Here’s what you need to know about the pitching of Messrs. Abe, Fujioka, Rosa, Matsunaga, and Masuda: 9 IP, 6 hits, 3 walks, 4 Ks, one teeny tiny little run. In the first inning.
Yes, ladies and gents, Our Marines gave another stunning ensemble pitching performance – for the second night in a row throwing a wet, lead-filled blanket on the Chunichi bats and cruising to a victory. This one featured no come-from-behind heroics, just runs when they were needed and pitching all night long. When the last out was recorded, it was a nice 3-1 Lotte victory and the 4th win in a row. Outstanding.
Lotte jumped out in front really quickly. Yamai started for the Dragons for the first time in about a year, and with one out in the first Kakunaka said “Welcome Back!” to a 3-1 pitch and dropped it into the right field stands. Instant 1-0 Lotte lead.
Kazunari Abe started for Our Marines – his third of the year and his first since the unfortunate start against Hanshin a week ago. He got rid of Oshima and Ibata quickly to start the first but a deep double by Morino (starting at second??) and an RBI single by Luna tied the game at 1-1. Luna got thrown out between first and second after Morino scored – not that you would know since J Sports declined to show a single replay or decent camera angle of the play.
An aside – what was up with Chunichi fans? Morino’s double elicited only polite applause, not an excited roar. It seemed like Chunichi fans were really quiet all night, and I don’t just mean in comparison to Lotte fans. Odd.
Getting the Lead Back
Lotte had a golden chance again in the second with a T OGINO leadoff walk and rapid steal of second. Emura got Ogino to third with a 1-out single but Abe and Nemoto couldn’t bring him in.
In the top of the 4th, Kiyota chased a super high hanging curve from Yamai and blasted it into the Lotte fans in left! Tie no more, it’s a 2-1 Lotte lead!
That’s all that was needed. Abe went only 5 innings for some reason – his final line: 5 IP, 4 hits, 2 Ks, 2 walks, 1 earned run and only 60 pitches. Maybe it wasn’t a Quality Start but it was a quality start nonetheless.
Putting It Away
Fujioka (??!??) took over for the second night in a row and was sterling yet again – this time a 3 up, 3 down one inning in relief. Actually the Lotte pen was almost boringly good, there wasn’t any feeling that Chunichi was going to mount a charge. Credit for that goes to Emura behind the plate – he’s showing the ability to control a game behind the plate that is far superior to what you’d expect from a 21-year-old.
Our Marines weren’t quite done for the evening. In the 7th Daichi gapped another ball to the same spot as the night before, this time standing up at second with a double. Emura battled hard, first to bunt Daichi over and then swinging away, and with a full count he sacrificed Daichi over. Hosoya Kei in as the pinch hitter, and reliever Okada bounces the first pitch to Hosoya in the dirt and to the backstop. Daichi scores easily and the Lotte lead stretched to 3-1.
Really the only iffy point in the pitching staff was Masuda as closer. Of course, he was making his **17th appearance of the month** so I think he might be a wee bit tired. Masuda gave up a leadoff single to Ibata in the 9th and a long, long fly out to Morino before walking Luna on 4 pitches. Wada flied out to deep left and Tanishige to right to end it though.
With the win Our Marines move to 11 games above .500 and a tie for the best record in NPB. Wow! Only 0.5 games out of the interleague top spot, too. The first 12 interleague games are in the books – up next is a 4 game set at QVC against Gomiuri and Tokyo Yakult.