Today was the last home game of the season for Our Marines, and they made the most of it. Lotte batters bashed 15 hits and hung 10 runs on the “best pitching staff in NPB” en route to a decisive 10-4 victory and a 3-2 series lead. Since Nishimura-kantoku made a surprise move in starting Hayden Penn over the expected Naruse, Lotte now gets to start their ace in Game 6 in Nagoya on Saturday with a great opportunity to close out the series and win the title!
Penn pitched quite well for his part. He gave up a run in the top of the first off of a Wada sac fly (following a walk to Oshima and a Morino double) but really settled into a nice groove for the next few innings, staying in until giving up 3 hits and another run in the 6th. If you had told me ahead of time that Penn would start Game 5 and go into the 6th only yielding 2 runs I would have told you I’d take it, for sure.
The Lotte offense was the real star of the show tonight. Right from the bottom of the first inning the Lotte bats battered Chunichi starter Kenichi Nakata – usually a quality arm – and they didn’t let up until the game was way out of hand. The first inning featured 5 straight hits – Iguchi to Kim Tae Kyun – with an RBI double by Imae, an RBI single by Fukuura, and a 4th RBI provided by Kim. Not only did Our Marines swipe the run given in the top of the first but they tacked on 3 more for good measure!
In the fourth inning Nakata was still in. Tsuoyshi was camped on third with two outs, Saburo at the plate. On a two strike count he pounces on a fork ball from Nakata and smashes it into the Chunichi fans in left! It looked gone right off the bat and arced beautifully through the night like a little white victory rainbow. Lovely! 6-1 Lotte.
Nakata was STILL in for the fifth inning, which I find inexplicable. I seriously wonder if Ochiai-kantoku was even trying to win at this point! Nakata never seemed in command, and spent his entire 5 innings in trouble. This is great news for Lotte fans and must be troubling for Dragons fans. With one out, rat-a-tat-tat, just like that – Kim, Satozaki, and Okada knock out hits to load the bases. Tsuyoshi at the plate – bam! He drives one to center; it won’t drop in but it’ll score Kim easily and move Sato and Okada over to scoring position. Up next is Mr October/November – Kiyota. He’s had a string of meaningful hits these last few series, can he add another? YES! A single to center, two runs in, the game turned into a 9-1 laugher!
Chunichi would tag on three more runs thanks to the bat of Blanco (who has only hit well when games are blowouts, like this one and game 2) and Lotte would get one more via a weird passed ball. Heiuchi on third, the ball trickles past Tanishige but neither he nor anyone else seem to care. I care! So does Heiuchi – he races in for the score.
This game was Deadly Serious for me (so serious I Wrote It In Caps) so I vowed not to film or take pictures unless we were 10+ runs ahead or the game was almost over and we were comfortably ahead. Kobayashi finished the game in very uncomfortable fashion (as he could not find the plate) but still, we were up 6. So here’s a few videos I shot in the outfield late tonight!
Chiba Marine ni Tsudou Warera (with tons of towels!)
And the hero Banzai! for Penn and Imae.
It’s a bit sad to be the last game at the ol stadium this year, and next year the stadium will probably have a new name due to the sale of the naming rights. As we celebrated the great victory tonight and the impending championship sealing victory in Nagoya, the ouendan leaders asked who was going to Nagoya to raise their hands. I did, of course, and after that most of the fans around me came up and said “Cheer hard!” I must, and I will! We need to support our Men of Lotte to win the Nippon Series! Tonight was pure hot-blooded cheering and Saturday is going to be that, and more.