When I was young, my daddy used to sit me on his lap and tell me, “Son, let me tell you something about baseball. Don’t listen to any naysayers. A grand slam in the top of the first – before your opponent even gets a chance to bat – is a really good thing. You’ll win many games if you do that.” As a youth I lapped up this wisdom, and yet again it was proven true. Tonight, Lotte scored 5 in the top of the first in Fukushima capped by a Takehara grand slam and went on to cruise to a 10-4 victory over Rakuten.
In the top of the first, Saburo came to the plate with one out and Koichi, Iguchi, and Ohmatsu on the bags. He hits a grounder but it’s slow – Rakuten can only get one out and Hori comes in for the score. Satozaki then drew a walk to re-load the bases and set the table for Takehara. He takes a 2-2 pitch from Rakuten’s Hasebe and pounds it into the left field fans! 5-0 Lotte.
That really would have been enough for most games – and in fact it would have been enough to win this one, too, thanks to the complete game effort by Lotte’s veteran starter Shimizu – but Lotte wasn’t done on the day.
Rakuten made up a little of the deficit in the bottom of the second as recent Rakuten acquisition Todd Linden singled in a run and Nakamura Norihiro grounded in another to make it 5-2.
That’s how the score stayed until the 7th where Lotte’s batters, no doubt inspired by the dulcet tones of We Love Marines (ahem!) came alive again. Iguchi (2-2 on the night with 2 walks and a HBP) drew a walk, and Ohmatsu singled him to third, but Teppei decided to whizz his throw to the infield into the Lotte dugout instead, so Iguchi waltzed home to make it 6-2. Ohmtasu advanced to third on the error and scored on a big sac fly to center by Saburo – 7-2.
Rakuten made a nibble into that lead in the bottom of the 7th with a solo shot to right off the bat of Linden (4-4 with 3 RBI on the evening). 7-3 Lotte.
Still inspired by the efforts of the ouendan’s cheers, Lotte added to that lead in the 8th. (La La La) Takehara figured he liked hitting homers like he did in the first and decided to put another into the appreciative left field fans to lead off the inning. Benny drew a walk (2-3 plus the walk), then Imae liked what Takehara did and wanted to try it himself – 2 run bomb to left, 10-3 Lotte!
Shimizu finished out the game and coughed up a meaningless run in the bottom of the 9th to make it 10-4. The Marines make it two in a row, and Rakuten is now 0-fer the month of July, 0-6. They’ve actually lost 7 in a row and have plummeted into a tie for 4th with Lotte.
The series moves to the lovely K-Stadium Miyagi tomorrow for the final two games of the series. Lotte tends to play Rakuten well there, and with Rakuten reeling as bad as they are things look good for Lotte to move into sole possession of 4th tomorrow! Expect to see Naruse for Lotte and Fujiwara for Rakuten battling it out.