Our Marines sent ace Naruse to the hill on Saturday night at Jingu looking to get back into the winning spirit. It didn’t work out that way as Tokyo Yakult blasted their way to a 5-3 victory over Lotte. Grr. It’s actually kind of refreshing to have a garden-variety loss after the back to back heartbreak of the previous games.
Honestly this was about the most Naruse loss possible. He pitched very efficiently – only 11.8 pitches per inning, 3 strikeouts to one walk, and gave up just four hits. Of course Naruse’s problem has never been efficiency – every one of those 4 hits was a homer. THAT’S his problem. Despite only throwing 59 pitches Naruse was out of the game after 5, and Ueno cleaned up the rest of the game very well – 3 IP with 2 hits, no runs.
Our Marines had their chances in this one, too, but again there was a failure to capitalize on the opportunities available. First inning, 2 outs, runners on the corners – Kiyota skies the first pitch to center. In the 4th Lotte had men on first and second with one out – Kanazawa struck out, Ishimine drew a walk to load the bases but Naruse was up to bat next and struck out (though it was a pretty competitive at-bat with Naruse fouling off several pitches). In the 6th Kiyota and Daichi singled to open the inning but Fukuura, Ishimine, and Saburo couldn’t get them home.
In fact Lotte was in danger of getting shut out for the third time this year until the 9th inning, when inexplicably the power bats came alive. And by power bats I mean HAYASAKA. I’ve watched a lot of Lotte ball over the years but a HAYASAKA homerun to prevent a shutout is surely one of the stranger sights I have seen. It’s HAYASAKA. A running homer, sure, but an actual over the fence shot? Surest evidence of a juiced ball this year, I think. 5-1 Yakult. And on the very next pitch from Yamamoto Nemoto puts another over the fence! 5-2 Yakult and getting a little interesting… T Ogino watched strike three go by for the first out, but then Iguchi smashed the first pitch he saw quite literally over the back screen in center to make it a 5-3 game! Imae hit a liner to left hard but right at Milledge for out two (and if that were higher it surely would have been gone, too). Yamamoto gave up a 4-pitch walk to Kiyota and he was gone. Roman in to face Daichi – Daichi pokes a 2-2 pitch to center! Big, big chance now – winning run at the plate in the form of KATOH. But Katoh whiffs on a 2-2 pitch (that would have been ball 3) and that’s that. Good to make it interesting, at least.
What kind of crappy luck is it that low-powered Lotte could smack 6 homers in 2 games and all of them be solo shots, though?
The good news for Lotte is that most everyone else in the PL lost so we’re still in first. It’s back home for 4 games against Hiroshima and Hanshin. Ohmine starts on Sunday vs Nakamura. Could be a lot of scoring on a breezy Sunday. Let’s get some wins!