Orix @ Lotte, 22-23 April 2014

qvc_air Going 1-1-1 vs Daiei over the weekend is a damn sight better than the first series of the season, but it’s hardly ideal. Small steps. Now it’s Orix’s turn to come to frigid QVC, this time for a 2 game set.

Wakui gets the nod in game 1, fresh off his nice work in Omiya last week. It’ll be Furuya and Igawa in game 2.

 

Game 1 - Lotte Loses 6-1 (Click to Expand)

SoftBank: Yuki Nishi (3-0 0.00 ERA) @ Lotte: Hideaki Wakui (1-2 4.34)

By Steve Novosel I gotta be blunt, this was easily the most boring game of the year so far as basically everything interesting that happened very early on in this one. And honestly, even that wasn't very interesting as Our Marines dropped Game 1 by a 6-1 score.

The task for the evening was a difficult one, score on young Yuki Nishi and break through the strong Orix pitching staff. Coming into this game, Nishi had yet to give up a run all year, sporting a perfect 0.00 ERA after three starts (including a complete game shutout of Chiba just 2 weeks ago). A steady rain would make things interesting – OR WOULD IT?

It didn’t take long for that scoreless streak to end as Ishimine led off the bottom of the first with a double to right center, and Nemoto immediately drove him in to make it a quick 1-0 Lotte lead. Iguchi drew a no-out walk to put men on first and second, bringing up Ohmatsu to get some more runs for the home fans –

..no. I can’t lead you on like that. Out out out, that’s what came next. With the exception of a Yoshida single in the second and a Nemoto single in the 7th, it was out out out out out all night. Nishi was up to his usual baffling tricks, eventually going the distance on 129 pitches, striking out 7 and giving up – well, you just read the total sum of what he gave up. Suffice it to say, he’s on fire.

But what of Wakui? He looked GREAT… early on. First five Orix batters up, right back down again. Then things just got weird. With two outs in the second, Wakui lost Sakaguchi on 4 pitches, and when Gooch tried to steal second Yoshida winged the ball into center. Next batter Hara – walked on 5 pitches. Kawabata? Got him to a 3-2 count before losing him. Bases loaded, gotta be careful, Itoh up. Wakui gets Itoh to a 2-2 count before Itoh drops a cheap little single up the middle to score 2 and make it 2-1. Then comes German, Wakui gets him to a two-strike count – double. 4-1. Then Hirano? Single. That’s a 5-1 game, folks.

Just as mysteriously as the cloud named “shaky Wakui” drifted across the infield, it was gone. Wakui was perfect for the next 4 innings, gave up another three hits and a fairly cheap run, but honestly looked very nice all the way through the 8th inning. I sure wish I knew where that “shaky Wakui” cloud came from and how it can be kept off the field.

This team is a mystery. The saga continues tomorrow night.

Game 2 - Lotte WINS 3-1 (Click to Expand)

SoftBank: Kei Igawa (1-1, 4.40 ERA) @ Lotte: Takuya Furuya (2-1, 3.00 ERA)

By Steve Novosel Before the game, the team billed starter Takuya Furuya 'Orix Killer' for his strong of great performances versus the Buffs. This game was no exception as Furuya kept Orix batters off balance all night en route to an exciting 3-1 victory.

from marines.co.jp

from marines.co.jp

Things were not so exciting for the Orix bats early in this one. In the first inning Furuya struck out the side, German and Hirano swinging, and Itoi looking. In fact it would be not until the 12th batter that the Buffaloes would put a man on base, and in that time Furuya would mow down 6 via the punchout. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Our Marines struck first in the bottom of the second, in what was one of the most bizarre sequences I’ve seen in a game. Saburo singled to lead off the frame, and Kakunaka followed with one of his own. That brought up Cruz, who hit an absolute rocket to dead center. Both men on the sacks were running, but Sakaguchi tracked it down at the fence. It looked like Kakunaka would be doubled off at first, but the throw from Adachi hit Kakunaka in the head and skipped past first. That sent Saburo and Kakunaka running again, and when catcher Itoh tracked down the errant throw he whipped it to third to try to nail Saburo…. and right past German into left field! Saburo AND Kakunaka raced around to score, with Kakunaka collapsing at the plate with a “WTF was THAT?” look on his face. No offense to Orix fans, but that was pretty much the Best Play Ever, and it resulted in a 2-error, 2-0 Lotte lead.

Whew!

The middle innings were less eventful (it would be hard to be MORE eventful, for sure) a double by Cruz in the 4th and another by Satozaki in the 5th would result in no more runs, and though Orix finally got a pair of hits (both singles) off of Furuya in the 4th and 5th, there were no real scoring chances. In the 6th, though, Orix got quite lucky with the locations of a pair of weakly hit balls – the first by Itoh to very shallow center, and the second a hit by German ju-u-u-st past Miki’s glove at third, that German stretched into a double when Saburo held the ball for no reason. Furuya battled hard to keep runs from scoring, but Itoh did score on an Itoi groundout to make it 2-1 Chiba.

Lotte Lucky 7 time: Cochito Cruz led off with his second double of the game, and his third hard hit ball1. AJA grounded out to send Cruz to third, and Satozaki brought him in with a single to center to stretch the lead to 3-1.

1Let’s talk about the play of Cruz. With those pair of doubles he now leads the PL with 8 on the season and is second only to Hanshin’s Mauro Gomez for the NPB lead. In this game he made several GREAT defensive plays both with the leather and with his arm. I’m really liking his contributions to the team so far this year.

In the late innings Okada and rookie Miki also made some very nifty snags of difficult balls to keep Orix in check. Carlos Rosa took over for Furuya and delivered a 7 pitch perfect 8th frame, and new closer Nishino was his usual awesome self in getting the save.

That’s the end of this series – up next is a 6 game road series at Sapporo and Sendai. The Fighters have cooled down considerably from their hot start, and Rakuten is not playing well either as of late. Perhaps we can see the blooming of spring leading to another late-April/early-May winning streak like last year.

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