Live Blog: Lotte @ Seibu Dome, 21 March

For complicated reasons I couldn’t make it to today’s game, so it’s time for the first live blog of the year!

Yesterday was quite a heartbreaker. Naruse pitched great, only making two crucial mistakes, yet the offense couldn’t bail him out versus the very tough Wakui. Today it’s Watanabe vs Hoashi as Lotte tries to get their first win of the season.

First Inning
Tsuyoshi continues his strong play from yesterday as he lines a ball into right field for a base hit. For some reason Ogino – batting second – gets the bunt call even though Nishioka is the best base stealer on the team. Not impressed. He succeeds and Tsuyoshi advances to second. Iguchi grounds out to third to make it two outs, and cleanup hitter Kim Tae Kyun strikes out swinging. For the gruesome record, that’s 5Ks in 5 ABs for the big Korean. That, um, could be a better start to his NPB career.

Kataoka makes a quick ground-out to start the Seibu first. Kuriyama beats out a slow grounder for an infield hit. Nakajima belts a liner on a rope but Saburo snags it in right at the fence. Big Boy Nakamura drills a pitch into the LF gap – Ogino fires it in to Nishioka who relays it home to hold Kuriyama at third. Dee Brown lines to Tae Kyun at first to end the scoring threat.

I think J-Sports is using recordings of the fans rather than live audio. At least it sounds like the fans are on an old cassette tape and not live. Why do they have so many microphones on the fences if they are just going to use in-booth audio?

Second Inning
A quick three up, three down for Lotte this inning on only 9 pitches from Hoashi. This hits will come, they will come.

…apparently they come easily for Seibu. Shunsuke looked decidedly shaky this inning. GG Sato laces a liner inside the third base bag for a stand up double. Ishii pops out to Saburo (keeping busy in right) and Sato advances to third on a grounder by Hosokawa. Hoshi (starting in RF) walks, setting up a a Kataoka RBI single. 1-0 Seibu.

Third Inning
Strikeout by Satozaki starts the action. Imae pops out to shallow right, and Tsuyoshi comes through yet again – a single to left for his 5th hit of the year. If he continues to bat over .700 this year I think it’ll be a good year! I should be more careful with the praise for his baserunning, though – he’s immediately thrown out by a mile trying to steal second.

Shunsuke dishes a walk on 8 pitches to Nakajima to start the third, but gets Nakamura, Brown, and GG Sato on 7 total pitches to get out of the inning – still 1-0 Seibu.

Fourth Inning
Starting CF and rookie Ogino whiffs on a Hoashi offering for the first out. Iguchi smacks a sinking liner to left that passes just under the glove of GG Sato for a double. Tae Kyun strikes out – again! 6 AB, 6 K – bringing up Ohmatsu. He comes through with an RBI single to center! Iguchi races home, scoring easily and tying the game at 1-1.

Shunsuke makes short work of the Seibu bats, getting his first three up, three down inning of the game. He’s settled down a lot from the early innings!

Fifth Inning
Quick inning for our guys as (La La) Takehara (in the DH slot, a role he was born to play), Sato, and Imae go down in order.

Shunsuke has another strong inning in the 5th, giving up only an infield hit to Kuriyama. Really it was a generous bit of scoring there as it looked to be a throwing error on Imae to me, but whatever. What’s important is nothing came of it, and the game is still tied at 1 through 5.

Sixth Inning
Something’s cooking! After Nishioka grounds out to lead off Ogino gts his first hit of the game, a single to right. On the next pitch Hoashi plunks Iguchi, and the scoring chance is here. Up next – Kim Tae Kyun. Can he find his timing and avoid the strikeout? He does – he smashes a liner down the third base line but it is snagged by Nakamura – he of the cat-like reflexes – for out one. Both runners were going on the play so it’s an easy DP for the Kitty Cats. But for a good play our big guy would have surely gotten his first two RBIs of the season.

And Shunsuke sure got himself into a pickle this inning! After two quick outs he gave up hits to Hosokawa and Ishii, then walked Hoshi to load the bases. With a chance to bust the game open, Kataoka flies to first to end the threat. Whew.

Seventh Inning
You can’t deny the Marines! Ohmatsu smashes a 2-1 pitch into the right field crazies to give Lotte the lead! No more runs are scored this inning, but a 2-1 Lotte lead just might be enough!

Shunsuke is back in a groove in Seibu’s Lucky 7. He gets Kuriyama to fly out and Nakajima to fly out to deep, deep center before getting Nakamura swinging. Lotte holds on to the 2-1 lead.

Eighth Inning
More chances for Lotte. Yamamoto relieves Hoashi to start the frame, and he immediately walks Imae. Tsuyoshi flies out to deep center and Ogino drops a GREAT bunt for a single. Iguchi gorunds out, advancing Imae to third, and Tae Kyun has a chance to bring in some more runs — nope. It’s a weak fly to second, chance over.

Shunsuke stays in for the Seibu 8th, and he quickly gets two outs before yielding a single to Ishii. Nishimura pulls him for Hattori – first call to the pen this year. Hattori gives up a very weak single that just squeaks through the left side, and Nishimura goes to the pen again to get the righty-righty matchup. It’s Itoh, and he delivers with a singing K in the dirt of pinch hitter Hara. It’s still a tight 2-1 Lotte lead!

Ninth Inning
Saburo manages a single through the left side but he’s left at first by Kobe and Satozaki, so it goes to the bottom of the 9th and to the Lotte pen to nail it down!

It’s been a bit unclear all preseason who will be the closer for Lotte – maybe Kobayashi, maybe Yabuta. Today, it’s Yabuta in his first real game since returning home from the majors. How will he do?

First, he gets Kataoka to smash on to Tae Kyun at first, who makes a great play and flips it to Yabuta for out one. Tae Kyun’s bat may not have shown up yet, but that’s two great plays this game and another yesterday at first. Kuriyama is up next, and he lines one right to Imae who secures it for the second out. It’s up to Nakajima, he lifts the 4th pitch to right, but it’s an easy play for Saburo! Game, set – a Lotte 2-1 victory!

That’s two great games to start the series and the season. Watanabe did a fantastic job getting out of early trouble to keep Seibu runners off home plate, and how about the lovely start to the season for both Ohmatsu (3-7 with a walk and the GW HR today, not to mention the first RBI) and Nishioka (5-9 with the only RBI yesterday)

I’ll be in the outfield at Seibu Dome tomorrow for the rubber game – It’s my favorite Karakawa versus Kishi. Should be another great one!

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