Our Marines finished the 2015 interleague season with a winning record of 10-8, pulling themselves back up to .500 in the process, totaling 31 wins and 31 losses on the season. After the first seven games, Lotte sat atop the interleague standings at 5-2. Then Chiba dropped five straight to their CL foes, only to finish by winning four in a row and five of their last six.After dropping the first game to Hiroshima ace Kenta Maeda, the Marines bats pounded out 20 runs –with 7 coming in just one inning– in the next two games to take the opening interleague series from Carp. Lotte then returned home to Chiba to beat their rivals from across the bay, taking 2 of 3 from Yokohama.
A go-ahead Kakunaka triple on a rainy Friday night in the BayStars series was the most heroic moment of the first six interleague games. In game 1 of the following series at Koshien, Kakunaka came through again and provided us with perhaps the most memorable moment of the whole interleague campaign. Our Marines were trailing 3-2 with 2 outs and no runners on against Hanshin closer Seung-Hwan Oh. Two hits and a walk brought Kakunaka to the plate with the bases now loaded, still trailing and down to our last out. In typical Kakunaka fashion, he ran the count full from behind 1-2, fouled 3 pitches off, and on the ninth pitch lined the ball over the fence in right for the go-ahead grand slam!
The following night Our Marines dropped to the Tigers in extra innings, the start of a five game losing streak which included a rain-shortened two game sweep at Jingu. Finally that streak broke in game 2 of the Chunichi series, with Kuan-Yu Chen’s first NPB victory. Another streak was stopped that night too, but unfortunately it was Kiyota’s 23 game hit streak.
Lotte finished off interleague with four straight wins, including a sweep of Yomiuri at home. A go-ahead 2-run Kiyota home run proved to be the winning blow in a 5-4 Game 1 victory versus the Giants. Solo home runs by Daichi and Tamura (his career first) were the difference in a 3-1 win in game 2. The following afternoon in game 3, Yomiuri was poised to salvage a win up 2-0 going into the bottom of the 9th. Once again Our Marines rallied late with an RBI double from Fukuura that scored Daichi, an RBI single from Imae that scored Cruz, and sayonara single from Yoshida to walk off 3-2! Lotte finished off the interleague season the next night with a 6-2 win in a makeup game at Jingu.
Steve posted an ode to Kyota in the midst of his 23 game hit streak. During interleague play Kiyota’s batting average peaked at .374, and he currently his sits 3rd in the PL in OPS (.966), OBP (.414), and batting average (.344).By far the hottest Marine right now is Kakunaka. In addition to the heroics mentioned above, he’s had the team’s most productive month. So far in twelve games he’s batting .451 in June. He sits 4th in the PL BA, right behind Kiyota at .338 on the year. Since his batting championship in 2012, Kakunaka has been the consummate batting pro. He’ll work a count, fight off fouls, hit the occasional bad ball, and almost never have a cheap AB. Ok, I’m out of the clichés, but you get the point.
Captain Daichi also had a good interleague campaign, bouncing back from his rough first month-and-a-half. He batted .377 with 2 HR in interleague. Veteran Fukuura hit the 2000 game mark, pinch hitting in the last interleague game. He started all three Yomiuri games, coming up with a big double in the 9th inning comeback.
Cruz (Season – .829 OPS, 13 HR, 49 RBI for 3rd in the PL) and Imae (Season .285 BA) remain staples in the heart of the order as well. Unfortunately, we lost Despaigne to a knee injury at the start of interleague, just as he was starting to heat up with 4 HR in 6 games.
The pitching was a bit of a mixed bag during interleague. Ok, maybe that’s putting it kindly. Lotte hurlers owned an NPB worst 4.88 ERA in kouryuusen. Ishikawa went 1-2 with starts of 8 IP 2ER, 5 1/3 IP 7ER, and 7 IP 2 ER. Wakui gave us three mediocre starts, with one just qualifying as a quality start of 6 IP and 3 ER. Karakawa earned two wins with 6 ER in 12 IP. Yuta Ohmine earned a win and two no decisions with 7 ER in 17 IP. Uematsu got his first try at the ichi-gun level, going 6 IP giving up 1 ER in a loss. His second start was a little less encouraging, allowing 6 ER in 2 IP. Kuan-Yu Chen did earn his first career NPB win, going 6 1/3 allowing 1 ER in his only interleague start.
Ohtani continues to give us reliable innings out of the bullpen, giving up 2 ER over the course of 13 2/3 IP during interleague. Nishino gave up just 1 ER in 10 appearances, getting 6 saves in 6 save opportunities, looking especially lethal in two high-leverage save situations against Yomiuri.