There’s just nine games left to go, all of which are at home, with the last full three game weekend set starting tonight. It’s still a tight race for the bottom three spots in the PL, with Rakuten and Seibu tied for fourth, and Our Marines a half game back in last. If for some strange reason you’re curious, that puts us nine games back of third. So technically we are not eliminated from the post-season just yet, but the magic number is three.
There are still a few good story lines to follow. Despaigne has been on a tear, now sporting a .967 OPS since joining the team, adding four doubles and two home runs in the last series. Aja Inoue, finally getting regular playing time in ichi-gun, was 4-for-9 with a home run in the last series too. The starting pitching has been pleasantly decent as well. Over the last eight games our starters have a 2.09 ERA.
Orix: Kazuki Kondo (0-0 1.69)@ Lotte: Yoshihisa Naruse (8-10 4.51)
A 1-out Cruz double one-hopped the wall in left-center to set up a scoring chance in the 2nd. Takahama, getting the start at 3rd, delivered pulling a one hopper of his own to the wall in right-center, scoring Cruz to make it 3-0 on the RBI triple.
Naruse allowed just 5 hits and a walk, striking out 4 in his 8 innings of 100 pitch work. Two of those hits came in the Orix 2 run 6th, the big one being an Itoi 2-out 2-run home run to right. Other than that, Naruse was quite superb retiring 7 straight following the HR to end his night. The middle infield defense was also solid throughout, turning a quick 1-6-3 double play to end the 2nd, and 4-6-3 double play featuring a nifty Cruz backhand flip and smooth Daichi transfer to end the 5th. Cruz also quite suavely made a tough grounder up the middle look routine for an out in the 8th.
Lotte added an insurance run in the 8th, thanks to 3 hits punctuated by a Kakunaka RBI single to left scoring Daichi. That’s 2 hits, 2 runs, and an RBI for Captain Daichi. Nishino closed the door in a 1-2-3 10 pitch 9th to seal the deal.
Game 1 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 1 Box Score in English
Orix: Daiki Tomei (5-7 3.70) @ Lotte: Yuki Karakawa (3-9 5.02)
Sandwiched between the two Lotte runs was an Orix 2 run top of the 4th. Itoi went deep on Karakawa for a lead off solo home run to right for the first run. Then, 2 base hits and a Shunta 2-out RBI double scored the second run of the inning.
Karakawa was charged with a 3rd run after being pulled with 2 outs in the 7th. He was pulled after giving up a 2-out hit to the lead off man Hirano, followed by a walk to the #2 batter Adachi. Matsunaga came in for Karakawa with the score tied at 2, facing Itoi with the 2 inherited runners on. Itoi delivered again with an RBI base hit to left to give Orix the lead at 3-2. Matsunaga was pulled after just the one batter, with Itoh-kantoku calling on Masuda to face dangerous Wily Mo Pena in a big spot. Masuda struck out Pena swinging on a 2-2 pitch to escape the inning, preventing any further damage with 2 men on.
Fast forward to the 9th, Our Marines still down 3-2. Orix closer Hirano, having a bit of a down year, was on the hill. Kakunaka took advantage with a lead off single, followed by a Ishimine pinch hit sac bunt. Cruz came back from a 1-2 count to a draw walk, then Hirano walked pinch hitter Fukuura on 4 pitches to load the bases with 1 out. Another pinch hitter enters, this time it’s Imae. Imae swings at the first pitch he sees, chopping it over 3rd base and into shallow left. Kakunaka scores to tie it at 3! Pinch runner Hayasaka rounds 3rd hoping to score the winning run, but… he’s out at home on an accurate Sakaguchi throw.
Two outs, still runners on 1st and 2nd for Okada. Okada, also first pitch swinging, fights ball off the opposite way slicing toward the line in left. Sakaguchi dives toward the line, but he can’t quite reach it. The ball bounces near (if not on) the line, the umpire signals fair, pinch runner Emura scores, and the Lotte bench pours out on to the field to greet Okada (photo above) at second! 4-3 SAYONARA VICTORY!!!
Game 2 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 2 Box Score in English
Orix: Brandon Dickson (9-10 3.53) @ Lotte: Hideaki Wakui (7-11 4.16)
The B’s and M’s traded runs in the 3rd and 4th innings, each scoring once in each inning. The first Lotte run came when Cruz scored on a wild pitch in the 3rd after previously getting on base with a double. A Kakunaka 0-out bases loaded sac fly scored a run in the 4th, with an Imae line out double play abruptly ending the inning.
For Orix, it was Itoi again that drove in the first run with an RBI single in the 3rd. A T-Okada solo shot in the 4th gave Orix their 2nd run.
The scored remained tied at 2 heading into the 8th. Wakui was pitching decently up until that point, giving up just 2 runs on 5 hits through 7 innings. Red flags began to show when he gave up back-to-back no out hits to start the inning. He struck out Wily Mo Pena for out 1, but then walked T-Okada to load the bases. Next came a German RBI base hit, giving Orix the 3-2 lead and chasing Wakui from the game.
Fujioka replaced Wakui inheriting the bases loaded. Orix took a 4-2 lead on the first batter Fujioka faced, trading an out for a run on a pinch hit Kawabata force out. Next came a walk to Shunta load the bases with 2 outs for pinch hitter Itoh. Itoh cleared the bases with a 3 run double to left-center, giving Orix the 7-2 lead.
Fujioka finished the inning and Kanamori pitched a scoreless 9th. Meanwhile, a combination of Orix starter Dickson and the B’s pen retired 13 of the last 14 Chiba bats to finish the game.
Game 3 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 3 Box Score in English