By Steve Novosel Young Nishi y Los Búfalos de Orix came into this game super hot - Nishi, great in his first start; Orix, winners of 6 in a row - and they would leave just as hot as they came in as Our Marines could do exactly nothing all night, falling in game 1 of the series, 4-0.
The big question for us Fans of Lotte was, how would our big FA signing Wakui do in his second start? We’ve told you that his first was rather shaky, and I must tell you that yes, this one was as well. Probably shakier, even. One could make a solid case for the first two runs being Not His Fault. In fact, I will do just that. With a pair of Buffs on the pillows, Wakui induced Itoh to pop to left. It wasn’t the easiest play, but Kakunaka was out of position and out three turned into 2-0 Orix. Grr.
The next runs, though, those were on Wakui. In the third, a single by Hirano and a double by Itoi gave Orix a big chance. Yoshida and Wakui teamed up to get Peña and Teppei to go down swinging, and get Sakaguchi to two strikes before Wakui hung a forkball badly. Sakaguchi wasn’t missing that one – one single later, it’s 4-0 Beefaloos.
Good thing the Lotte bats were still hot!! Nishi totally shut Our Marines down. I can’t be any more explicit than that. A hit by Daichi in the first, a hit by Kakunaka in the 7th, and not a single baserunner outside those two. 20 batters in a row by Nishi, only 29 total on the night. That’s a 111 pitch, 8 strikeout, no walk 2 hit shutout. Man, I’m jealous!
Still plenty of chances to win the series. Tomorrow we’ll see New Lefty Ace Furuya battle Kishida. Hopefully there’s more than 2 hits tomorrow!
By Steve Novosel No worries about offensive woes tonight as the bats arrived a day late from Makuhari and walloped 5 extra base hits and scored 6 to support the always reliable New Lefty Ace Furuya for his first win of the 2014 campaign. A solid team effort in both halves of the innings ensured the Orix winning streak would be snapped and a new Lotte streak begun.
10 games into the season and it’s 10 different starting lineups for Our Marines. Itoh-kantoku went with his best defensive alignment in the infield (Imae/Cruz/Daichi/Iguchi), Kakunaka/Katoh/Kiyota in the OF, Ohmatsu(!!!) at DH, and Satozaki behind the plate for just the third time this season. Let’s look at how the game unfolded.Top of the 2nd Inning
Kishida retired the first 5 batters before leaving a slider in the zone for Ohmatsu – Ohmatsu, somewhat left out of Chiba’s plans these last few years – Ohmatsu, without a homer since 2012 – Ohmatsu, yes, Ohmatsu homered. A quick 1-0 Lotte.
Bottom of the Third
Adachi drew a one out walk off Furuya, and when the dangerous (and speedy) German hit a grounder to Daichi, Daichi tried to get Adachi at second but instead winged it into left field. Runners were all safe at second and third, perfect position for Hirano to double them in. 2-1 Orix, both runs charged to Furuya, but really, should they have been1?
1Perhaps according to the rule book yes, they should have been charged to Furuya but sometimes one must look deeper into the classics for a true interpretation. I’m reminded of the words of the great philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell, who once said, “Man, he didn’t deserve that!”
Top of the Fifth
Furuya looked phenomenal past that point – hitting his spots and changing speeds to keep the Buffs from adding more to their lead. And that’s great, but Our Marines needed runs. Satozaki got something started with a no-out single to right, and Katoh bunted for a hit with one out. Daichi grounded out to bring up Iguchi, who ripped a deep fly off the left center wall for a 2-run double, and a comeback 3-2 Lotte lead!
Top of the Sixth
One run leads are swell, but more is better, and more is what Our Marines got in the 6th. Kakunaka doubled, and Kiyota drew his second walk of the night2. Up came Cruz, silent at the plate since the opening series at Daiei but silent no more, as he banged a double to deep right center to score both Men of Lotte to make it a 5-2 lead.
2Kiyota went hitless on the night, but drew three walks and is now sporting an impressive .429 OBP (and 1.129 OPS)
Bottom of the Seventh
Eh, so the Buffaloes scored a run off Ohtani. Meh. 5-3 game.
Top of the Eighth
Kiyota drew a walk – again – and Cruz whipped a double into right-center – again – and Chiba scored – again – to make it a 6-3 game.
Carlos Rosa came in to set up the win, and Nishino looked smoking hot closing it out to seal the nice victory. Up next is the rubber match, and it’s the first start of the year for the reborn Fujioka. He’s matched up against erratic, sunglass-sporting Kei Igawa. I think Fujioka’s going to look great.
By Steve Novosel Our Marines fought hard in this one - banging out double digit hits and coming from behind - but surprisingly the bullpen couldn't hold a nice lead and Chiba dropped the final game of the series in Osaka.
Fujioka-kun? He wasn’t as great as I was hoping for but he was solid, much better than any start I can remember off the top of my head from last year. And with the bats pretty lively, one would expect that solid would be good enough, but it wasn’t to be. Here’s how it went down.
Bottom of the Second
Fujioka squeaked through the first inning despite giving up a 2-out double to Itoi, and in the second Takahashi stroked another double to lead off the frame. This time Fujioka’s luck wouldn’t hold, as Shunta drove in Takahashi with a single to center. 1-0 Orix.
Top of the Fifth
Igawa blew through his first pass through the Lotte order pretty easily, but in the 4th the boys got a strong chance by putting runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs. Nobody could come home, though, so Cruz‘s bloop double down the left field line (one of many dodgy defensive plays by the Buffaloes in this one) created a chance for the first run of the game for Chiba. Kiyota was due up next, but he was removed (due to a minor injury on an attempted catch, I think) for pinch hitter AJA, who promptly singled up the middle to tie the game. Nice!
Igawa out, Kaida in. Kakunaka and Saburo singled with one out in the frame, and a Daichi single moved them over (it should have been a double play, honestly, but Betancourt made a poor defensive play and could only get one). Itoh went to the bench and grabbed Nemoto to hit for Yoshida. I was not at all happy with the move, but Nemo lashed a triple to center, scoring both men and giving Lotte a 3-1 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, though, Fujioka gave one of the runs back with a big bomb to center off the bat of Itoi. Emura had taken over for Yoshida just before, I might add. 3-2 Lotte.
The guys got the run right back, though, thanks to some more sloppy D by Orix. An Iguchi single, a misplayed ball by Takahashi on an Imae grounder, and a Kakunaka single loaded the bases, and Ohmatsu brought in Iguchi via the ground out. Back to a 2-run 4-2 Lotte edge.
However, Fujioka left for rookie Yoshihara, and Shohei got himself into a jam. With two outs and runners on the corners due to a walk, double, and groundout, Yoshihara induces the dangerous German into an inning ending grounder… that was barely foul. Right after, blam – 3 run moonshot. YIKES. That’s three home runs in 6 IP for Yoshihara this year, and homers in back-to-back innings with Emura behind the dish. 4-2 lead —> 5-4 deficit.
Yoshihara was replaced by Matsunaga, and with one out Matsunaga yielded a blast of his own, this time to Pena. Sigh….. 5 runs, all after the 5th, all via the jack. That’s a 6-4 game, and with Orix’s strong pen that’s how it would end.
It should have been 2 of 3 this series for Our Marines, honestly, but that can’t be helped now. Time to focus on the next series, a revenge match with Rakuten at QVC. The series kicks off on Friday with Naruse vs Norimoto.