Our Marines and the Fighters of Nippon Ham meet again. It’s been two weeks since the Makuhari Massacre, when Hamu swept us out of the building and seemingly out of contention. We came into the series 4 games back, and ended up 7 back. A day later, we were 8 back of the Fighters for the final post season spot.
That series ended on July 31st. The deficit reached 8 games on August 1st. Since then, Lotte has posted a 6-2 record. The Fighters? Losers of 7 straight since then. That puts us just 2.5 games back heading into this week’s three game set in the Sapporo Dome. I admittedly did not see a such a quick and drastic 5.5 game swing coming, in fact I even wrote off the season after being swept by the Fighters. Sometimes, it’s nice to be dead wrong.
It looks like Ohmine will take Ishikawa’s spot in the rotation for game 1. Ishikawa was sent down to ni-gun after his start last Tuesday. There hasn’t been any news from the club regarding an injury to Ishikawa. He was the winning pitcher on Tuesday, and although he wasn’t stellar in that start, it’s likely not performance based. Maybe they’re just giving the rookie a break.
Lotte: Yuta Ohmine (0-2 5.49) @ Fighters: Masaru Nakamura (4-0 3.15)
The first Fighters home run came in the 2nd. Shohei Ohtani took a 2-1 pitch and sent a tailing opposite field shot to left center. The lead off HR made it 1-0.
Our Marines came back to tie it in the top of the 3rd. Imae got aboard with a lead off double, sending a ball deep into the right field corner. The RF Taniguchi backed up to the wall and leaped, but the ball was just out of reach, bouncing off a combination of the wall and the top of his glove. After a successful 0-2 count bunt attempt by Kawamoto to advance Imae, leadoff man Daichi drove him home with a soft broken bat liner into right field. Game tied 1-1.
Sho Nakata led off the 4th with his 22nd home run of the year, a shot deep to left to give the lead back to the Fighters at 2-1.
The big trouble came the following inning though. Ohmine allowed a pair of singles to Taniguchi and Nishikawa to start the 5th inning. After a Nakashima bunt, the Fighters had 2 men in scoring position with 1 away and the heart of the lineup coming up. Itoh went to the pen and brought in Ueno to face Yoh Daikan. Yoh crushed a 1-1 Ueno offering very deep and very high into the left field stands for a 3 run blast. 5-1 Fighters.
That’s about all she wrote for this one, Lotte never really threatened after that. Fighters starter Nakamura threw a solid 8 innings, allowing just 6 hits, 0 walks, a HBP, while striking out 4.
One bright spot though was Alfredo Desapigne. He had 3 of Lotte’s 7 hits, for his first career modasho. One of those hits was a line drive solo home run on a 3-2 off speed pitch in the 6th. That home run gave us what would be the eventual final score of 5-2. Alfredo’s got his batting average up to .260 and his OPS up to .836 in his first 13 games.
Game 1 digest from Pacific League TV
Game 1 Box Score in English
Lotte: Takuya Furuya (7-3, 4.12 ERA) @ Fighters: Hiroshi Urano (4-2, 4.18 ERA)
The Fighters struck first taking an early 2-0 lead in the 2nd. Nakata got aboard via a lead off walk, bringing up Koyano. Ensuring that I’ll see Fighters bat flips in my nightmares for many nights to come, Koyano pulled a 2-2 pitch high and deep into the left field stands for a 2 run shot. With two runners in scoring position and 1 out, it took a Nakashima line drive unassisted double play to Imae for Furuya to escape the inning.
Our Marines did have base runners early in the game with 2 walks in the 1st, but couldn’t get a run across. Double plays negated a Cruz single in the 2nd and Daichi HBP in the 4th. We finally got a run on the board via an Iguchi HR in the 5th. The line drive stayed just inside the left field foul pole and just over the fence to make it 2-1. Furuya had just pitched himself out of a jam in the previous half inning, making this probably the high point of the game.
The Fighters reclaimed their 2 run lead in the home half of the 5th. Furuya loaded the bases with 1 out on a Nishikawa walk, Sugiya single, and Yoh HBP. The next batter Nakata drove Nishikawa home on a sac fly to center, making it 3-1.
The Fighters got another run in the 6th. Furuya walked the lead off man Ugumori, and after a sac bunt, an Ichikawa base hit put runners on the corners with 1 out. The number 9 hitter Nakashima was up next, and on the first pitch he laid down a perfect squeeze bunt down the 1st base line to score Ugumori from 3rd. 4-1 Fighters. Furuya lasted just one more batter, being pulled for Itoh after a walk to the next batter Nishikawa.
After the Iguchi HR in the 5th, Urano retired 14 of the final 15 Marines batters he faced. Cruz was the only man to get on base during that stretch, leading off the 8th with a single. Imae followed hitting into Lotte’s 3rd double play of the night, a beautifiul 4-6-3 initiated by a diving Nakashima.
Game 2 digest from Pacific League TV
Game 2 Box Score in English
Lotte: Yuki Karakawa (1-7, 5.70 ERA) @ Fighters: Yuki Saito (1-1, 3.93 ERA)
It looked like Our Marines were going to salvage one win from this series and get their first win in eight tries versus the Fighters. We had early leads of 3-0 and 5-1 after the road half of the 1st and 3rd innings respectively. Flash forward to after allowing five unearned runs and a Fighters middle inning offensive explosion, and now we're forced to deal with the reality of another sweep at the hands of Hamu. For those of you counting, we're now 5.5 games back of Hamu for the final CS spot with 39 games to go.
Things were off to a great start in a rematch between the Handkerchief Prince and the Baby Faced Killer. Saito was wild early, walking Daichi to lead off the game, allowing a base hit to Katoh, and walking Kakunaka to load the bases. Despaigne popped out foul for out 1, but Iguchi delivered next stroking a 2-run single to center making it 2-0. The next batter Imae got an RBI ground out to score Kakunaka, making it 3-0.
Yoh Daikan got a solo home run off Karawaka in the 1st, but strike outs of the first two batters and an early lead were certainly a good signs for the BFK. Hamu threatened with runners on 2nd and 3rd in the 2nd, but Karakawa got himself out of that jam on an Iiyama strike out. It was 3-1 after 2.
Lotte added 2 more runs in the top of the 3rd, with Kakunaka and Despaigne scoring to make it 5-1. Kakunaka got things going by pulling a lead off single to right. Despaigne followed by pulling a ball as well, going down the left field line for a double. Iguchi delivered again with a sac fly to right to score Kakunaka, and Imae followed with a base hit up the middle to score Alfredo. Saito’s day was done after that, lasting just 2 2/3 innings on 58 pitches.
The Fighters brought it closer in the home half of the 3rd. Nishikawa led off with a single and stolen base. The real trouble came next when Imae booted and in between hop on a low chopper off the bat of Nakaskima. The ball deflected into foul ground, allowing Nakashima to reach base safely. Yoh Daikan followed with a RBI single to make it 5-2, still no outs. BFK got Nakata to fly out deep to center, and struck Inaba out looking for outs 1 & 2. Koyano delivered next though, rolling a low line drive through the left center field gap and to the wall. 2 runs score, it’s now 5-4. Keeping in mind that 2 of those runs were unearned due to the Imae error.
Facing the Fighters bullpen, Lotte loaded the bases with 1 out in the 5th inning thanks to 2 walks and an Iguchi double. Cruz lined out to 2B for out 2, then Tamura grounded out to end the chance. We were still clinging to the 5-4 lead, and based on what happened next, we could have really used some extra runs there.
This is where things fell apart. Karakawa got the first out of the bottom of the 5th, but was already at 96 pitches. A full count walk to Nakata pushed him up to 102, and on Karakawa’s 105th pitch Inaba reached down and golfed a ball into the right field stands for a 2-run home run. 6-5 Fighters, and the beginning of the end for Our Marines. Karakawa stayed in to face one more batter, leaving the game after allowing a double to Koyano.
Kimura came in to relief Karakawa, and would end up getting another run charged to BFK’s line. Kimura gave up a hit to Kondoh, but it looked like he might get out of the inning after an Ichikawa strike out. Instead, he walked the next 2 batters, first loading the bases then forcing a man home. 7-5. A Nakashima single scored another run to make it 8-5 Fighters. Kimura finally got out of the inning on a Yoh liner, but the damage had been done.
A Kakunaka error turned a Yoh single into a Yoh double and eventually an unearned run for reliver Ohmine in the 6th. An Imae error later in the inning on what should have been the 3rd out led to 2 more unearned for Ohmine. 11-5 Fighters.
Despaigne hit a 2 run home run to the opposite field in right to make it 11-7 in the 9th. Obviously though, that wouldn’t be enough to avoid another sweep in a critical series with the Fighters. Lotte looked tight all series, whereas the Fighters seems to be a lot more loose and relaxed, even when they were down. Looking back at the 2014 season, these missed chances versus the team we were chasing in the standings is likely going to be what sticks out most.
Game 3 digest from Pacific League TV
Game 3 Box Score in English