No photos today – no photos needed to illustrate the lovely, see-saw, extra-innings, dramatic 8-6 victory over Seibu in Tokorozawa tonight! Thanks to gutsy play, great clutch hitting, and one dramatic swing by Saburo the Marines took the first game of three with the Lions and put themselves closer to the top half of the Pa-league.
Lotte ran out to an early 3-0 lead thanks to RBI doubles by Takahara (scoring Saburo) and Imae (scoring Takehara) in the top of the second. The Marines added the third run off a bases loaded sac fly in the 4th off the bat of Fukuura.
Shimizu Naoyuki took the hill tonight and threw five scoreless innings before yielding 2 in the 6th on a RBI double by beefy Seibu masher Nakamura and a timely single by GG Sato. Both Lotte and Seibu went to their bullpens in the late innings and the real drama began.
Lotte added a 4th run in the top of the 8th on a solo shot to left by Iguchi off of Seibu’s annoyingly arrhythmic hurler Iwasaki. Lotte’s normally reliable reliever Itoh came out for the bottom of the 8th and returned that insurance run quickly, thanks to the large bat of the large Nakamura, who hit a very, very large homer to the right of the big screen in center. Not content with making it 4-3, Seibu tied it at 4-4 on an Osaki single.
The stage was set for 9th inning dramatics, and dramatics we got. With two outs and Tsuyoshi on, Ohmatsu singled to right to bring home the go ahead run. 5-4 Lotte!
Seibu came to bat in the bottom of the 9th facing Lotte fireballer Sikorski. Sikorski struck out Hirao to lead off the inning, but the next batter Kataoka took him deep, putting a game-tying HR in the Lotte fans to make it 5-5. To extra innings we would go!
Lotte had a great chance to take the lead in the top of the 10th. Burnham Jr and Satozaki singled, and with 2 outs Imae was plunked to load the bases. With Tsuyoshi coming to the plate the stage was set for a big hit and another lead. Seibu’s Onodera caught Imae leaning a bit too much off of first, though, picking him off to end the chance.
Sikorski really knuckled down after the 9th inning problems and mowed down the Seibu side in order with a pair of Ks in the bottom of the 10th.
In the top of the 11th Tanaka Masahiko pinch-hit for Fukuura and delivered a clutch double to get a rally started. With two outs after an Ohmatsu grounder, Iguchi walked to make it two baserunners for Mr “Face of the June Lotte Poster” Saburo. Saburo took the opportunity to put Lotte ahead and smashed it into Seibu fans in left. They surely had no appreciation for the immense gift Saburo gave his teammates and the fans, but believe me we did! 8-5 Lotte, with only a pesky bottom of the inning standing between Lotte and thier second win in a row.
Ogino came in to mop up the 11th – he gave up a run but a 3-run HR is a lot of padding in extra innings, and Lotte held on for a wonderful 8-6 victory.
Definitely heaps of anxiety in this one for all involved, but all that’s important is the good guys came up on top, and closed the gap between Lotte and 4th place Seibu to just one game.