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Go Forth to Interleague, O Men of Lotte!

It's So Outta Here

Running, hitting Men of Lotte! Throwers, fielders, base stealers! Go forth, Men of Lotte, go forth as the number one team in all of the Pacific League! Go forth with your 8-1 May record, press on with your crafty attack, head out to the stadiums of the Central League and bring back the Interleague Crown!

I cannot help but wax poetic after a day like today. The last game for Lotte was filled with woe – this one was in strong doubt up until the deciding moment but ultimately, Our Marines squeezed out a dramatic, come-from-behind, sa-yo-na-ra 5-4 victory over the Rakuten Eagles! And with a loss by Seibu Chiba Lotte is sitting pretty atop the Pacific League standings.

I didn’t anticipate this sort of drama early on. Who would? Naruse was on the mound! And while our ace didn’t give up a single run and struck out 7 he was in trouble in every inning and racked up a huge pitch count early on. Itoh-kantoku had to go to the pen in the 7th inning, and that’s when things got very dodgy indeed. But I get ahead of myself.

A Fresh Face
The starting lineup today was an interesting one due to injuries in Friday’s game to Kakunaka (removed from the roster with a hamstring strain) and Iguchi (not starting but came in as a pinch hitter) so Fukuura got the call at first and rookie Shohei Katoh started in right. Katoh was drafted in the 4th round out of Jobu University last year and is considered a bit of a project. I am no expert on Japanese University baseball but it seems Jobu University’s baseball team is pretty far from top-flight competition. But in ni-gun this season Katoh-san was really raking it – .303 average, 4 HR, 6 doubles, 1 triple, 9 stolen bases. Still, it’s a long way from low-level amateur competition to top-level pro competition, right? Right?

Perhaps not for young Katoh. He came up to bat for the first time in the 3rd to hearty applause from Lotte fans and promptly smashed the first pitch from Rakuten starter Nagai into the right field stands. WOW. Just like like it’s nothing at all, Katoh gives the game its first score! I don’t need to tell you what our reaction was, you can just look it up in the audio version of the dictionary under “excitement”. You can see Katoh-kun’s reaction as the ball is in the air in the lead photo (I was taking a bunch of photos until my battery died). 1-0 Lotte at this point.

Chiba’s second big scoring chance came in the very next inning as Saburo (starting in the cleanup spot as the DH) stroked a two-out single followed immediately by Imae doing the same. That set the stage for Fukuura, who has had a miserable homestand at the plate. But not right now – Fukuura lines one to center, Saburo is in, Lotte is up 2-0! And who’s up next but Mr I-Only-Need-One-Pitch Katoh… And he grounds one to McGehee at first. Too bad. Except McGehee is a bit slow getting to it and Nagai is also a bit slow getting to the bag, and WOW Katoh beats out the sure out for a single! We love Marines, but we LOVE this kid! Kanazawa grounds out to end the inning immediately after, but who cares? We’re so excited for the debut of Katoh!

Lotte got another in the 5th thanks to some great baserunning by Nemoto, a good hit by Ogino (Ta! Ka! Shi!), and fantastic hustle by Saburo to force a bad throw from Takasu at third and allow Nemoto to score. That made it 3-0 Lotte, and with Naruse on the hill 3-0 might as well be 8-0, right?

When 3-0 Isn’t Good Enough
As I mentioned earlier Naruse didn’t really have his best game going. Sure, he had 7 Ks and no runs but he sure left a lot of hittable pitches over the plate, and while Rakuten batters did hit him they couldn’t plate anyone. But with the 107 pitches through 6, Naruse was gone, and in an interesting experiment Ohmine came out of the pen to relieve him. I admit I praised this move on Twitter, and I do think it was a good move at that time. It would give the usual pen a bit of a rest and give Ohmine some work since it was unlikely he would be in the rotation in interleague play. But oh did it not work. Ohmine couldn’t find the plate at all – three walks to three batters – Hattori and Nakagoh had to clean up the mess. They tried – Hattori was strong, Nakagoh was OK – but the hole was deep and two Rakuten gents scored as they climbed out of it. 3-2 Lotte after 7.

Itoh took over in the 8th and was… Not good. Three base hits including the capper by Friday’s hero Fujita and suddenly, it’s a tie game.

Katoh came up again in the 8th with a chance to do something heroic, but he grounded to short… And beat that throw out AGAIN! How about that for a debut? 3 hits including a homer and two infield hits. I look into the future… And see… Katoh in Tuesday’s starting lineup….

It’s the 9th, and Masuda’s in. I’m kitted out in my new Masuda jersey, he’s smarting after his hard appearance on Friday. Can he bounce back? Masuda gives up a leadoff single to Andruw Jones, but gets two quick outs to bring the end of the inning within reach. Moriyama bats one to Imae, who scoops, throws to Hosoya (in for Fukuura) at first, out. But NO umpire Hashimoto says he’s SAFE which is completely unbelievable! It was clearly an out when watching it live and even more clearly an out when watching it on replay. Oh no oh no don’t let another run score but OH NO Shima singles to put Rakuten ahead. Oh my. Poor Masuda, jobbed by the ump. 4-3 Rakuten. Oh no.

Oh Yes
This isn’t a bunch of quitters, though. Our Marines are fighters. They’re not going to win every game but they’re not going meekly.

Nemoto gets a little something going after an Okada fly-out thanks to a walk off Aoyama (“He’s nothing but a blue mountain!!!” says friend Chie on Twitter). That brings up my buddy T Ogino. T-kun. I have unwavering faith in Ta! Ka! Shi! – and of course he delivers! A looping double down the line, Nemoto to third, Hoshino-kantoku getting verrrry nervous. He demands a walk to Daichi to load the bases. He wants no part of him. He wants Aoyama to get Saburo instead, which he promptly does via strikeout. Hmm.

It’s up to 2-time Nippon Series MVP Imae to do something. 2 outs. 2 strikes. Do something. Come on Imae. He makes contact on a slider and it’s deep and down the right line. Teppei’s in pursuit but he’s not getting it! Nemoto in, Ogino in, Marines win 5-4!

What an exciting finish! What a great way to end the first section of the Pacific League season. We’ve all got to be feeling good about how this season is starting now.

Up next is Gomiuri at the Big Egg on Tuesday. I think it is Nishino getting the call in the first game. Let’s hope Lotte can keep this hot May going and bring home the interleague title!

I took a bunch of photos today before my battery died (and my backup battery was also dead, well played, Steve) so I hope you enjoy.

[slickr-flickr search=”sets” set=”72157633461812655″ type=”gallery” thumbnail_size=”small” thumbnail_captions=”on” size=”original”]

Comments 12

  1. There doesn’t seem to be any publicity about this, but the reason Josh Whitesell was struggling was that he had a sore right hand. He tried to play through it for several weeks, but it got worse the last few games that he played. Hopefully, he will be fully recovered soon.

    1. Hi Bob! That’s good to know – I honestly hadn’t heard anything about Josh’s situation, only that he wasn’t playing. Hopefully he can give us a big power boost when he is back and healthy like he did last year. We definitely need him.

  2. There’s not much to add to that. 1,267 words for those of you keeping score. Great photos too!

    Didn’t catch much of the game yesterday, my brother-in-law and I decided it would be more fun to run a 25km race up and down a mountain. I was able to catch the 9th while stuck in traffic on the way home though.

    What a great game yesterday. It was nice to bounce back against Rakuten, especially after the bad blood from Friday night. Steve is not exaggerating, the safe call on Moriyama’s IF single in the top of the 9th was atrocious. But, it made the 9th inning walk-off that much more enjoyable. Katoh looked great too, what a pleasant surprise. Let’s hope he keeps it up.

    Let’s bring on the Central League. Looking forward to covering 2 games in Tokyo Dome on Tuesday and Wednesday, against the defending interleague title holders and members of baseball’s axis of evil, the Yomiuri Giants.

  3. I’m so glad you’re updating the site! Living in Nagoya we don’t get any broadcasts and everyone thinks I’m crazy for loving Lotte, so it makes me sooo happy to read your game summaries again! I feel a little be closer to Chiba. 🙂
    No updates did at least make me learn enough baseball vocab to follow boxscores and team facebook updates! lol And I always read your twitter account if I’m following a game live. Adds some color to the experience. hehe

    1. Thanks! Sorry I didn’t update in a long time there – I kind of got frustrated trying to update because it was so slow. Turns out it was some software issues I caused. But anyway, it was enough to get me out of the habit of posting.

      Twitter has actually gotten me back into the writing habit! I love the immediate conversation. I’m a bit too immediate during the games, though 😉

      Are you going to the games in Nagoya in a few weeks? I’d love to go but they’re on weekdays this year.

      1. No worries about lack of updates last season. Just wanted you to know the return is appreciated. 🙂

        I don’t actually understand Twitter myself, so I just watch it. If I had an account it would just be full of ouenka quotes and profanity because I have nothing productive to say, so that’s probably for the better. haha

        You bet! I’ve been waiting all year for this! Luckily Tuesday is my day off and I scheduled a vacation day for that Wednesday long ago. I’m a little worried because last year’s games were also on week nights, but tickets were nearly sold out right away. I check the conbini machines sometimes, and this year the only ones that are selling seem to be visitor ouenseki.
        Then again, it doesn’t really matter if the Dragons’ seats are empty or if it’s a packed house. Lotte fans will still be louder and wilier!! I hit up the last open-sen game this spring and it was just as crazy as regular season! XD

        1. My Twitter was filled with ouenka quotes and obscenities tonight, for sure. Mostly obscenities!

          Well the cool thing about Nagoya Dome is that it’s easy to get seats near the ouenseki and just shuffle your way ever closer to the seats you want. I traded seats with some Dragons fans by convincing them they didn’t want to sit near us loud ol Lotte fans.

          Are you going to Koshien? It’s on a weekend this year (8/9 June). I’m going – if Craig decides to not go I will have an extra ticket.

        2. I saw this yesterday and meant to respond, but I was too pissed after that game. >_<;;

          Actually… I might take you up on that offer! The problem is, I work Saturdays and would have to request the day off at least two weeks in advance. But I could swing a Sunday day-trip at the last minute!
          I just checked Ticket Pia online and it looks like most seats are sold out, so I'd only be able to tag along if he can't make it. :/

          omg The first time I went to a game at Nagoya Dome I some how screwed up and bought tickets for the RIGHT outfield. I was already afraid I screwed up when I got there, but I walked up to the gate and tried to find my seat security wouldn't let me pass unless I took off all my Lotte stuff and promised to stay seated. Luckily they sent some guys off to Left Field and 20 minutes later tracked down a guy to switch tickets with me. Ever since then, shiteiseki make me nervous and I refuse to use Lawson's Loppis. lol

        3. If it makes you feel any better I was throwing shit around the outfield seats after the game on Friday, I was so mad. It wasn’t even the loss, it was how sudden the loss came. 3 run lead, a bit unlucky in the field, then blammo, game over. %&$&$!!!

          I’ll check with Craig today if he is going to Koshien or not (I suppose he could read this and respond, too).

          Seibu Dome screwed us all a few years ago when they reversed the home and away sides of the stadium. Me and a bunch of others bought left field ouenseki for the first game of the year there but that was now the Seibu side. We had an impromptu ticket exchange going by the gates to get Seibu and Lotte people on their proper sides. It wasn’t obvious at all when buying tickets at the conbini!

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