Our Marines come into the final weekend series of April in the same state they came into last weekend’s series. I stated at the start of last weekend’s series post that Our Marines have been playing .500 ball since an opening series sweep. After going 2-2-1 over the last 7 days, we remain 3 games under .500.
This team has shown signs it can be a contender, more-or-less balanced by evidence that it may be a loooong season. Hopefully, the 6 game road trip starting this weekend in Sapporo breaks us free from this mediocrity and sets on a winning course. Naruse and Ishikawa are projected to start games 1 and 3. Recent results seem to indicate that this is a good thing. The number two spot of the rotation is currently vacant though, with Karakawa being taken off the active roster after last Saturday’s start. It’ll be interesting to see who Itoh-kantoku elects to start game 2, and how they perform.
By Steve Novosel Chiba dominated Hamu in both halves of the innings in game 1 of the weekend set in Sapporo. Naruse was SO close to a complete game shutout and the Lotte bats whaled on a variety of Hamu arms in a thorough 9-1 beating.
One did not have to wait long for more offense, just until The Second Inning, where Saburo turned on a fat pitch down the pipe and express mailed it deeeep into the left field stands – 3-0 Lotte.
A Daichi double off the fence to lead off the 3rd inning went nowhere, but when the captain drew a one out walk in The Fifth Inning, Iguchi (sa-a-a-n!) drove him in with a big double to the left center gap. Then Ohmatsu drove HIM in with a single – 5-0 Chiba after 5 innings, and things were looking rosy indeed.
Naruse? Looking solid. 5 of his first 8 innings were perfect affairs, and in those 8 innings Hamu would record just 3 hits and one walk. Fine, fine work by our ace, but more runs would be superb. There were indeed more runs to be had, and they came in The Eighth Inning. That’s where “Somewhat slumping but not enough to be pulled from the lineup” Ishimine walloped a 3-2 pitch from Kagiya to the left field stands (and since Satozaki was on, it was a 2-runner). That was followed by a Daichi walk (2-3 with a pair of walks and 3 runs scored on the evening), an Okada single, and a big ol double by AJA – 2 more runs in, and now it’s a laugher – 9-0 Chiba.
Naruse was sitting on a bit high pitch count – 108 after 8 – but of course he was staying in to try to finish the shutout. 5 pitches later, it was one out and runners on 1st and third thanks to singles by Yoh and Nakata. That brought up Miranda, who turned on the ball and drove it deep to right, right at the fence, and reeled in by Huffman. But with one out Yoh was tagging, the ball came in and… what? Game over? What????
Here’s what happened. When Huffman caught the ball, Yoh tagged and came in, the throw went to Daichi, and Nakata was just loitering around first base. Seriously, I had no idea what he was doing, he was just standing there. Daichi flipped to AJA at first, double play, and the umps said “Game over, 9-0 final”.
I was SO confused. After review, the score was changed to 9-1 final, though Gaora never showed any video of Yoh actually scoring.
So Naruse gets the CG but not the shutout, thanks to that weird final play. It’s still a very nice win. Up next, Fujioka gets the ball and tries to rebound from his disastrous last start.
By Steve Novosel Another Hamu game, another Lotte victory as great pitching was buoyed by capitalization on many Fighters mistakes in a tough 3-1 victory.
Cruz had yet another nice night at the plate – his second inning jack off of Hamu starter Takeda was his second of the year, and the first run of the game. 1-0 Lotte at that point.
After the first five solid innings from Fujioka, he found himself in some serious trouble in the 6th. A leadoff walk to Ono and a double by Nishikawa knotted the game at 1-1. A pair of walks to Nakata (intentional) and Miranda (not so much) sent Itoh-kantoku to the bullpen, tasking Masuda with extracting Our Marines from the bases-loaded jam. Masuda has a closer’s strength, though, and 3 pitches later he induced Obiki into an inning-ending grounder.
Masuda stayed in for the 7th, and he, Carlos Rosa, and closer Nishino1 were awesome as usual, with only Nishino allowing an inconsequential single over the last three frames.
1Nishino’s been fabulous in his move to the pen this year. So far in 10 appearances (10 IP) he’s struck out 11, allowed 3 hits, 4 BB, and no runs, gathering 6 saves in the process. That’s a 0.00 ERA and 0.70 WHIP!
The Men from Chiba needed some more runs, though, and in the eighth they would get a prime chance for more. Iguchi led off the inning with a double off of reliever Crotta, Saburo singled to put runners on the corners, and Kakunaka reached on what should have been a double play, but wasn’t. That brought up Cruz with the bases loaded – he grounded to short, the play came home (out) but Ono went to first to try to get a DP and mailed the throw into right field. That’s a lucky run! Ohmatsu grounded out next, but since there was only one out, Kakunaka was able to score and make it 3-1 Lotte. Two unearned runs, two big escapes, and all that was needed to win.
Up next is a marquee pitching matchup between Boy Wonder Shohei Otani and “Sunday Ayumu” Ishikawa.
By: Craig Roberts Ayumu Ishikawa. So hot right now. Ayumu Ishikawa.
The four run first was a rather efficient affair thanks to two home runs balls. Ishimine got the offense going with a nicely placed blooper into shallow right. With the infield aligned to hold the speedy Ishimine, Captain Daichi (6 for 12 in the series) took advantage and hit a ground ball through the hole between first and second for a hit. Our Marines had something going, despite the lack of a truly hard hit ball. That was about to change though. The next batter Iguchi got ahold of a 3-2 offering from Ohtani and pulled a no-doubt shot high into the left field stands for a 3 run home run! 3-0 Marines. After a Saburo strike out, Kaukunaka broke a mini 1-for-13 slump by getting in on the home run fun himself. He lined a rocket to right just over the high Sapporo Dome walls for a 4-0 lead.
Enter Ishikawa. The Fighters went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first, but had some success off Ishikawa in the second getting three hits and one run on a Kondoh double to cut it to 4-1 Marines. Beyond that, Ishikawa allowed only one more Fighter to reach base for the remainder of his 8 innings pitched, finishing by retiring the last 13 batters faced. Ayu was in control and Our Marines played some sharp defense behind him, making this a relatively stress free Sunday for the Chiba fans. Ishikawa’s final line reads 8IP, 123P, 4H, 5K, 0BB, 1ER. The rookie is now 3-1, sporting a 1.19 ERA on the year. He’s averaged 8 IP per game in his last four starts.
The Marines bats added one more run on the afternoon, restoring the 4 run lead in the 3rd inning. Iguchi – nearly 20 years Ohtani’s elder mind you – got to Ohtani again with a one out single to right. Saburo came up next and sent a gap shot to the wall in left-center. You’d be forgiven for mistaking who the lone teenager on the field was, as Iguchi huffed-and-puffed and motored around the bases, scoring from first to make it 5-1 Marines! The final score would read the same way as Our Marines completed the sweep of the Fighters.
-Nishino closed out inning 9 for his 11th scoreless inning in 11 appearances.
-Daichi (2 singles), Iguchi (single, HR) & Kakunaka (HR, single) all recorded two hits on the day.
-Ohmatsu and Yoshida contributed the other two Lotte extra-base hits with a double a piece.
-This was Shohei Ohtani’s first career L.