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Game Report: Rakuten vs Lotte, 5/8

Chiba Marine Stadium was awash with downpours tonight as Rakuten rolled into Makuhari for the first of a 3-game weekend set with Lotte. Tonight’s starting pitchers have had as dramatically different fortunes this year as their respective teams. Lotte starter Shimizu Naoyuki comes in with an 0-2 record and a 6.26 ERA, while young Rakuten SP Nagai Satoshi enters 3-0 with a 2.26 ERA. In a game beset by weather stoppages, errors, and sloppy play, Lotte’s pitching rose to the task of stopping the first place Golden Eagles, leading the Marines to a 4-3 victory.

In a rainy start to the game Shimizu got off to a bit of a slow start, giving up a triple to Rakuten CF Nakamura, who was later brought home by veteran Yamasaki’s double. In the Marines half of the first, Chase Lambin led off with a high pop to second that was misplayed by 2B Uchimura. Lambin ran like hell on the play and slid forcefully into second for a 2B error. He was brought home two batters later on Tsuyoshi’s line drive HR into the home gaiya, giving the 2-1 lead to Lotte.

Nishioka celebrates his 1st inning HR (from marines.co.jp)

Nishioka celebrates his 1st inning HR (from marines.co.jp)

The rain continued to fall, and Rakuten retook the lead in the third on Kusano’s 2-run HR to right. Imae almost tied it in the bottom of the third with an HR of his own – it didn’t quite make it out, but Rick Short was pushed to the wall and was unable to come down with it, leaving Imae standing at third. Lambin walked next then the skies opened up, necessitating a lengthy delay.

Imae legs out a triple in the rain (from marines.co.jp)

Imae legs out a triple in the rain (from marines.co.jp)

After play resumed, Fukuura walked, loading the bases for Iguchi. He drilled a ball to the warning track in center that would have been a HR anywhere else, but was good enough to score Imae. Ohmatsu fanned for the second time on a wicked inside pitch from Nagai to end Lotte’s scoring chance, but the game was now tied.

Shimizu really knuckled down after the delay and the passing of the rain. He gave up 3 more hits over the next 4 innings but no runs.

Shimizu ends another scoreless inning (from marines.co.jp)

Shimizu ends another scoreless inning (from marines.co.jp)

In the 5th, Lotte took the lead for good on a double by Iguchi. Shimizu pitched through the 7th; the 8th and 9th were pitched in perfect form by Sikorski and Ogino, respectively. Even Rakuten fans had to be impressed by the power of Sikorski and the wizardry of Ogino – Sikorski struck out 2 in his frame and Ogino struck out the side to close it out.

Ogino and Satozaki celebrate the 4-3 victory over Rakuten (from marines.co.jp)

Ogino and Satozaki celebrate the 4-3 victory over Rakuten (from marines.co.jp)

I’ve mentioned it repeatedly but it bears mentioning again how dominating Ogino has been this year. Tonight was his 11th appearance, and he has yet to yield an earned run in any of the games he’s pitched in. Due to the general sorry state of the season so far he’s only got 3 saves, but if his form holds the saves will come as the season turns around. Sikorski, for his part, has been no slouch either – he’s currently sporting a 1.26 ERA, which is a run below his previous career best. Now if only Kobayashi (6.91 ERA), Komiyama (6.57 ERA, but he is 43), Ohmine (6.75), and Ono (6.04) can get their seasons on track…

A very nice win tonight for the Marines!

Comments 2

  1. Steve,

    Excellent blog! I’m a Marines fan from Canada. I’m just wondering what’s wrong with the Marines? Are the players on Bobby’s side or are they with the management’s side? I thought they would be on fire this season, but they are in the basement. It will be much easier for Bobby to return as manager for 2010 if the Marines have a winning season.

    DOMO

  2. Hi Kenny,

    Thanks, and welcome to the site!

    I think the analytical answer is the pitching implosion this year. I don’t think anybody expected Ono, Kobayshi, and Shimizu to all start off so poorly. The timely hits generally haven’t been coming either – but to me that follows unexpectedly poor pitching, as the batters will push to overcompensate. Ohmatsu is a prime example of that this year — until the last week or so he’s looked lost up there, trying to drive everything out of the park but mostly striking out. I think if the starting pitching gets sorted the offense will fall into place.

    I haven’t spoken to any of the players this year (other than Chase Lambin, who I exchanged hellos with a few weeks ago in Carrefour) so I am not sure what’s in their mind. I would think they’d be on Bobby’s side – he’s a player’s guy, and the entire atmosphere around the team is totally different the last few years since he’s returned. The tension and controversy certainly isn’t helping – ownership waved a red flag in front of a bull when they said Bobby would return for only 2009 and definitely leave after. If they had gotten rid of him the fans would have been pissed but moved on eventually, and if they had extended him with no comments about future seasons it would have been uncomfortable, but manageable. But when they say, “OK, he can come back, but only one more year and that’s final” the fans say “Oh really? We’ll see about that.”

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