Barring some sort of insane miracle, this team will not see post season action in 2014. With 24 games left, Our Marines would need to go 19-5 just to make it back to .500, and even if they can win all 24 games they would still need a lot of help to catch up to Hamu. Yeah, we’re in the “sit back and enjoy, stress free” portion of the season, officially.
So the goals for the remaining games are basically (a) get the younger players some more experience (b) play the spoiler. Wait, I forgot to list the most important goal! (c) BEAT SEIBU.
Interestingly enough, we get 7 games in 10 days vs our Tokorozawa rivals – this 3 game set at Seibu Dome and next week a 4 game tilt at QVC – and that’s it for the season. Seibu’s in just about as hopeless a position as is Chiba, so really we should look at this as a 7 game series to determine PL Kanto supremacy once and for all.
Lotte: Takahiro Fujioka (6-9, 4.38 ERA) @ Seibu: Kazuhisa Makita (6-8, 3.47 ERA)
Let’s back up a bit.
Fujioka got himself into a bit of trouble several times in the first few innings before settling down. A pair of baserunners in the first (no damage) and the third (damage) – only one run crossed the plate, though. Chiba got that run back in the 4th as Daichi led off with a triple(*) and Cochito Cruz plated him with a sac fly. The whole affair was a bit dodgy as Daichi’s triple was actually a bit of a boot by RF Kimura, and Cruz’s SF was ju-u-u-st deep enough to score Daichi, though he had to make a wonderful slide to avoid the tag. Tie game after 3 1/2.
But not after 4 – Kimura led off the bottom of the frame by pummeling a Fujioka offering deep into the left field stands – 2-1 Seibu. That’s Fujioka’s NPB leading 18th HR of the season, incidentally. Nemoto would score on a Kakunaka SF in the top of the 5th to re-tie the game at 2 a piece.
All that set the stage for Despaigne’s heroics in the 8th inning. Alfredo’s power is something we really haven’t seen that much of in a while on this team – Braz had a nice run late last year, and Kim Tae Kyun a hot start to 2010, but really there hasn’t been the sort of absurd power that Despaigne has displayed since the heady days of 2005. It’s a fairly small sample size, but he’s on the pace for what would be a 45 homer season. Large.
Masuda had taken over for Fujioka in bottom 7 (and pitched the 8th as well) to get in position for the win. Nishino of course pitched the 9th but was uncharacteristically wild and allowed a rare run, though he did manage to get the final out to secure the win and a save.
Game 1 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 1 Box Score in English
Lotte: Hideaki Wakui (5-11, 4.73 ERA) @ Seibu: Greg Reynolds (3-6, 5.50 ERA)
Let’s start with Wakui, because honestly his pitching performance was the heart of this win. The only flaw in his night – and that’s not hyperbole – was a 4th inning solo shot to PL HR leader Nakamura, this with Lotte sitting on a 4 run lead at the time. That’s it! His line on the evening:
8 innings, 3 hits (including the HR), 2 BB, 1 run, 9 Ks on 116 pitches.
That’s a 0.63 WHIP! The only other two hits for the Lions came in the bottom of the 9th when Ohtani took over. Watanabe and Asamura singled to lead off that inning but Ohtani didn’t come close to allowing a run to score.
On offense – no homer tonight for Despaigne, though he did beat out an infield hit for the first Chiba baserunner in the second inning, later scoring a run on a Gori double. Tamura singled right after, and Shohei reached on an Asamura error to score Imae. Seibu starter Reynolds walked Kakunaka to load the bases and Ishimine unloaded them with a single just past a diving Mejia at first. Ishimine got caught between first and second trying to sneak an extra base, and in the confusion Kakunaka tried to score but was tagged out. Doesn’t matter – that’s an early 4-0 Lotte lead!
The Okawari-kun dinger shrunk that lead to 4-1, but in the 5th inning Kakunaka worked Reynolds for a 1-out walk, and Ishimine again swung his clutchy bat, lacing a double to left and scoring a hustling Kakunaka from first. 5-1 Chiba.
Three more hits in the 6th off Reynolds just added more to the total. Nemoto doubled high off the right field fence, Imae singled, and young Tamura drove in Nemo to give us the final 6-1 score.
Interestingly enough Hamu lost again, so the insurmountable deficit has shrunk to a just-about-as-insurmountable 7 games. Did you know that if Our Marines had just taken 4 wins from the 10 games in a row they dropped to Hamu in July/August, they’d be in third right now. You did, huh?
The final game of the season at Seibu Dome is on Thursday with Goemon chasing that rookie of the year crown versus converted reliever Okamoto.
Game 2 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 2 Box Score in English
Lotte: Ayumu Ishikawa (7-6, 3.58 ERA) @ Seibu: Yosuke Okamoto (2-5, 3.65 ERA)
Here’s what Ishikawa’s line would look like if he had been removed at the end of the 7th:
7 IP, 5 hits, 7 Ks, 2 BB, 1 ER.
Very nice! Very very nice! I would think that if the situation were such that Ishikawa were sitting on a decent lead that Itoh would have gone to the pen at that point, but perhaps as the game was tied he felt Ishikawa needed to go as deep as possible.
Regardless, that plan SHOULD have gone out the window once the 8th inning started: Watanabe single, Asamura fly out (but only thanks to a hero catch by Ishimine), Okawari-kun walk. Perhaps working through this jam and getting that experience was the most important consideration, more than winning the game. Still, I would have sent up Masuda or Ohtani to face the terrifying Mejia (that’s not hindsight, either – I certainly thought so at the time).
Inexplicably, converted reliever Okamoto did a number on the Chiba bats, throwing 5 2/3 of three hit, no run ball. The first real scoring chance for Our Marines came in the 6th, as Katoh led off with a rare walk but was tossed trying to steal second. Right after, Ishimine singled (ahh) and Daichi reached on an Okamoto error. With two outs, Despaigne watched a brutal slider drop in the back door for a called strike three to end the threat.
Chiba would score a run in the 7th to tie the game, as Imae singled to score a streaking Hayasaka (PR for Cruz). Unfortunately that was it for the Chiba offense as not a single baserunner reached past that point.
The ‘good news’ is Hamu did not play so the deficit for 3rd is ‘only’ 7.5 games with 21 to go. The next 7 are at home versus the woeful Eagles and the slightly less woeful Lions, so if Our Marines do not win at least 5 of 7 there should be massive riots in the street, I should think.
Game 3 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 3 Box Score in English