I was poking around the Marine Museum after the game to see what new goodies they had in the shop. There was some interesting new items in there, and a bunch of stuff on clearance, so I scooped up a bit, paid my yen, and wandered into the humid evening. Lotte had just dropped the first game of the 3 game home stand with the Fighters – a very important home stand, and the first of a stretch of games that I think is the most important stretch of the year. From today until the end of the month, Lotte has 13 of 19 games at Chiba Marine (and three of the others are in Tokyo Dome) so if the team is going to make a move, this is the time.
Tonight’s pitcher was the great Bill Murphy – he was shaky in the first but awesome after. Unfortunately the offense was far less than awesome so the Marines ended up losing 3-1. As I wander out of the Museum Shop, I stop to shove my goods into my backpack when the nearby gate opens and out comes Murphy and new starting pitcher Hayden Penn on bikes. Bill stops to sign some stuff for some kids as Hayden tools by. I wanted to chat with both so I say “Hey Hayden.” and he says hey but keeps on going. Oh well. I wait for Murphy to finish signing, he says hi and heads off. Too bad, I had some nice things to say, like:
“Hey Bill, sorry the offense only managed one run despite 13 baserunners.”
“Geez, Bill – that’s two games in a row the lack of clutch hits by our offense hurt you.”
So it goes, I suppose. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to actually chat with him before the end of the season. For the record, I’ve only had the chance to chat with a few players this year:
Karakawa Yuki (yay!) – (and of course Karakawa’s mom/dad/sister often)
Bryan Corey (a few times)
Ono Shingo (briefly, but I did take a picture with him)
Ohmatsu (briefly, but often and he’s quite friendly to me)
…and that’s about it. There’s still time in the season though.
But back to the baseball – tonight’s game was quite frustrating as there were plenty of prime chances to score. Lotte had 2 runners on 4 times without scoring. In the 4th, two one, one out, Ohmatsu at the plate. He smashes a line drive right at Fihters starter Keppel. Keppel dives out of the way, throwing his glove up instinctively… and snags the ball by chance. Flip to first as the runners were going, double play. 7th inning, two on, two out, 1 run game. Imae belts a line drive that would have scored both had it been anywhere but right at Hichori in left. Eek.
The 8th was the most frustrating. Keppel was tiring. He walked Fukuura (3-3 with a walk on the evening) and Kim Taekyun to start off the inning and is pulled for Miyanishi. Nishimura-Kantoku makes an absolute baffling move – he pulls Ohmatsu for pinch hitter Masato Watanabe (???), who promptly drops a lovely sac bunt (????!!!!). Why, why, why? I smack the chair in front of me in frustration. Saburo is up – he’s 2-3 at this point. He hits a grounder right back to Miyanishi, who looks over at Fukuura on third – oh no, he’s off third! Miyanishi fires over, Fukuura is out. Aono pinch hits for Nemoto (starting for Iguchi, and drove in the only run) and grounds out to end it. What a frustrating inning.
The troublesome parts about the last week and a half are a) losing 7 in a row, including the sweep at home vs Daiei and the road sweep at Sendai (We haven’t won since 2008 there! I was at the game last time we won at K-Stadium) b) the bullpen being completely awful, basically from top to bottom c) The offense just not delivering the timely hits. For example, Saturday Lotte won at Skymark vs Orix 4-0, but all runs were off of 2-run HRs despite getting 21 baserunners on base. 21!
The starting pitching has been very nice, though – Naruse had a great game on Friday, Yoshimi had by far the best game of his season on Saturday (a complete game shutout), and new starter Hayden Penn went 5 very strong innings on Monday.
There’s so much to be hopeful about – Naruse looks like he’s on another late season roll. Watanabe and Murphy look strong. Surely the timely hits will start dropping again soon. Ono Shingo is back in the lineup (he came strongly out of the pen tonight). Karakawa is also back from his broken hand and will start on Thursday. Ogino Takashi is due back… sometime. And despite the losing streak and the injuries, the team is a mere 3.5 games out of first. We’ll make our move – I am sure of it!