to bring ’em both in! From the heartbreak of the Jones HR to a 3-run 10th inning – FANTASTIC. 4-1 LOTTE.
Uchi came back in to finish the game – with two outs he gave up another homer to Hijirisawa (??!!??) – the game was over after the next batter, though, and 4-2 was the final. Uchi got the win with his dodgy 2 innings of work (though it was efficiently dodgy – only 18 pitches for 2 IP, 2 HR and another hit. When he goes bad, that’s how he does it).
It was a must win game for sure, and with the series at 2-1 now we are in a better position, as our upcoming pitchers are much better than Rakuten’s. For Game 3 we get New Lefty Ace Furuya vs Mima. We’ll be in the right field stands again cheering Lotte on to victory!