Eight games into the season and Our Marines are off to a solid start. Every game has been close so far – only last Saturday’s 0-4 loss was decided by greater than three runs, and that was tied 0-0 into the last inning. Obviously we shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves but we Lotte fans have just gotta be excited by a start to the season where so many newcomers are making a difference. I’ve thought our pitching would be the strength of the team this year, and if the bats can get hot like they did in 2010 it could be another fine year.
The heart of the first week hot start was quite clearly the influence of the newcomers to Makuhari. Rookies Fujioka (1st round), Nakaushiro (2nd), and Masuda (4th) all made the Ichi-gun roster. New foreign players (but NPB veterans) Whitesell and Greisinger have been plugged into key roles – DH and number 4 starter, respectively. In the first 8 games, all have produced very, very well.
In fact, the pitching staff as a group has thrown a quality start in 7 of the first 8 games, the only exception being Karakawa’s start on Saturday. Actually, that is where the term “quality start” becomes a misnomer. In that game Karakawa threw 8 scoreless, only allowing 3 baserunners before tiring and imploding in the 9th. If that is not a “quality start” – by common understanding, not technical definition – then I am not sure what is.
For my money, Nakaushiro’s debut was the most impressive. Game 2 in Sendai against Rakuten – Nakaushiro comes in in relief in the 8th inning, Lotte with a 5-3 lead. Carlos Rosa has started the inning but has gotten into a grade-A jam. It’s bases loaded and only one out. Nakaushiro not only has ton overcome his nerves in his first pro appearance, but he’s got to be nearly flawless. And nearly flawless he was – 2 up, 2 down, both Rakuten batters faced down in strikeout fashion. It was a scintillating debut and it was enough to pretty much seal the victory and get him the hero interview.
Right behind Nakaushiro’s debut are both starts from Greisinger – 15 innings combined, 15 strikeouts, 6 hits, 2 walks, absolutely no earned runs. Amazing. And rookie Masuda? He’s become the go-to man for middle relief. He’s appeared in 5 of 8 games: 4 innings total, 4 strikeouts, no walks, only 2 hits, and again absolutely no runs allowed.
Wow. And because of all these fantastic pitching contributions Lotte is 5-3 and in second place.
I don’t know about you, but I am really fired up by how this season is starting!