Do you realize the Chiba Lotte Marines have now played nine games in a row on the road? And not against cupcakes, either – against the 2008 champion Lions, the always strong Hawks, and now the Central League Champion Dragons. With Saturday’s 5-2 win over Chunichi in Game 1 of the 2010 Nippon Series, Our Marines are now 7-2 in those 9 games.
They are playing their best baseball under the brightest spotlight, in the most difficult places possible, and they are winning convincingly.
Game 1 brought the return of the King of all Chiba, Naruse, to start his 4th game of the postseason. He was not as sharp in this one as the previous three, but he was strong enough. The real heroes in this game: the offense, and the bullpen.
The offense: In the second inning Saburo reached on a defensive miscue by the Chunichi infield, and Ohmatsu drove him home with a huge double off the top of the wall in right. It missed going out by a few feet, at most. 1-0 Lotte – but Ohmatsu pulls up lame coming into second and leaves with an obvious hamstring pull.
In the Chunichi second, Naruse took on Wada. Wada is one of the few players I am genuinely terrified to see at the plate. He’s unassuming-looking to say the least, he looks more like the salarymen I ride to work with than a superstar pro player, but he always seems to be tearing the guts out of some team’s fanbase. Most recent victim: the Giants – Wada drove in the sayonara runs to win the Climax Series. He does it here, too – driving a ball to right that looked gone all the way, and, well, was. Tanishige followed up with another HR, which really surprised me as Naruse looked very good between Wada’s HR and Tanishige’s. 2-1 Chunichi.
The section I was in was 50 seats or so from the ‘official’ Lotte fan section, but it was at least 50% Lotte fans. It wasn’t the friendliest section to sit in, to tell you the truth, perhaps because the stakes were so high. Well, that and we Lotte fans insisted on standing during our at-bats and blocking the Chunichi fans. After the Wada HR, they did the same. So everytime Chunichi was at bat we got to watch the action by peering between fans, or under their arms, or what have you. They did have some, um, interesting fans in the outfield, though:
In the Lotte third the offense rose again. This time the attack was led by the ultra-super-hot Kiyota – he smashed a ball very deep, very very deep, right to center field and JUST over the fence! WOW! Where has all of this power come from? 3 HRs in the post season after only 2 all year – talk about Mr October! The offense wasn’t done, either – after Iguchi beat out an infield single and Saburo reached on a HBP, Imae lined a single to center to take the lead! 3-2 Lotte.
Maybe I am biased (“Maybe?!?!” I hear you say) but I felt that after this point of the game it felt that Lotte could not lose, that we imposed our will on the Dragons. We hit 7 more hits, and scored 2 more runs, but it felt like we COULD have scored so much more.
But we did score two more – one off of the bat of Tsuyoshi, who drove in Okada (replacing Ohamtsu). Okada, incidentally, reached on an infield single that was all blazing fast speed. The other run was a 7th inning HR by Iguchi that was a no-doubter. It came RIGHT at me, too, falling just a few rows short. I saw the video replays later as I thought i would be on TV, and I was – but you had to know where I was ahead of time.
The bullpen was hot – Yabuta, Uchi, Itoh, and Kobayashi combining for 4 IP, 5 Ks, and 2 hits (both off of Kobayashi, unfortunately).
More to come! But I will leave you with this video – I tried to shoot while singing the happy song after we won, but it’s a bit difficult to film, sing, bounce, and sway at the same time!