Series Preview: Fresh off the series win against Daiei at QVC, Our Marines take the Climax Series push roadshow to Sapporo, ready to fight and fight hard against the Fighters. Oh, they didn’t want this fight, believe me.
It’s the last trip to Sapporo this year for sure as Hamu is basically out of contention in the PL after a 6-13 month that has left them reeling. Meanwhile Chiba’s got a chip on their shoulder after dropping the close last game and squandering the chance to build a big cushion in the race for second. The lead is just one game with 12 to go – this is playoff ball, and we need another series win.
No excuses – just wins.
By Steve Novosel Now that was what we in the Chiba Lotte Marines blogging biz call 'A Satisfying Win'. Our much-maligned potential ace Fujioka took the hill in Sapporo and guided Our Marines to a richly deserved 4-3 win over Hamu. And you know what? Daiei dropped their game as well, so the lead for second place is back to a more comfortable two games with 11 to go.
Maybe you, dear reader, won’t find Fujioka’s line so compelling – 5 2/3 IP, 5 Hits, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 ER – but I do for one good reason: It was his first win as a starter since the glory days of May. Not only that, it’s the first decent back-to-back starts for young Fujioka1 in four months. Is it time he moves fully from the pen back to the rotation?
1 I should point out again that our three hopes for the future of the staff – Fujioka, Karakawa, and now Nishino – are 24, 24, and 22 years old. So we should probably hold off on being too over-analytical on the states of their careers at this time.
Fujioka-kun found himself in a bit of an early hole. Yoh Daikan singled to lead off the game, and a walk to Sugiya plus a sac bunt by Nishikawa put runners on second and third with just one out. Up was powerful cleanup hitter Abreu – he hit a relatively shallow pop to right but Yoh is rather stupidly fast so he scored despite Kakunaka’s throw home – 1-0 Hamu early.
But don’t worry! Fujioka would get into a spot of trouble later in the game leading to his relatively early exit, but that was it for the scoring allowed by him. Not bad.
Venerable Hamu starter Takeda was pretty solid himself early on, allowing only Kakunaka to reach base in the first three innings (and Kakunaka was erased on a strike out/throw out DP soon after). But that would change – Chiba bats would eventually get to Takeda for 10 hits and two walks, though mystifyingly skipper Kuriyama left him in the entire game, 130 pitches and all.
Score! Score! Score! Score!
You’ve seen the score, you know Our Marines came back to win it. How’d they do it? In the 5th, Daichi stroked a one out double, and Hosoya (starting at first, Iguchi played DH tonight) singled to put runners on second and third with one out. Just like the Fighters first inning, right? Right – right down to the sac fly to score a run, this one by Satozaki to tie it at 1-1. After a walk to Nemoto, Saburo pinch hit for Okada2, and he crushed a ball super deep, way off the top of the left field fence. That scored Hosoya easily – Lotte takes a 2-1 lead that they would not relinquish.
2 I will die a happy man if I never need repeat that phrase again.
The lead ran to 3-1 Chiba when Imae jumped on the third pitch from Takeda in the 6th and simply beefed it into the left field stands. Manly. What’s more manly is that Gori added yet another run by singling in the 8th with T OGINO and Iguchi sitting on the sacks – another nice game by Mr Playoffs.
Fujioka got into a jam in the bottom of the inning but Hattori pulled him out of it with an inning-saving pop out. Hamu did score two more runs – both on groundouts (one on Ueno, the other on Uchi in his second inning of work) but Good Ol Masuda (ahem, he’s still just a young pup at 23, too) closed out the 9th via K, a nifty snag of a Yoh liner, and an induced foul pop to end it. Nice win!
The next game is a Gambler’s Nightmare as it features Wolfe vs the mercurial Ohtani. Anything between a no-no and a 10-run first inning is in play, to be honest.
By Steve Novosel Tell me what you see when you see that score above. Do you see a blowout? Do you see a barn burner that went back and forth before getting out of hand? Yes? I'll tell you what I see, and what I saw - a game that got way, way out of hand early on before the B-squad ran it damn near all the way back. The late Lotte rally fell a bit short, and Hamu took game two of this series 10-7.
10 runs? Yuk! Why no Mr Yuk, then, Steve? I’ll tell you why – Our Marines had no business making this a close game, yet they did. Ohtani got the start as mentioned and he was pretty terrible as feared. It was said on the broadcast that with Fujioka’s good experience yesterday that Itoh-kantoku wanted to give Ohtani another chance to do well as a starter. I admire the sentiment, especially since we are in dire need of starting arms right now, but was this the game to experiment with such things?
I’m not going to beat on Ohtani-kun other than to say there was no point in this game that he gave any indication of being able to get guys out. I would have pulled him earlier than Itoh did – probably after the 3-run second inning that could have been worse. His final line for the evening – 3+ innings, 8 hits, 2 walks (including one with bases loaded) and a HBP. 6 ER. Yuk.
Ueno-kun took over for Ohtani in the third with the bases loaded and really was pretty poor himself – 4 more runs allowed in the inning, 2 of them earned. By the end of the 4th inning the recently anemic Hamu offense had racked up 10 runs in total for a huge 10-2 lead.
I’m not going to write it up in detail, but if you want to see one of the most comically inept sequences of baseball you’ll ever see, go look at the highlights of Sugiya’s bad attempt at sac bunting in the 4th and half the Chiba infield’s attempt at trying to field it. I can’t possibly describe it adequately without it becoming a novel.
Let’s Make It Interesting, Boys!
Hamu starter Wolfe was pretty decent through 3, but Lotte got to him for a pair in the fourth. Iguchi got painfully plunked (he would be pulled for Fukuura), Imae singled and the injured Kakunaka beat out an infield single to load the bases with no outs. A ground out by Saburo and a sac fly by Braz brought in two guys to tighten a 3-0 game to 3-2.
Then, nothing. Three innings of nada. The lineup changed drastically – Iguchi, Imae, Kakunaka, Saburo, Satozaki all out. It looked like both teams were content to finish up and go home. Nemoto struck out to start the 8th against Wolfe, but then suddenly – the hits started to come. First it was T OGINO with a single, then Fukuura, then Hosoya. Hmm, interesting. Wolfe stayed in to face Ishimine (I wondered at the time if Kuriyama-kantoku had a bullpen available or not! (Actually, I am still wondering)) – Ishimine double, Lotte down 10-4. Hmmm. THAT brought out a new pitcher, Inui. Single – Okada. 10-5. Ground out Braz – 10-6. Single Daichi – 10-7. HMMMMM indeed!
That brought up the bottom of the order, and that had gone Satozaki –> Emura a long time before. It’s a good chance for Emura to show what he can do – NOPE. Getting pulled for Kanazawa. I asked on Twitter for someone to explain Itoh’s love of Kanazawa to me, no response. Kanazawa is a marginally better hitter than Emura – we’re talking .190 v .175 here, folks – and a markedly worse catcher. Well, it’s done, what can he do? Three pitch K.
Still, 5 runs! Chance!
9th inning now, top of the order back up. A T OGINO walk and a Fukuura single (A modasho! For Fukuura! So nice.) brings the tying run to the plate in the form of Hosoya. Who would have thought after 4 that we’d have a chance to tie? But alas, this was not a fairy-tale ending tonight, Hosoya Kei K, Ishimine ground out, game, set.
The good news is Daiei lost so we keep the 2 game lead. The bad news is Seibu won, so they are just 1 behind the Hawks and 3 back of us with 10 to go. But the best news of all? Check out tomorrow’s starter.
By Steve Novosel Given that Daiei and Seibu both lost making our lead the same as yesterday, and given that we had only two hits as late as the 9th inning tonight, I suppose I shouldn't be as upset about tonight's 6-5 loss to Hamu as I am. But dammit, I AM! We had them, despite the lack of offense. But bad breaks and super bad defense allowed a 3-0 lead to slip away, and the playing-for-pride Fighters to take the series.
This whole game was odd, from the first to the end. Mostly the first, though. Starting pitcher and Boy Wonder Shohei Ohtani did everything wrong except give up a hit and beat up the ball girl to start the game. That included a HBP to T OGINO (hey!!), three walks including one with the bases loaded, and a passed ball (Yeah, I know that’s on the catcher. Don’t ruin my narrative, kay?) – all of it summed up to a 2-0 Lotte lead after one.
Our friend Nishino was back in action for the first time in weeks, and he looked MUCH better than last we saw. Though if I must be honest (I must! I must!) he was saved by some sick defense in the first. First was T OGINO making an incredible running diving sliding catch to rob a hit, then it was Okada’s turn to smash into the fence, and the third out was by Hosoya, making snagging a liner at third seem like child’s play.
There isn’t a whole lot to argue about with Nishino’s first five innings, actually – 1 hit, no runs, a walk and a HBP. I’d say he’s back.
But the 6th. Oh the 6th. In the Lotte half, good! A T OGINO single, second pilferation, and BRAZ timely single brought made it 3-0. The bottom half – well, this is why I was mad.
Yoh reached base first – he broke his bat on a grounder but the bat messed up Daichi’s fielding – safe. So unlucky. Then Sugiya bounces a ball to Nishino – just off his glove, just off Daichi’s glove, safe. Should be two outs. Naturally the next batter – fly ball Nishikawa for
out three out one, a sac fly, and a 3-1 game. Abreu grounded out on a little check swing to Fukuura (starting at first) – should have been a DP, but nobody covered second so just one out. A Koyano single brought in Sugiya – should have been no runs, but it’s 3-2.
Itoh’s had enough – he’s going to Ledezma in the pen. Fair enough, I suppose, though little of what happened before was Nishino’s fault. Ledezma gets Satoh to fly out to left, a fairly routine fly, it seems, but it’s Saburo out there and he’s not very good OH MY GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Not only is Saburo late to the ball, he tries to make a shoestring catch and the ball goes by. That’s about the 5th out of the inning but really, it’s a tie game and a “triple”. Ledezma gives up another walk and hit for good measure, and that nifty little 3-0 lead is a 4-3 deficit.
Rosa takes over in the 7th and just to make it even more challenging for us gives up a 2-run bomb to Abreu – 6-3 Hamu. Abreu really belted that one, BTW – that’s why he leads the PL in dingers.
Not only can Our Marines still not get a hit, they can’t even get on base. 9 in a row retired by Tanimoto, Masui, and Miyanishi brings it to the 9th – AKA Lotte’s last stand. But hey, they’re going to make a good one.
With one out, Daichi, Hosoya, and Kanazawa all single to load the bases off Fighters closer Takeda. THAT’S a big chance. In comes Imae as pinch hitter – he’s out of the lineup tonight while resting his injured leg. Takeda plunks him on the arm (he’s OK) – it’s a run in! Up next is T OGINO – sac fly, Hosoya in! 6-5 now. In comes Nemoto… ground out. Ahhh.
It was a frustrating, annoying game, and the loss plus the Rakuten win allowed them to seal the PL pennant. But since Daiei lost we still maintain the 2 game lead. I guess that’s all that’s really important right now.