With today’s win, Lotte now has the best record in the NPB, top position in the inter-league title race, and first place in the Central League.
For the second game in a row the Marines held off a late offensive attack by Yomiuri, defeating the Giants this afternoon by a score of 3-2. Imae continued to tear it up in the number four slot, golfing a two-run double to left in the 3rd inning. Our ace Naruse looked great early on, highlighting his performance by recording his 1,000th career strike out in the 3rd. Despite a scoreless 4 innings to start the game, Naruse departed clinging to a 3-2 lead with 1 out in the 7th. However, the bullpen shut the Giants down again for 2 2/3 innings, preserving the win for Naruse.
It was a wild inter-league battle between two first place teams at a sold out QVC Marine Field. Here’s my attempt at an abbreviated version of the flow for an eventful afternoon:
Matsumoto and Abe each hit singles off Naruse. Murata ended the top half of the inning by flying out to center field with two outs and two on. If the Giants were planning to jump on Naruse early, this would have been their chance.
Nemoto led off with a 9 pitch AB that resulted in a fly out to right field. The AB may look inconsequential in the box score. But, Nemo fouling off 3 pitches with 2 strikes really set the tone for the type of fight Lotte would bring to the Giants all afternoon.
The next batter Kakunaka doubled down the right field line. Iguchi followed with a high fly ball to left center for what should have been out number two. Even though Giants left fielder Kamei was squared under the ball, he couldn’t manage to squeeze it into his glove. Upon seeing the drop, Kakunaka raced around third and headed for home. Giants’ catcher Abe blocked the plate in true professional fashion, but Kakunaka sneaked his hand around Abe’s shins and slapped the top of the plate to beat Abe’s tag! 1-0 Marines!
Naruse recorded his 1,000th career strike out on a low and away backwards K. Nasty pitch. Congrats to Naruse!
Nemoto and Kakunaka each grounded a 1-out single through the Giants infield. With 2 outs, Imae sent both runners home on a gap shot off the base of the left field wall (Imae celebrating on second pictured above). 3-0 Marines!
Nakai scored on a passed ball, putting the Giants on the board at 3-1.
Giants rallied with two 2-outs. After ground outs by Chono and Abe, Murata hit a single past a diving Daichi at SS, and Kamei hit a broken back looper that bounced in front of Kiyota in CF. Lopez knocked in Murata with a single past a diving Imae at 3B to make it 3-2. Nakai lined a 3 balls 2 strikes pitch to RF to end the inning, stranding two runners.
Naruse gave up a pair of singles to Terauchi and Sakamoto to start the inning. Matsumoto advanced the runners with a sac bunt. Naruse is pulled with two runners in scoring position, 1 out. Naruse’s pitching line: 6 1/3 IP, 103 Pitches, 10H, 1ER (2R), 2K, 0BB.
Matsunaga came in and fell behind 3-0 to Chono. One might have though Matsunaga was pitching around Chono to set up a bases loaded 1-out force. Instead, he delivered a 3-0 strike right down the middle of the plate which Chono fouled off. On the next pitch, Chono popped out to first base for the second out.
Hattori was called in to fulfill the task of recording the third out, still two men in scoring position. After a lengthy AB, clean-up man Abe lined a ball to dead center field. Kiyota struggled to read the ball off of the bat, but recovered in time to make a sliding catch. Inning over.
Lotte had a chance for a two out rally after a T.Ogino single to center. With the lead-off hitter Nemoto up, Ogino took off for second base. Perhaps he should have waited an extra second before running to second base, as the pitcher Sugano threw over to first instead of delivering a pitch. Ogino was easily picked off at second base. Shucks.
Reliever Carlos Rosa record two quick outs. The Giants once again attempted to stage a two out rally after a double by Nakai and a walk by PH Ishii. But Rosa buckled down and recorded the third out on a fly out to center by lead-off man Sakamoto. That’s now 8 scoreless IP for Rosa on the season.
Lotte loaded the bases with a two out rally of their own. Iguchi hit a double, Imae walked, and Saburo drew a pinch hit walk on this 37th birthday. However, Giants reliever Mathieson got Kiyota to fan to end the inning.
Surprise, surprise, Masuda came in to close the 9th. Matsumoto led off with a base hit to center. With the number 3 hitter Chono up, Matsumoto (73.2% in his career on SB attempts going into today) took off to steal second. Kawamoto threw a perfect strike to second base to throw out Matsumoto! 1 out.
With the bases suddenly vacant, Chono sent a fly toward the right field line. As the ball tailed toward the right field foul line, Kakunaka reached down for a nice underhanded grab. 2 out. Abe walked next, but Masuda broke Murata’s bat on a ground ball to 2B record the third out. Marines hold on to win 3-2. Phew!
With that result, the Marines win the season series with the Giants 3-1. Lotte now has the best record in the NPB by two games. We also are now 9-4-1 in inter-league, putting us a half game ahead in the race for best inter-league record. And most importantly, we are 3 games up on Seibu, 4 games up on Rakuten in the Pacific League.