Hawks @ Lotte, 13-15 May 2014

QVC Series Preview:

I don’t wish to dwell much more on my bitter ranting from the end of the last series, but it’s certainly time for the team to step up and start winning games. The offense disappears for 10 inning stretches and the pitching alternates between brilliant and execrable. The ingredients that made this season such an exciting prospect are still there – they’re just mostly in ni-gun. (As an aside, the ni-gun squad as a TEAM is batting .320. I mentioned this before and it needs to be mentioned again. Braz, Aja, Katoh, Huffman, Aomatsu, Takahama, Shota Ohmine, Kiyota – every single one is batting over .340 at ni-gun.)

I suspect we will see some wholesale player shifts soon as it make sense. We should see the return of Katoh, BRAZ, and the debut of Takahama. I think we will see this sooner rather than later. What I am sure we will see in this series are starts by Wakui, Furuya, and Karakawa – so it should be exciting. Daiei comes in super hot, having won 6 of their last 7, so peak performance on offense and defense is necessary this week to earn a series win.

Game 1 - Lotte Loses 2-0 (Click to Expand)

Daiei: Jason Standridge (2-2, 2.88 ERA) @ Lotte: Hideaki Wakui (2-4, 3.83 ERA)

By Steve Novosel Where have we heard this before? Wakui - looked great... except for a small stretch in one inning. The offense... unable to get anything going outside a few contributors. Lotte... dropping yet another series opener.

Yes, it was more of the same in so many respects. One would expect that a starter who went 7+ innings such as Wakui would have a pretty good chance of winning the game, but that wasn’t the case this evening as Our Marines failed to mount much of a scoring chance, basically1.

1It should be noted again – no, screamed from the rafters – that ni-gun Lotte whipped out the bat yet again today, beating Yakult 8-1 on 14 hits. And that’s with Mr .381 BA Takahama stroking 3 hits and AJA – batting about .500 in ni-gun – going 2-4.

The description of the scoring in this is quite simple – Wakui mowed down the first 4 batters of the game before giving up a single to Hasegawa, and immediately after a 2-run jack to center by Matsuda. This was all in the second. His line on the night – 7 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 BB (plus one HBP), those 2 runs.

As for Chiba’s bats? A pair of hits by T OGINO and another pair by Yoshida. A single by Saburo, and a pinch hit single by Katoh Shohei (FINALLY back at ichi-gun). And – and – a whole lot of weak pop-ups and dribbly grounders by everyone else. Only once did a runner reach third, when Yoshida did it with two outs in the 5th. That’s no way to win a ball game.

Game 2 is on Wednesday, with Furuya hoping for a bit more run support than Wakui got.

Game 2 - Lotte 3-2 SAYONARA WIN (Click to Expand)

Daiei: Kazuyuki Hoashi (2-0, 2.53 ERA) @ Lotte: Takuya Furuya (3-2, 3.50 ERA)

By Steve Novosel Here's what you need to know - with two outs in the 11th inning, 2 Men of Lotte on the sacks, Our Favorite Player (OK, mine) T OGINO smashing the first pitch he saw from Daiei reliever Kayama over the heads of all Hawks, Katoh Shohei racing in, bedlam in Makuhari.

A sayonara dagger by T OGINO. Everything else is secondary.

from marines.co.jp

from marines.co.jp

But this game had SO much more to offer! It’s amazing how a great finish can totally turn around the perspective one has on past plays.

Just a wee bit before the OGINO winning hit I was glum. New Lefty Ace Furuya bounced back from his poor start in Osaka to pitch wonderfully, this against the best hitting, most stacked lineup (outside of Lotte ni-gun, ahem) in the PL. How good was he? By the time the Victory Fireworks were launched before the top of the 5th, Furuya was sitting on a sub-70 pitch count, having yielded just two hits (with no runs or walks) and a nice little collection of 5 Ks. That’s just great work.

And the Lotte bats? Well, lots of wood – LOTS of wood – but not a whole lot of fire to that point. In the second inning, Daiei starter Hoashi escaped unscathed from a bases-loaded, two-out jam by punching out T Ogino (motto: mostly awesome, but sometimes slightly less awesome than others).

Hoashi would not be so lucky in the third inning, as Captain Daichi led off with a “Helloooo there!” dinger to the maniacs in right. A favorite of the ladies serving up a little special recipe on Super Ladies Night? Yes sir, we’ll order that – 1-0 Chiba.

Move ahead to the next frame – Nemoto led off with a single, and after a Katoh sac bunt, Yoshida singled to left, bringing in Nemo and making it a 2-0 Chiba lead. There was a chance for much more, though – Okada beat out an infield single to put two on, and T OGINO singled to right. Yoshida came home, but Hasegawa scooped the ball and made a nice throw home. Hosokawa set up quite the illegal fortress in front of the plate (in NPB, the catcher is not allowed to block the baseline w/o the ball, and Hosokawa practically poured a concrete foundation) – Yoshida stood no chance.

Furuya was cruising, but he got into a wee spot of trouble in the 7th as Lee Dae Ho smashed a deep, deep fly off the top of the left center fence for a double. T Ogino made a great running catch of a Hasegawa fly in left, Katoh made an even better sliding one in right, and Furuya gunned down Yanagita to end the threat.

8th inning – Furuya still in at a bit over 100 pitches. He issues a leadoff pass to Egawa, and after a Honda sac bunt Itoh goes to the pen for Masuda. Our ex-closer’s been lovely as a setupper, but on this night his first batter Imamiya singles to center to score Egawa and break up the shutout – 2-1 Chiba.

Last (!) frame – the Daiei pen has shut down the Lotte bats to the tune of 11 in a row through 8, so the Lotte pen needed to pull something similar to hold on. In comes young Nishino – Lee Dae Ho, looking at strike three. Hasegawa, swinging at a 1-1 fastball and putting it into the left field stands. Matsuda, goes down swinging, as does Yanagita. Nishino struck out the side! ….and gave up the game tying run. Joy and sorrow, all wrapped up in a little 4-batter package. Sadly, no win for Furuya, and a 2-2 game.

On to extras. Our Marines had a 2-runner chance with two outs in the 10th, but Cruz grounded out on the first pitch to end the inning. Nishino, how would he bounce back? K, K, pop to Yoshida. Superb.

The 11th brought in Carols Rosa, and boy was he a wee bit shaky. A one out single by Uchikawa led to a free pass to Lee Dae Ho, Hawks chance. Hasegawa lines another ball to left but T OGINO is on the case, reeling it in with a nifty little leap. 2 outs and Matsuda up – he belts a very dangerous fly to left center but yet again it’s T OGINO to the rescue, barely making another lovely catch and preserving the tie!

Bottom 11, bottom of the Lotte order, Kayama in for Daiei. Nemoto – strikes out swinging. Katoh Shohei – yeah, give this guy a chance and he’ll perform! A single to left and the young speedster is on. A Yoshida sac bunt – yup. 2 out, Katoh on second – Kakunaka in as a pinch hitter, he’s getting walked. That brings up Mr Sweet D, The Stupendous Speedster from distant Nara, T OGINO – first pitch, GAME. SA-YO-NA-RA single to right 3-2 Lotte WIN.

Wow. Amazing end to a tight game.

Game Notes

  • T OGINO is batting 18-for-41 (.439) in his 10 game hitting streak.
  • This was the first sayonara win for Our Marines this year.
  • The young guys really carried the team – Daichi, T OGINO, Yoshida, Katoh Shohei.
  • Despite the blown save, 23 year old Nishino struck out 5 of the 7 batters he faced.
  • This game would never have been won without the ace Ogino/Okada/Katoh OF alignment.
  • I am going to pitch a serious fit should Ogino or Katoh be removed from the lineup anytime soon.

Game 3 - Lotte Loses 7-1

Daiei: Sho Iwasaki (NR) @ Lotte: Yuki Karakawa (0-4, 7.96 ERA)

By Steve Novosel The Baby-Faced Killer Revival project is officially over as Karakawa got beat up and good - again - and Our Marines dropped the series finale to Daiei by a 7-1 margin. That's the 4th consecutive series loss for Chiba, if you're counting.

Karakawa’s troubles began on the first pitch and never ended. The first 7 pitches he threw (minus a sac bunt) went for balls, and though Yuki made through the top of the lineup with minimal damage (a run on a sac fly, no hits) the bottom of the lineup was a horror show. 4 consecutive hits, and a 4-0 Hawks lead before Chiba even got to the plate.

I don’t need to go into details from that point; they’re not really important. Once Karakawa left the game after the third inning the pitching stabilized somewhat – I’d take 6 IP of 6 hit, 2 run ball, which is what the Minami/Matsunaga/Uchi combo gave up. But the early deficit was too much to overcome as the offense continually left runners stranded.

Game Notes

  • T OGINO hit the first pitch he saw to run his hit streak to 11 games.
  • While the Hawks top 4 did nothing on the evening, Matsuda, Yanagita, and (ehhh?)Hosokawa each recorded modashos.
  • 4 stolen bases for Lotte – 2 by Okada, 1 each by Ogino and Katoh – so there’s that.
  • Ignore the box score – Uchi struck out the side in the 9th but really bad conditions caused Ogino to lose a ball in the lights – he slipped and it was ruled a triple.
  • Looks like Karakawa is off to Urawa, and Ohtani takes his place.

I still think Karakawa is secretly injured as he has had nothing on his pitches all season. He’s now 0-5 with an 8.31 ERA. Ouch!

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