Less than two months ago, an unexpected start by Takuya Furuya resulted in a no-no near miss. Since then, Furuya has been a fixture in the rotation, easily the best pitcher for Our Marines since the resumption of Pacific League play. Tonight, Furuya pitched another gem vs PL leaders Tohoku Rakuten – 7 innings and 8 strikeouts – and the bullpen took it to the finish for a stirring 3-0 Lotte victory.
Great Pitching, Again
Furuya didn’t start all that hot, actually. He’s been the team leader in WHIP since coming back to ichi-gun in June, allowing fewer than 1 runner per inning. Tonight, Furuya got into several jams but managed to escape unscathed. In the second, Rakuten recorded two hits and a walk with one out to load the bases for young Shimauchi, but Furuya induced a double play to get out of the inning.
In the 5th, Furuya was in another tight spot. Leadoff singles by Shimauchi and Okajima were followed by a sac bunt from Fujita. One out – Ginji hits a grounder to Ohmatsu at first, and Ohmatsu caught Shimauchi trying to score; it’s a rundown and out two. That brought up Andruw Jones, who hit a very dangerous little liner up the middle that Furuya just got a glove on to get the final out and preserve the clean sheet.
That seemed to spark something in Furuya, for in the next two innings he was electric. 6 batters up for the Eagles in the 6th and 7th innings, 5 Ks for Furuya. He was putting the ball exactly where he wanted to, and Rakuten bats had little chance to succeed. His line for the night – 7IP, 6 hits, 2 BB, but most importantly 8Ks and not a single run. Good stuff. In fact, Furuya has only allowed 1 earned run in his last three starts – that’s 22 innings and 3 Lotte victories in that span.
Matsunaga came out of the pen in the 8th inning, and much like Furuya he was quite good. Three batters faced, two outs (including a strikeout) and a walk later, Carlos Rosa took over to get the last out of the 8th. And get it he did – a swinging strikeout of Casey McGehee.
For the 9th, Itoh gave Masuda a rest (correction: Itoh noticed Masuda has gotten hammered all year by Rakuten, sporting a 14+ ERA in 6 appearances, but the official reason was ‘He’s a little tired’) and brought in Uchi to close it out. Uchi gave up a 2-out single to Hijirisawa but otherwise struck out the side to get the save.
For those of you keeping track in your heads – that’s 10 punch-outs for Lotte pitchers in innings 6-9, 10 or 12 outs. Damn.
Hits When They Were Needed
Rakuten starter Tomura looked very good early on, holding Our Marines to 2 hits in the first 4 innings of the game. That would change in the 5th. With one out, Satozaki simply murdered a pitch to deep, deeep, deeeeeeep center, right off the top of the fence, literally as far as you can possibly hit a ball and still keep it in the park. Not a homer, but a nice double. Takahama grounded out to move Satozaki to third and make it two outs, bringing up (ahhh) T OGINO.
Of course you know how this goes – T OGINO gaps one to left bringing in Sato for the first run of the game! He’s on second, red hot Okada is up, red hot Okada is dropping a blooper over second and into center! T OGINO scores and it’s a 2-0 Lotte lead! Kakunaka actually doubles after this to move Okada to third but Imae lined out on a bad pitch to end the inning.
Fast forward to the 8th, still a 2-0 game. Kakunaka leads off with his second double of the game, and Imae singles to park runners on the corners with nobody out. Kaneto’s in to pitch for Rakuten, he’s trying to keep Imae on first. He lobs a half-hearted pick-off to Ginji at first, Ginji flat-out drops it. It rolls just 15 or so feet away from Ginji but an alert Kakunaka is racing home, scoring easily to make it a 3-0 game – the final score.
That broke the winning streak the Eagles had going against us – all 5 games in July ended up as Lotte losses. Well, this is August and turnabout is fair play as they say, so let’s see if Our Marines can sweep Rakuten this month! Game 2 is on Wednesday; it’s Greisinger v Mima.