Lotte @ Hawks, 1-3 July 2014

hawks4b Series Preview

As much as I enjoy interleague play, the passion just ain’t there for most of the series. After all, how much can you really hate a team that you see only a few times a year, and early in the season at that? Sure, there’s the Giants, but… Anyway, you see where I am going. The last series vs Orix? It’s Orix! How much can we really hate little Orix?

Nope, here’s where the second half of the season hits its stride – a good ol Lotte v Daiei hate fest, and on the road, too. Last time we saw the Hawks it was a miserable loss at QVC – Karakawa pitched poorly and was sent to ni-gun for the first time in his career after the game. He’s back, he’s getting the ball in game one with vengeance on his mind. Time for Our Marines to put some wins together.

 
Game 1 - Lotte wins 1-0 (Click to Expand)

Lotte: Yuki Karakawa (0-5, 8.31 ERA) @ Daiei: Jason Standridge (6-2, 2.77 ERA)

By Steve Novosel Ho hum, a boring little 1-0 victory in front of a huge partisan crowd at Tokyo Dome, with The Baby Faced Killer looking like his 2011-12 self. Zzzz... Wait - THAT'S AWESOME!

from Nikkan Sports

from Nikkan Sports

Yes, Karakawa got called up before the game for his first start since that debacle at QVC. To say that Yuki’s had a rough go at it lately is a huge understatement – he wasn’t very good at any point last year, never coming close to making it through 8 IP and sporting a league worst (for qualifiers) ERA.

This year the slide has amplified. Our Former Future Ace stayed in less than 4 innings for 4 of his 7 starts, only 1 QS and no wins on the season. Even more telling is his ERA coming in – a shocking 8.31, combined with a WHIP hovering around 2.00. He could not possibly be pitching worse.

Tonight, though, facing by far the best offense in the PL if not NPB, The Baby Faced Killer posted the following line:

8 IP, 5 Hits, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 0 ER on just 87 pitches.

WHO IS THIS GUY and where the heck has he been? Sure it’s only one start but man did he look great.

For a long time in this one, though, it looked like poor Yuki might not get any run support at all. That would have been a real shame – putting together such a nice outing on the road versus a potent team and having little to show for it but pride. The root cause of that wasn’t so much poor batting, in my opinion, but a great start by Daiei’s Jason Standridge, who went the distance (on 138 pitches!) in the loss. Standridge was not overpowering, but he kept the ball down and induced grounder after grounder to keep Our Marines scoreless for so long.

The only hits in the early frames were truly scattered – not until the 7th inning did a Lotte batter reach second, and it wasn’t until Huff-n-Hustle stroked a liner to right and ended up with a double that either team had an extra base hit. Chiba did have a nice scoring chance in that 7th inning, though – a Kakunaka walk and an Imae single put runners on the corner with just one out, but a Fukuura ground out to first (a ball I thought would have been a DP ball, but Lee Dae Ho came home with the throw) led to Kakunaka getting gunned down at the plate, and the game to remain scoreless.

Chiba’s D was superb in backing up Karakawa. In the second inning Uchikawa led off with a single. Hasegawa lined a ball to Cruz at second, who intentionally dropped it to force Uchikawa (heading back to first) to go to second – easy, and cagey DP. In the 8th inning, Hasegawa led off with a single to the right-center gap, but Kakunaka got to it super quickly, and as Hasegawa tried to stretch the single into a double, Kaku’s heady play made meat of Hasegawa at second. This was the crucial defensive play of the evening, I think, as the next batter Matsuda lined a tough ball to center – Kiyota (in for Okada at CF after a PH situation) gamely dove but couldn’t quite reel it in. If Hasegawa is on second then he scores for sure, instead a Honda ground-out and a Yoshimura (!) pop to Kawamoto at catcher ends the threat.

Top 9, still 0-0. With one out, Braz faces his old teammate and friend, sees a curve that Standridge left over the plate, and mashes it into the right field stands. WOW, a run, finally, and at the perfect time! That’s Braz’s 4th HR in just 46 AB – keep him in the lineup, guys!

Itoh decides to take Yuki out despite just 87 pitches. Nishino has a shaky shaky go at it – an Imamiya single and a walk to Lee Dae Ho put the go ahead run on board, but Nishino punched out Uchikawa swinging to end the game and give The Baby Faced Killer his first win in a long time.

 
Game 2 - Lotte Loses 6-1 (Click to Expand)
Lotte: Yuta Ohmine (0-1, 4.35 ERA) @ Daiei: Kazuyuki Hoashi (4-0, 2.45 ERA)

By Steve Novosel Another amazingly tight, well-played game fell apart irrevocably in the second half as the Hawks bats pounded the makeshift Lotte pen. Despite a wonderful homer by WLM favorite Chad Huffman to score the first run of the game for Our Marines, Daiei took the second game of the three game set going away by a 6-1 margin.

Freeze this game in time after the 5th and you’ll see a remarkably different view than you have when viewing it in totality. After 5 this one was knotted at 0-0, much like the first game of the series. For the second night in a row, a once-promising-but-now-struggling starter – in this case Ishigaki native Yuta Ohmine – looked to be on the recovery trail. Yuta was not as sharp as Karakawa was in the Tokyo Dome – through 5, he’d yielded 5 hits, 2 walks and a HBP – but crucially the potent Hawks offense was sputtering at the plate. Daiei had a big chance to score in the third after leadoff singles by Honda and Hosokawa left runners on the corners with no outs, but a liner off the bat of Nakamura was expertly caught by Imae, and he dove back to the bag to force Honda for an unassisted DP.

On offense – nada for Our Marines. A pair of singles by Iguchi vs Hawks starter Hoashi, and zippo otherwise.

Chiba struck the first blow to change the rhythm of the game, as Huff-n-Hustle mauled a Hoashi offering into the left field stands to lead off the 6th – the first run of the game and a 1-0 Lotte lead. That dinger seemed to shake Hoashi – he issued walks to Kakunaka and Saburo before hitting Iguchi in the leg to load the bases for El Cochito. Cruz smashed a 1-2 pitch into left field to score a pair NO somehow Matsuda made an amazing reflex dive to get that liner. Imae struck out on a pitch off the plate to end the big, big chance.

It is not an understatement to say that Matsuda grab changed the entire tenor of the game.

When Daiei came to the plate in the bottom of the inning they seemed inspired. Uchikawa smacked a leadoff double off the fence, and Matsuda plated him with a double that Huffman couldn’t quite get to despite a nice dive. Ohmine was pulled for Ueno, and quite frankly the bullpen just poured gas on an already smoldering pile of trash. Ueno immediately allowed the second run to score thanks to a Honda single, and in the next two innings Kimura and Minami would yield 5 more hits and 4 more runs – the 1-0 lead inverted and ballooned to a 6-1 deficit. Yuk.

Lotte’s bats could do nothing the rest of the way vs the Hawks pen, so the 6-1 lead would turn into a loss.

Tidbits

– I thought the Cruz/Daichi infield with Cruz at second and Daichi at SS was a bit strange, but really, it’s working out great. Cruz has been rock solid at second, a human roomba who gets to anything in the vicinity.

– I wonder what is going on with the pitching staff. Here we are halfway through the season and the pitching has steadily deteriorated – 3.71 ERA in March/April, 4.23 in May, 5.26 in June. We’ve seen some nice starts from Karakawa and Ishikawa in the past week, but outside those two starts the pitching has been a horror show. Perhaps the biggest so far warning sign of management’s panic over the pitching is the game 3 starter – Matsunaga is removed from the pen and reworked as a starter for the second year in a row. Let’s see how the experiment goes this time.

 
Game 3 - Lotte Loses 7-0 (Click to Expand)
Lotte: Takahiro Matsunaga (!!!) (3-2, 2.70 ERA) @ Daiei: Sho Iwasaki (1-0, 3.68 ERA)

By Steve Novosel This game was simply terrible. What a bad way to end a series that started with such promise.

The last lines of this song of woe go:

And from the lineup that made no sense
And the in-game moves that made no sense
And the offense that had no punch
Our Marines crept winless into the rainy night

I don’t want to go so far as to say this game was lost before it was played, but consider these morsels:

1) Despite Kiyota, Ishimine, and Okada on the ichi-gun roster – all CF – the starting CF was Kakunaka.
2) First baseman on the ichi-gun roster included Hosoya, Braz, Fukuura, and Iguchi. Tonight’s starting first baseman – catcher Kanazawa.
3) Where was Hosoya? Why, he was your starting third baseman. Imae rode the pine until the game was mostly lost. Ditto Iguchi. And Fukuura.

And for in-game moves? Here’s the only one you need to know. Matsunaga started for the first time this year, and the bullpen has been horrific as of late. But Matsunaga got pulled in the 4th, though. He must have been shelled in those 3 2/3 innings, though, right? Why else would he get pulled?

His line: 3 2/3, 4 hits, 3 BB, 1 ER on just 46 pitches.

Sure he had just walked the bases loaded but 46 PITCHES AND ONE RUN. I’m sure our manager feels he is being LaRussian in his bullpen usage but all he’s doing is pissing off his starters and getting his pen killed. And I will bet a large amount of money that Matsunaga would agree with that assessment – after getting pulled he looked pissed on the mound, and on his way to the locker room he stormed past Itoh without so much a glance or a word.

The scoring? It doesn’t matter. As I said, it was a terrible game. Best to move our thinking on to the next series this weekend at QVC.

 

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