FUKUOKA – Chiba Lotte Marines manager Norifumi Nishimura has called a team meeting.
“Men, just last weekend we made grown men cry in Saitama. The team had big expectations this year. The fans believed lions – lions! When has anyone ever gotten the truth out of a lion? I digress.”
“Men, they will tell us that we cannot win this series against Daiei. They will point to The Hawks’ one game advantage to start the series, or the fact that all 6 games will be played in a retractable roof stadium with a roof that never, ever opens. They will point to Daiei’s 15-9 record against us this year. They will point out that they scored many more runs than us in head-to-head games. They will point out we were out-hit and out-pitched.”
“I say fooey!”
“Men, this Hawks team hasn’t played a game in almost 3 weeks. This a team that doesn’t score many runs late, has 4 great pitchers (Sugiuchi, Wada, Falkenborg, Mahara) and a whole lot of hittable ones. We outscored them by 70 runs this year. They only allowed 20 runs less.”
“Men, we have been playing PLAYOFF BASEBALL for weeks now. Before we played in the Climax Series First Stage we had to win damn near (oh, pardon my language!) ever game down the stretch just to get in the Climax Series. We know pressure. We’ve been fighting for our season for quite some time. It has made us strong.”
“People say we don’t have much of a chance. We played over half the season without our starting CF and our #2 starter. Our backup CF went down for the count in May. Our cleanup hitter hit 3 HRs total in the last three months of the season. Our starting catcher missed the last two months of the year. Our starting rotation had two converted relievers, a castoff from Yokohama, and a pitcher who wasn’t even on our roster as late as July.”
“We STILL only finished 2.5 games out of first in a league where every team but one was in the playoff hunt until the last week.”
“Men, we CAN do this!”
I can’t repeat this enough – what this team has accomplished this season with the holes in the roster and the adversity faced is remarkable. How many teams could manage to win 53% of their games like that? Now the team is getting a bit healthier. Look no further than last series – a healthy(ish) Satozaki at the bottom of the order basically won the series for us. I think Karakawa will be back this series – look how he has pitched this year when he’s been in the lineup. 11 appearances, 2.71 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, only three starts after coming back from injury – 2 ER and 3 wins total in those three starts. Could he give us the same sort of spark?
Sugiuchi has given us fits, historically. But last time we faced him we hung 9 ER on him – 9! – in Fukuoka, no less. Last time we faced Falkenborg – in Fukuoka – he faced three batters, all of whom recorded hits. They are not impossible to defeat. Look at Pythagorean expectation – how many games a team would be expected to win based on runs scored/runs allowed. That shows Lotte should have won 3-4 games more than we did, and the Hawks should have won a few games less than they did.
My entire point – all of it – is that we CAN win this. In 2005 Lotte faced the same situation: go to Fukuoka and win 4. The Marines did, and took home the Nippon Series title to boot. Why not this time?
My predicted rotation: Naruse has been announced for game 1. I think Watanabe will get the ball for game two (if Karakawa is not back) based on his experience, and Murphy in game 3. Yoshimi is likely for game 4 and Penn for game 5, with Naruse starting a game 6 (if it happens). Gen on Yakyu Baka posted an article that predicted Ohmine to get a start, but I’ll believe that when I see it. He’s more likely to come out the pen if needed.
Game 1 is tomorrow! The Marines are again having a viewing party at Chiba Marine but I am a bit sick so I will probably watch at home. I’ll be there on Friday to watch us win, though!