We fans should never complain when our team goes into the final game of a series with a chance for a sweep, especially versus a solid team like Orix. So even though the result in that final game feels disappointing, like an opportunity missed, we’ll be happy with taking 2 of three.
Do that the rest of the way and these Men of Lotte just might find themselves in a Climax Series spot.
Up now is a more difficult proposition, a three game set vs PL leading Daiei. It seems a bit odd, but outside the opening sweep in March Our Marines have actually played the Hawks pretty well, and with their playoff spot all but assured perhaps they will be a bit less inspired. Looks like we’re going to see Wakui, Naruse, and Karakawa starting these three games.
Hawks: Kenji Otonari (2-0, 0.64 ERA) @ Lotte: Hideaki Wakui (5-10, 4.76 ERA)
This was the most Wakui of starts: 6 perfectly fine innings – 4 hits, no walks, no runs – but that third inning, hooo boy. 3 hits, an HBP and a walk, 3 runs – and I tell you from my perch in the 2F bleachers, it sure felt like one more hit would come and the flood gates would just open up. But no, Wakui got Hasegawa to ground out with runners on first and second to end the threat with Chiba down 3-0.Otonoari’s been lovely since his return from injury last month – just 1 ER in 14 IP – so a comeback looked like a tough proposition, but that’s exactly what Our Marines would do. The scoring got started in the third inning as Imae beat out an infield single, reaching second after Imamiya winged the throw into the dugout. El Cochito Cruz immediately brought Gori in via a nice timely single, though he was thrown out trying to stretch that single into 2. 3-1 Hawks after three.
The 5th is where things got good. Small ball worked to perfection as Iguchi led off with a single, Huff-n-Hustle got on via the ol HBP, and after an Imae sac bunt Tamura drove in both runners via timely single. Nice! Tie game! Actually there was a big chance for even more runs after Shohei bunted for a hit and Daichi singled to load the bases, but Kakunaka grounded out to end the chance.
Not much was cooking for either team after the 5th as both pitching staffs did their job. Our Marines had a pair of runners in the 8th with just one out after a pair of singles off ace reliever Okajima, but Mori relieved Okajima and struck out Kakunaka and Iguchi to end that chance.
Nope, this one was going to extras.
Fast forward to the 11th – Hattori in for Masuda, and the diminutive lefty gave up a pair of singles up the middle on just 4 pitches. No outs. Uh oh…. Ioth immediately goes to the pen, but Masuda, Ohtani, and Nishino are all gone so it’s Ueno. This is a bit troubling as Ueno has had a bit of habit of yielding the longball. Kaneko pinch hits for Yoshimura – a rather inexplicable choice as in the 11th inning surely Akiyama-kantoku is just going to lay down a bunt, and that’s exactly what was coming. Kaneko drops a bunt, but it’s not such a quality bunt – Tamura pounces on it and GUNS out Yanagita at third! Who knew our young catcher had that sort of arm???
That’s the critical first out – Hawks legend Matsunaka is in to pinch hit for Hosokawa and he generously pops out to Tamura. And when Akaishi popped out to Daichi shorty after, well, that’s Ueno coming in and getting three tough outs on just 5 pitches! WOW!
Bottom 11 – Kakunaka draws a leadoff walk, Ishimine in as PH. When he swipes second, Iguchi is given a free pass. Okada at the plate with a chance to win it, outfield way in, but he strikes out. 2 gone, here is Imae. On a 1-0 pitch Imae is swinging, knocking the ball into left. Ishimine’s a fast man, by the time Ushikawa’s scooping it in left he’s at third, and as he’s rounding home the guys are pouring out of the dugout. We know. They know. Uchikawa knows. Ishimine in SAFE, LOTTE WINS!!!
That’s the 4th sayonara win this month, amazing!!!
Game 1 digest from Pacific League TV
Game 1 Box Score in English
Lotte: Kenichi Nakata (8-4, 4.13 ERA) @ Lotte: Yoshihisa Naruse (7-7, 4.76 ERA)
Actually there wasn’t much difference between the first three innings for Daiei and those for Our Marines. Both teams had chances in the first and third innings – Lotte with a pair of free passes in the first and a Daichi double/Kakunaka BB in the third – but the difference is the Hawks actually capitalized on those opportunities. An Uchikawa 2 run HR in the first and a Tsuruoka (!!!) 2 run triple in the third gave Daiei a 4-0 lead after 3, while that Daichi double was the only Lotte hit of the first 8 innings (though they did earn an impressive 7 walks in those frames).
The last two hits came in the 9th inning with Hawks sitting on a 5 run lead (AKA more or less too late to matter). Sounds a lot like last Sunday’s game at Rakuten, ne?
And I have to be honest – I don’t really know why this complete offensive impotence has happened at times this month. Seriously – look at the Jekyll and Hyde results from this month:
– 4 sayonara victories
– 1 game with 12 runs scored
– 3 games with 8 runs scored
– 2 games with 7 runs scored
– A game with 1 hit only preventing a perfect game
– 2 3 hitters
– A pair of shutout losses
– 2 more games where the only run scored came with 2 outs in the 9th inning
It’s just weird, man. Anyway, a nice game on Sunday can still give a series win, so let’s focus on that. Considering Hamu won on Saturday and the deficit is now 6 games, we best focus reaaaaly hard on that.
Game 2 digest from Pacific League TV
Game 2 Box Score in English
Lotte: Shota Takeda (2-0, 0.00 ERA) @ Lotte: Yuki Karakawa (1-8, 5.82 ERA)
Here’s what you need to know: Still-young Karakawa dug himself into a pair of very deep holes early in the game but extricated himself from jams both times. How deep were these holes? How about a pair of baserunners in the first, bases loaded in the second 51 pitches in total in those two frames. Yes, it looked like it could be a short night for Yuki and a long night for the bullpen car. But no, this one wasn’t going to be like that at all.
For his last 5 innings of work Karakawa gave up just 3 hits and a walk, no real chances allowed at all, and ended up going 7 full with no earnies. That’s vintange BFK, something we haven’t seen in years, really!
The offense, so impotent on Saturday night, wasn’t fantastic this evening versus former rookie sensation Shota Takeda, terrorizer of Lotte in 2012 (and to be fair, the rest of the PL) but working his way back from a myriad of issues this year. Takeda went the distance in this one, and while Our Marines put plenty of runners on the sacks (10 hits, 2 BB) runs were pretty scarce.
What wasn’t scarce was Okada Awesomeness. Okada’s always been more of a defensive guy than an offensive one (understatement of the week to be sure), but he followed up his shutout-busting triple in the 9th last night with a scintillating 4-4 performance tonight. And those 4 hits were crucial – well, one big one.
The scene: 3rd inning, Shohei draws a leadoff walk (speaking of rarities!). Okada drops a sac bunt, Takeda fields it, looks at Katoh, realizes “Oh shiii…!” that Okada is a super speedstar, and rifles his throw into right field! Katoh scores from first and Okada’s sac bunt goes for three bases! Two batters later, Kakunaka RBI ground out and we got ourselves a 2-0 game after 3.
A few chances went by the wayside, starting in the next inning. With one out, a pair of runners on, Tamura gets the call for a 2-strike squeeze. Or does he? No, looks like a busted hit and run – Tamura whiffs, Takahama out at second. Eek. And in the 5th, Okada was called out on a very dodgy looking tag while trying to steal second, and Daichi singled on what should have been an RBI (from my biased perspective). The inning ended with no runs.
This would not be the case in the 8th – Kakunaka blasted a double off the right center fence (and let me tell you, as that ball was just in front of me in the outfield stands – it was hammered) and went to third on a Fukuura single, then brought in via Cruz sac fly.
That’s a 3-0 lead, and Ohtani + Nishino made very sure that’s how this one would end.
Game 3 digest from Pacific League TV
Game 3 Box Score in English
Two series wins in a row for Our Marines, though Hamu is on a roll as well. Keep winning though, and hope they will falter. In Okada’s hero interview he brought up our favorite phrase – “Miracle Marines”. Let’s hope this team can live up to that storied moniker.