The Pacific League race is really heating up! Just 1.5 games separates three teams, with Lotte leading the way. Yes, the race for 4th place and the losers’ bracket title is captivating all of Lotte land!
Our Marines might be out of contention, but all kidding aside, it’s been an entertaining September. Take away the three shutout losses and 29 inning scoreless steak – which in it of itself became compelling – and Our Marines are 5-1. Playing spoiler to the Hawks’ first place run this holiday weekend could add some more September gratification.
This month has also given us the opportunity to see the Lotte stars of tomorrow. We’ve been blessed with the chance to watch the likes of Katoh and Tamura in the lineup on a daily basis. Hopefully we can start saying the same for Aja Inoue, who got called back up to the top team last series. Ayumu Ishikawa also continues to ride the wave of his team leading rookie campaign in the rotation. Of course, we also got to witness another sayonara victory thanks to Lotte legend Fukuura.
There’s another Lotte legend that deserves the greatest honor this month however, with Satozaki announcing his retirement in a teary eyed press conference yesterday. We haven’t seen him on the field since May, but the do-no-wrong catcher deserves some sort of September swan song. Let’s hope his body has at least one final DH appearance in it, if anything on the final game of the season October 1st. Check back later this month for the WeLoveMarines Satozaki tribute post too. For now, CLICK HERE for the press conference video and translation from our friend Gen at Yakyubaka.
Lotte: Yoshihsa Naruse (8-9 4.50) @ SoftBank: Kenichi Nakata (10-5 3.84)
That home run gave SoftBank a 2-1 lead. Lotte had previously jumped out in front in the 1st inning for an early 1-0 lead. Katoh led off the game getting hit by a pitch in the ankle. He eventually found himself at 2nd with 2 outs and Despaigne at the plate. Despaigne muscled a hard hit grounder the opposite way, through the right side of the infield and into right. Katoh came around to score for Despaigne’s 20th RBI in 31 games.
Lotte came back to tie it in the 3rd thanks to back-to-back 2-out hits by Okada and Captain Daichi. Okada ripped a ground rule double off Yoshimura’s glove at 1st base and into the stands down the right field line. Daichi then drove Okada home on a 2-0 base hit to right field to tie it at 2-2.
All 5 total runs came in the first 4 innings on Saturday afternoon. The last run of the game was Lee Dae Ho’s go-ahead opposite field solo blast to lead off the 4th. The bottom 3 spots in the Lotte lineup were a combined 0-for-11 with a walk. The Marines pen of Carlos Rosa (2/3 IP), Fujioka (2/3 IP), and Yuta Ohmine (1 IP) combined to no hit the Hawks.
Lotte had a chance to tie it up in the 9th after an Imae lead off single and a Cruz check swing ground out found pinch runner Hayasaka at 2nd with 1 out versus Hawks closer Sarfate. Iguchi was in to pinch hit for Aja. Hayasaka stole 3rd without a throw on a 1-1 pitch, giving Iguchi a chance to tie the game with a just a long fly ball. Instead, Iguchi struck on swinging on a 2-2 pitch for out number 2. Fukuura came in to PH next for Tamura, but grounded out to short stop for the final out of the game.
Game 1 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 1 Box Score in English
Lotte: Yuki Karakawa (2-9, 5.40 ERA) @ SoftBank: Yuya Iida (2-4, 3.59 ERA)
Lotte led 1-0 in the 1st inning, with the score remaining as such until the conclusion. Daichi scored the run, getting aboard by ripping a 1-out single to right field. He was still at 1st base with 2 outs and clean up hitter Despaigne at the plate. Alfredo reached down for a 2-2 pitch and sent it deep to left. The ball landed about halfway up the wall and then bounced out of the reach of Uchikawa’s outstretched bare hand. Daichi raced around to score to make it 1-0 Lotte on the Despaigne double!
Despaigne would go on to have himself a day, 3-for-4 with 3 doubles. He hit a double to each field, going left/center/right in innings 1/7/9. He now has 21 RBI in 32 games, and if he had enough AB to qualify, a team leading .831 OPS. I could get used to that power in the heart of the lineup.The man who deserves the most credit today is Karakawa. Previously this year he had gone 8 shutout innings in a win versus the Hawks in July, and then 7 shutout innings in a win over SoftBank in August. We can add another 7 innings of shutout ball in today’s win to that record as well. He was the winning pitcher in 3 of SoftBank’s 6 shutout losses this year, with all 6 coming at the hands of the Marines. His other starts versus the Hawks this year….0-3, 6.59.
Back to today’s start though. Yuki scattered just 4 hits, but there was some trouble with a walk, HBP, and ROE accompanying 3 of those hits:
-A 1 hit 2nd inning was thwarted by a stike-em-out-thrown-em-out DP with Yanagita at the plate and Lee Dae Ho out at 2nd, on what I have to imagine was a blown hit and run.
-Karakawa then worked out of a runners on the corners jam in the 4th inning on a Yanagita force out to short.
-He had to contend with a lead off double and 1-out HBP in the 5th, but a blown bunt pop out by Makihara to Tamura and grounder back to the mound by Nakamura ended the threat.
-The biggest trouble of all was the 6th inning, when Imamiya reached on a Daichi error and Uchikawa followed with a base hit to start the inning. Karakawa cooly brushed it aside, got Lee Dae Ho to pop out foul on a nice play by Aja, struck out Yanagita, and ended the inning on a Matsuda pop foul to Tamura.
For some reason, Karakawa was pulled after a 1-2-3 7th and 83 pitches. Ohtani came in for the 8th, and thanks to 2 hits and a sac bunt, found himself having to escape a 1-out 2-on jam with Lee Dae Ho at the plate. Escape he did though, thanks to a line out double play to short on a hard hit ball off the cleanup man’s bat. Nishino allowed a 1-out hit in the 9th, but eventually closed the game out on a Yoshimura fly out to left. Our Marines led off the 7th, 8th, and 9th each with lead off doubles, but couldn’t produce an insurance run. Luckily, the bullpen did its job and held on for the win.
Game 2 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 2 Box Score in English
Lotte: Hideaki Wakui (6-11, 4.27 ERA) @ SoftBank: Jason Standridge (10-6, 3.12 ERA)
Despite that great result you see up above, it seemed for the longest time that this game would most be remembered for a lack of pushing runners across the plate. The early innings were full of promise, little of it fulfilled. Start with top 1: a lovely lead off double by Katoh Shohei is followed by a Captain Daichi single. Yes, a run would score – but off a double play. Nevertheless, a 1-0 Lotte lead after 1.
Over the next 4 innings Chiba bats would get on base 5 times off Daiei starter Standridge, but no more real scoring chances manifested. That would change in a hurry – fast forward to top 6. Kakunaka led off the inning with a single, then the immensely powerful Alfredo Despaigne unloaded on a hanging Standridge curve. He would say later that it was a “perfect strike” (as translated from Spanish to Japanese to you) – I don’t doubt that at all, I do doubt the structural integrity of the seat it hit in left. 3-0 Lotte after 6.
Notice I have yet to mention Wakui? My, was he quiet! Through 6 innings, this was our maligned FA signing’s line:
6 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 ER on 97 pitches.
So nice! At that point I tweeted the following:
Wakui in September so far: 22 IP, 22 K, 5 BB, 15 H, 1 ER. That's a 0.41 ERA and 0.91 WHIP.
— Steve@WeLoveMarines (@lovelovemarines) September 15, 2014
Superb. I’m being a bit weird about the timing of that stat line as as is expected, Itoh left him in a bit too long and a BB + HBP led to a charged run allowed by Matsunaga in the 7th. It doesn’t take away at all from the quality of his performance this afternoon nor from his work this month.
After that run made it a 3-1 game (the run is not worth mentioning in detail, it was just a bit unlucky), a bit more padding would be welcome. And padding, oh did it ever come in abundance in a big top 9 explosion.
A Shohei double kicked it off followed by an Iguchi PH + HBP (hey!!!). An Alfredo single loaded the bases, and after a Cruz pop out Imae worked a lovely walk off Iwasaki for the 4th run. Takahama PH for Aja (GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) and grounded into an inning-ending force out that was DROPPED by Akaishi! That left the bases loaded for Tamura, who calmly unloaded them with a tremendous double to the wall. Subarashii, as they say – a 5 run scoring festival, Hawks the guests of honor, and an insurmountable 8-1 lead.
A wonderful end to the season series with Daiei I must admit. They can’t feel to hot about getting taken to task these last two games by Our Marines. Good! Let’s hope they remember it next season.
Game 3 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 3 Box Score in English