Last we saw young Yuji Nishino at QVC Marine Field he was making Carp batters look foolish in a dominating 8 2/3, 12K performance. Tonight Nishino was up to old tricks – he completely shut down the offense of the visiting Tokyo Yakult Swallows and earned a well-deserved 4-0 victory. With the win and a Seibu loss, Our Marines are back to a 3 game lead in the PL race and are within 0.5 games of Rakuten for the interleague crown. Very nice.
For 6 out of the 7+ innings he pitched Nishino was damn near perfect. In fact, he WAS perfect for the first 4 1/3, not allowing a baserunner until Hatakeyama’s single in the 5th. An Iihara walk got Nishino in a bit of a spot right after Hatakeyama’s knock but there was never a feeling of a real rally developing, and in fact Nishino escaped unscathed via ground out to Nemo.
All the Lotte offense came in one gigantic lump in the 4th inning, but that explosion was all Nishino, Matsunaga, and Masuda would need to get through this game. In the 4th, Iguchi led off with a double down the left field line, and Imae immediately brought him home with a rocket off the left field foul pole. Instant 2-0 Lotte lead!
Our Marines weren’t done – T OGINO smashed a ball into the right field gap and never hesitated getting all the way to third. That’s why we love T OGINO – he’s always exciting. Daichi brought Ogino home on a single to center to make it 3-0 Lotte.
But wait – there’s MORE! Emura singled to right and Ishimine (starting in center) brought in Daichi to make it a 4-0 Lotte lead. Our Marines recorded a cycle as a team in this inning – 3 singles, the Iguchi double, T OGINO triple, and the Imae homer. Cool.
A Touch of Drama
Lotte had another chance in the 5th inning with bases loaded and two outs, but Emura grounded out to end it. The 5th featured an extremely rare beast – a Saburo infield single. I’m sure that’s happened before but not anytime I can remember.
Nishino’s pitch count was running a bit high – 114 after 7 – but he still came out to start the 8th. That’s because he hadn’t allowed another hit or walk since the two runners in the 5th, and who’s going to pull a young pitcher hurling a 1-hitter? But in the 8th it was clear he was tiring, as Nakamura, Hiyane, and Yamada singled with one out. In comes Matsunaga – last time he faced Tokyo a sayonara grand slam resulted (incidentally, those 4 runs are over half his total for the year on one swing. He’s had a very nice rookie campaign!). This time on a 2-2 pitch Matsunaga gets Miyamoto to ground into the inning-ending 1-2-3 double play. That’s a nice bit of payback.
There were a few nice defensive plays in this one. Of course I need to mention T OGINO some more, in this case well-deserved. In the third Iihara belted a deep ball to the wall – it looked like it would be the first hit off Nishino but Ogino made a violent catch at the fence to keep the slate clean. No Okada Index on that one. Okada made an appearance as a defensive sub for the last two innings (giving us the super speed outfield of T OGINO-Okada-Ishimine), actually.
Masuda closed it out as usual (even though it was a non-save situation) and Our Marines salvaged one win from the season series. Up next is two games in Hiroshima vs the Carp (only one in Zoom-Zoom, though). Wish I could go, gonna have to settle for Koshien next weekend instead.