It’s hot and Sunday – Lotte is at home for the final game of a three game set vs Daiei, and I’m at home because, well, it’s hot. Chiba Marine is a bit stuffy in August, for sure. Why not a live blog?
A little update – the last three games haven’t gone so well for our Marines. Lotte had a nice lead in the final game of the Seibu set but had a nasty bullpen explosion to get outscored down the stretch, eventually losing 12-6. Lotte dropped the first two games of this series, too – a disappointing 2-0 loss on Friday (which I was at) and an unwatchable 14-5 loss yesterday (which, fortunately, I was able to turn off after it got way out of hand).
Tonight Ryoji Katsuki takes the hill. He was the surprise of the Eastern League ni-gun season last year and saw limited action this year in April/May, getting the win in an outing against Seibu and getting beat up against the Fighters. Lotte needs someone to provide some quality innings outside of Naruse, Murphy, and Watanabe (especially since Ono and Karakawa are still out) – let’s hope he can give us a boost.
Katsuki has a bit of a rough first – he gives up a pair of hits including a timely RBI single by Ortiz as the Hawks race out to an early 1-0 lead. This could have been a heck of a lot worse as the Hawks had the bases loaded and only one out before Katsuki digs himself out of the inning.
Hawks starter Ogura has similar difficulties, but good news for us – Lotte capitalizes on his problems in a big way. Imae and Iguchi draw one out walks, and the massively slumping Kim Tae Kyun (more on him a bit later) drills a ball down the line to score Imae. Ohmatsu follows up with a 2-RBI single of his own, and comes around to score – by a really thin margin, just sliding past the Tanoue tag – on a double by Saburo. Takehara (starting at DH) beat out an infield single, and Satozaki scores Saburo on a ball bobbled by Honda at second. 5 Men of Lotte come across the plate – it’s 5-1 after one! It’s a lengthy start to the game, but one that’ll leave a smile on your face.
Much better for Katsuki – one hit but no runs for the Hawks.
Lotte manages a difficult task – a pair of singles and a double, yet no runs. Kanazawa replaces Ogura but isn’t very good either. Imae leads off with a single and Iguchi grounds into a double play (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the most glaring weakness in Iguchi’s game – other than his annual summer disappearances – is his baseruning. After the first out Kokubo misses the tag at first for the second out, but Iguchi misses the bag also and is out anyway. Eeek!) Kim Tae Kyun pokes a single to center and Ohmatsu pops a weird double in front of Ortiz in right (should have been a pop out but Ortiz totally misplays it). Still, all that action, and the inning ends on Saburo’s K. 5-1 Lotte.
My, things got interesting here. Katsuki got to a two out, one on situation then gave up consecutive hits to Petagine, Matsuda, and Hasegawa, and three runs as a result. Eek, indeed.
…but in the bottom of the inning things got more interesting still. Takehara walked and Satozaki singled to lead off the inning, and Kiyota (starting in CF) singled in Takehara to add to the lead! After Tsuyoshi struck out and Imae walked, Iuchi blasted a shot down the 3rd base line that was misplayed by Matsuda – three runs score as the ball trickles into right! The inning ends with Lotte taking a 9-4 lead.
The pitching depth (or current lack of) rears its head again. Furuya – who has been rather nice this year, 2.76 ERA/1.36 WHIP/8.8 K/9 in 34 games – comes in and gets killed. He gives up three hits, capped by a Tamura HR to left. Yikes. It’s now a 9-7 game.
Speaking of the feast-or-famine pitching, there’ two interesting recent developments. First, Lotte signed former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Hayden Penn. He’s on the roster now but I am not sure when he’s making his first appearance – I would figure with so few games left it would be soon.
The second is one of our Ikusei players drafted last year, Koshiro Yamamuro, was promoted to the full team this week and is on the bench tonight. I suspect the way this game is going he may see his chance tonight.
Oh, and the Marines went down in order in the bottom of the inning, so it stayed 9-7.
In comes Itoh, who is probably the most erratic pitcher on the team. When he’s on he’s brutal, carding K after K. When not… Well, he’s not tonight. He gets two quick outs, then gives up three quick hits including the capper, a single by Kokubo that’s misplayed by Kiyota (he could have possibly caught it, and in retrospect probably should have dove for it), then bobbled, then 2 runs are in. Aaaaand we are back to even – 9-9. Not nice.
Another three up, three down inning for Lotte – it stays at 9-9.
Itoh is still in, which is not a good thing at all. Well, unless you are a Hawks fan – he gives up a walk, three singles, and a sac fly as Daiei pulls into a 11-9 lead…
And Lotte can do nothing to counter in the bottom of the inning, managing only an Ohmatsu walk (coupled with K’s by Kim Tae Kyun and Saburo).
As I mentioned before, Tae Kyun has been in a horrible slump. Let me be a bit selective with some statistics: 0 HR, 4 runs scored, 8 RBI. That’s not his statistics in the past week (when he’s been sick) – that’s his stats for the month of July. Egads. Let’s look at the game on Friday – a 2-0 heartbreaker of a complete game loss by Naruse (who was blameless for the loss, IMO, as only one of the runs was earned and the offense blew many chances). Third inning, runners on the corners, two outs. With a full count Tae Kyun looks at strike three on the corner. In that situation why would you be waiting for a walk? You need a run, and he’s the best run producer in the league, the bat needs to come off the shoulder. And again in the 5th – bases loaded, one out, Daiei’s Yamada is reeling. Kim Tae Kyun at the plate, his team needs him — double play. It’s been Tae Kyun’s last 30 days in a nutshell.
Yabuta is in – not much changes. Two singles and a sac fly later, another run is on the board. It’s now 12-9 going into the bottom of the inning.
Settsu takes the mound for a second inning, how will the offense respond? Not well – 3 up, 3 K’s. Settsu’s got 5 K’s in 2 innings.
Finally, an inning without a run! That’s the first since the second inning. Of course, Yabuta gave up a pair of walks but it’s the lack of runs that’s important.
Falkenborg is in for Daiei – after a leadoff walk to Tsuyoshi he mows down the side. 8K’s in the past 3 innings. You can’t score too many runs when you are striking out. Looking grim with Mahara probably coming in in the 9th. Still 12-9.
Well, that’s that. No more runs for Daiei as Kobayashi enters, gives up another hit – the 20th of the game for the Hawks – but no runs. And as I thought, Mahara came in, carded two more Ks, and ended it. That’s 14 Ks on the night, 10 in the last 4. In fact Lotte didn’t get a hit after the Kiyota RBI single in the third. I would say that’s not good, but we did end that inning with a 9-4 lead.
It’s a sweep for the red hot Hawks. Lotte entered the series with a good chance to sneak into first and left only 2 games out of 4th. Of course that speaks volumes about the toughness of the Pacific league, but also a great deal about the bullpen futility right now. I’ve mentioned the Seibu game up front, but not last night’s ugly fest against the Hawks’s Sugiuchi, who was spotted a third inning 9-0 lead and cruised to a 14-5 win. Nishimoto-coach has got to figure something out with that bullpen – we’ll see what happens on Tuesday as the Marines open a 3-game set with Rakuten in Sendai.