That glimmer of hope we all had after the 5 game win streak has summarily been smashed against the cold, unyielding truth of reality. Chiba has lost 8 in a row to the Fighters, a team which (if I try to think objectively) just should not be as good as our guys. Not now. But unfortunately the results on the field are saying otherwise, and the 2.5 game deficit that seemed so promising just 4 days ago is now a bleak 5.5 game pit.
Will restoration come in the form of some theraputic beatings of the last place Eagles? Perhaps – it’s interesting to note that defending champs Rakuten are the only team in the PL that Our Marines has a winning record against.
Lotte: Takahiro Fujioka (6-6, 4.36 ERA) @ Rakuten: Takahiro Norimoto (9-8, 3.50 ERA)
One thing you need to notice when looking at that box score is the line posted by Fujioka. Of course the entire starting rotation outside of Ishikawa is a total enigma right now, but I really don’t get what has happened to Fujioka. 2 months ago he was looking ace-like, confident, and his 2.51 ERA fit the part. Now he still has flashes of that early season quality (see the 9 Ks tonight, and that he got stronger as the game went on) but at times he just seems, well, lost.
Let’s be honest – throwing a career high 146 pitches didn’t help at all, either. The only reason he was ‘limited’ to 146 was he took a batted ball off his hand in the 8th inning and had to leave.
Why am I focusing on Fujioka? Good question. He wasn’t the reason this game was lost. Nope, this game was lost because of a great start by Norimoto, though Lotte bats helped immensely in that regard. There was very little plate discipline on display tonight. Sure Norimoto recorded 9 Ks… But all of them were swinging Ks. Lots of swinging at first pitches. Lots of weak grounders. It just wasn’t a good night at all.
The Fighters also lost so the deficit is still 5.5 games, but that’s 5.5 with 38 to go, tied with Seibu for 4th (essentially), 12 games below .500, and closer to last than 3rd. Yeah.
Game 1 digest from Pacific League TV
Game 1 Box Score in English
Lotte: Hideaki Wakui (4-10, 4.65 ERA) @ Rakuten: Sho Miyagawa (3-0, 2.72 ERA)
Wakui was 2014 Wakui in this start, not vintage Wakui, but that’s OK. He wasn’t a factor today.
Who was a factor? The men at the top of the lineup, especially. Future superstar Katoh got the nod for the leadoff position (and started in right), and he proceeded to terrorize Rakuten pitching all evening. Shohei reached base in 5 of his 6 plate appearances – exactly what you want in a leadoff batter – and since the men behind him hit well he scored a highly impressive 4 runs.
In fact the 2nd and 3rd batters – that would be Okada and Kakunaka, should you insist on putting a name with a stat – combined with Katoh to go 10-16 with 5 RBI and 6 runs scored. That alone was enough to win the game.
Game 2 digest from Pacific League TV
Game 2 Box Score in English
Lotte: Yoshihisa Naruse (7-6, 4.88 ERA) @ Rakuten: Yasunori Kikuchi (0-0, 3.86 ERA)
It’s strange to me – statistically speaking the main problem with this team especially in the second half of the season has been the pitching, and while it is absolutely undeniable that especially the starting pitching has been at times dire, the really inexplicable situation has been the time when the offense just disappears. Gone.
Look at this series – a bit over 4 runs scored per game…. with all but one of those runs scored in one game. This was much the case last series as well – zero going on at the plate for two out of three games. Take a peek at that box score, look at those highlights: I’ll tell you right now from my firsthand experience in watching this game, other than the lead off Shohei ground rule double, there was no feeling that runs were coming at all – and of course before Iguchi’s RBI single late in the 9th the runs did not come. Despaigne smashed a couple of pitches deep, really deep, but no home run.
Naruse? Honestly not bad. He got a bit out of sorts in the second inning – certainly that one run allowed could have been much worse – and the Ginji home run was a shame, but I felt he was generally pretty effective this night. He just didn’t get much run support.
Game 3 digest from Pacific League TV
Game 3 Box Score in English
21 of the last 36 games are at home, and 6 of those road games are in the Tokyo area, so there’s still opportunity for the guys to make a run. Biut there can’t be any delay, that run needs to happen right now.