Last road trip of the year? Yup, last road trip of the year. Hard to believe we’re at that time of year already but indeed it’s true – this series in Sendai makes the last three road games of the 2014 season.
This series sadly also is the final opportunity for Our Marines to win a season series with a PL team. Chiba has 12 losses (exactly) in every head-to-head matchup except with Rakuten, against whom we have 11. Hey, it’s not much, but it would be nice to be better than at least one PL team.
Even more sadly, the guys gotta win out to ensure there’s not a losing season. 12 wins in a row, this team is sitting at .500.
Perhaps the mismatch between preseason hopes and September realities is the toughest part to swallow. Such is baseball.
Lotte: Ayumu Ishikawa (8-7, 3.53 ERA) @ Rakuten: Yuki Matsui (2-7, 4.11 ERA)
Not that the last point wasn’t inevitable, really.
I can’t pin this one on Ayu, really. Yeah, that 10 hit, 6 runs (4 earned) line isn’t so hot. It’s not. And he dropped himself in a big mess in both the first and second innings – undeniable. But after that, well, I can easily imagine a game where Ishikawa went the distance with just that run, maybe a bit more if things had fallen his way.
See, the game truly fell apart with some really poor fielding in the 4th. The scene: Our Marines had pulled ahead 3-1 in the 2nd thanks to a bases loaded walk worked by Daichi and a 2-run single by #3 batter Imae. Nice. Nice. Ishikawa ripped through the Rak lineup in 1-2-3 fashin in the third, but gave up a 1-out single in the 4th. Masuda grounded to Aja at first – DP ball! – nope, a boot, everyone safe. You know what’s next – no, not a homer, but a timely Shima single, another error (this one on Gori), a semi-boot by Aja on a squeeze (everyone safe) etc etc etc etc etc. The two run lead, gone, and replaced with a 1-run deficit. Yick.
It wouldn’t be truthful to say Ayu fell apart after that, but he wasn’t good, and the very-much-struggling Matsui seemed to find inspiration in the sudden reversal of fortune. If he didn’t after the 4th, he sure as heck would after the 5th where Andruw “I’m only trying to hit HRs, I’m not even pretending otherwise” Jones did the only thing he does, smacked a 2-run bomb to left. 6-3 bad guys.
That lead looked safe as Lotte could do nothing. Nothing, that is, until 2 outs in the 9th, when Gori immolated a pitch off closer Falkenborg to cut the deficit to 6-4. Next pitch – Alfredo almost did the same, bouncing a huge liner off the top of the fence and over for a ground rule double (his 3rd double of the game, and 6th in the past 2 DAYS). HMMM. Next pitch – Cruz foul fly. Oh well.
Game 1 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 1 Box Score in English
Lotte: Yuta Ohmine (2-3, 3.65 ERA) @ Rakuten: Takahiro Shiomi (6-6, 4.67 ERA)
Oh the bats were willing in one sense – 9 Men of Lotte landed safely upon the sacks – but in terms of bringing those men home? Just one lonely run, in the third, courtesy of a leadoff double by AJA and a timely single from (I-Ya-Sa-Sa!) Ishimine. Hey, it was an early 1-0 lead – let’s celebrate!
Alas, that inning ended abruptly via ye olde Shohei GIDP, as did the first inning (Gori GIDP) and fourth (Alfredo GIDP). Kaku-chan and AJA reached via single in the 5th but Tamura and Ishimine failed to plate them. Some more hits followed, but only one more runner reached scoring position, Okada-as-PR-and-SB-master at second in the 9th.
Short version: several pots on the stove but the electricity was cut off.
But Yuta! He got a rather generous 1 run lead (go ask any of the starters in the scoreless streak if they’d be happy with that run and they would surely say YES), right?
Actually Yuta pitched pretty well for a time tonight. A first inning bases juiced issue, sure, but no damage. Innings 2-4, no worries. But in the 5th, another jam, almost an escape, but then: runs. 2 of them, to be specific, and it surely could have been a lot worse. Shimauchi singled with one out, Nishida grounded out to Daichi for out two, but then, then: runs. As I may have mentioned, 2 of them.
That was basically it for Ohmine. After a Shima leadoff single to start the sixth, Itoh went to the pen for Matsunaga/Carlos Rosa and they did what needed to be done, but with the bleak scoring environment in the top half of each frame they could only do so much.
Remember when I said in the series preview that Our Marines had exactly 12 losses vs every PL team but Rakuten? That’s true again. We have 13. Final game in 2014 vs Rakuten is Thursday at K Sta.
Game 2 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 2 Box Score in English
Lotte: Yuta Kimura (0-1, 5.81 ERA) @ Rakuten: Takaaki Yokoyama (1-1, 5.06 ERA)
I am only going to dwell on positive things – positive things – so I will mention the 2-errors for basically unearned inside-the-park HR and the 5 run collapse by Masuda only in passing. In the course of this game, these are important things but in the grand scheme of things, fighting to not end up with the worst record in Japan, they are irrelevant. More importantly, they are irrelevant going forward, though Masuda’s season ERA of 5.40 is more than a little worrying.
Here’s what I want you, dear reader, to remember about this game:
1) Alfredo Freaking Despaigne. We’ve loved this guy for some time and we very excited to have him join the ballclub. But you know, I think I am going to DEMAND that this team resigns him next year. He’s exciting, he’s game changing, he’s marketable, he’s the sort of player people talk about, a guy fans pay to see. WE NEED ALFREDO next year.
This game? 2nd inning, first AB – destroys a pitch from Yokoyama to center, solo shot. Next AB, whomps another Yokoyama offering, also to center, solo shot. Next AB, double. It’s almost absurd. He’s now played a full quarter season in Chiba and sports a .293/.353/.617 line with 10 HR and 11 doubles. Project that over a full season and he’d be the PL MVP in a runaway. Sign him. Sign him.
2) Seiya “Aja” Inoue. He needs no intro, he just needs a chance to play. Tonight Aja got a hold of a pitch for his second dinger of the year. With increased playing time comes more confidence, and he’s gradually showing himself to be the guy at the plate we thought he would be in March.
Heck, just drop his performances vs Orix and Daiei (mostly early in the season) and you get: 16-48 (.333 BA) with 2 HR and 6 RBI. Solid. I really feel if he were put in a lower pressure situation to start the season and kept in the lineup long enough to get comfortable we’d be talking about him as a strong candidate for rookie of the year.
Game 3 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 3 Box Score in English