Our Marines head back home after a four game interleague road trip that took us to Koshien and Hiroshima. We split two games in each series, yet our 6-2 interleague record still leads NPB. The BayStars make the trip to the other side of Tokyo Bay for this weekend’s series at QVC. DeNA currently resides in the CL basement, with Seibu being the only other team in NPB with a worse record. Speaking of the standings, we start the weekend tied for 3rd in the PL with the Fighters. The Fighters and Marines have identical records, with Lotte leading the season series at 7-2. All-Star voting has commenced, the weather is warming up, and the calendar turns to June. It’s starting to feel a bit like summer, let’s hope Our Marines heat back up as well.
By: Craig Roberts Matsunaga is charged with today's loss to Yokohama, but it'd be a stretch to say he's entirely to blame. True, the go ahead run did score on a Matsunaga wild pitch in the 8th. It didn't help that Masuda gave up two DeNA insurance runs the following inning though. Of course, you're also not going to win many games when you only score one run on three hits.
Ishikawa left with the score tied at one. The bats had nothing going early, managing only a walk and a caught stealing in innings 1-4. We finally got our first hit off Yokohama starter Guillermo Moscoso, a leadoff double by Imae to get things started in the 5th. Imae would score after a Kakunaka sac bunt and Nemoto RBI single to tie things up at one.
Ohtani had a little trouble in relief of Ishikawa, getting himself into a 2 out 2 on jam in the 7th. Mastunaga was called upon to get us out of the jam, and he did exactly that getting the leadoff man Aranami to ground out on a chopper back to the mound to end the inning. The Lotte bats found themselves in position to take the lead in the bottom of the inning. A throwing error allowed Imae to reach on a grounder to second to lead things off.* A Kakunaka sac bunt and Nemoto walk later, and we had a 2 on 1 out chance. However, Katoh and Saburo (PH for Emura) struck out for the 2nd and 3rd outs to send us down quietly.
*It was actually a nice diving stop by the 2B Ishikawa, but his throw to first was way over the outstretched glove of the 188cm tall first baseman Blanco.
Matsunaga’s hero status was short lived, as he took us on a bit of a wild ride in the 8th inning. The wild ride unfortunately resulted with us going off a cliff. Matsunaga hit Ishikawa with a pitch to lead off the inning, but connected with Daichi on a nice force out at second on a bunt attempt for the first out. A Blanco single to center put runners on the corners, with Kajitani just sliding in safely at 3rd. Matsunaga got out number 2 on a Kinjo fly out to right that was too shallow to score the run, but that’s when we headed toward the cliff. Kanazawa entered the game after the starting catcher Emura was pinch hit for in the previous inning. In the next AB, Matsunaga almost threw a 1-2 pitch past Kanazawa on a ball outside with Kanazawa set up inside. Huh. The next pitch Kanazawa set up inside again, and this time Matsunaga threw it a bit too far in and low. The ball goes under Kanazawa’s glove and through his legs. The run scores from third as the ball goes to the backstop. Matsunaga was charged with a wild pitch on a ball that just skimmed the dirt, but Kanazawa tips his cap in perhaps an acknowledgement of fault. Who knows? Either way, it’s a 2-1 Bay Stars lead and that’s pretty much the game.
Matsunaga ended up walking the batter Shirasaki, and gave up a hit to the next batter Yamazaki to load up the bases. A Kurobane fly out to center ended the inning though. Lotte went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 8th, and Yokohama tacked on two more runs off Masuda in the 9th. Pinch hitter Otosaka led off the 9th versus Masuda, and in his first CAREER PLATE APPERANCE he hit a solo home run to right. A two out Yanagida single scored the second run to force Lotte to face a 3 run deficit in the 9th. Kakunaka drew a two out walk to give us a glimmer of hope, but Nemoto struck out swinging to end the game.
By Steve Novosel The only thing worse than scoring 1 run on 3 hits versus the second worst pitching team in NPB, at home? Scoring 0 runs on 5 hits the very next day. Yup, 1 total run and 8 total hits versus DeNA earns this series the very first Yuk button of the year.
The key number to take away from this game – other than 0 – is 68. That’s the total number of pitches Lotte starter Fujioka threw on this Sunday. You may be asking “Steve, did he get injured? Why so low? That’s probably 4 innings, max, given how inefficient Fujioka tends to be.” No, folks – that’s 68 pitches in 7+ innings! From Fujioka! Yes, he gave up quite a few hits – 7 to be precise – and a pair of walks (one of which was basically intentional), but he also quit messing around and threw strikes. Fujioka did give up one earned run, but in my opinion it should have been an error on Imae, for Gori misplayed a ball right at him with two outs in the 3rd inning, and that ball represented the only run of the game.
Carlos Rosa and Nishino were also decent in relief. Nope, the pitching was absolutely not an issue today – I could have seen Fujioka go the distance very easily.
But that’s all the positive comments I have to make.
Negative? Oh yeah, I have PLENTY of those. Yokohama starter Shun Yamaguchi hasn’t started a game in 7 years, and this year was sporting a lovely 7.62 ERA coming into June. But this day? The Chiba bats made him look simply magical as the first five innings featured a single hit. That hit was an infield single by Emura. Sure, in the 6th inning Our Marines might have gotten something going if not for two great plays at first by Blanco, but really, there’s not much excuse for not hanging a bunch of runs on Yamaguchi, and I would imagine every DeNA fan would say the same.
After Yamaguchi left in the 7th, the bats fared just slightly better, but just enough to be truly frustrating. 7th inning, leadoff single by Braz (PR by Ishimine) – a Nemoto bunt sends him to second where he is stranded. 8th inning, a two out single by Daichi and a walk to Kakunaka – Imae ground out. And most egregiously, in the 9th inning Ishimine led off with a towering double off the center field fence, but Nemoto couldn’t move him over, Saburo struck out on 3 pitches (first two looking), and Iguchi watched the last pitch of the game sail by for a called third strike.
I’m trying to think of good reasons to be patient at the plate, down by one in the 9th with no force in effect and a runner in scoring position, but I got nothing. The ball needs to be put in play, period. It was just a poor performance at the plate, and a terribly disappointing return home.
One has to ask at this point, which team is the real Lotte? The team with two 6 game win streaks in the past month, or the team that seems to lose everything else? I really have no idea.