Our Marines hosted the Orix Buffaloes on Tuesday and Wednesday for a two game stint. Let’s start with the good news. Chiba jumped out to 3-0 leads in both games. The bad news? We blew both leads and would win neither game. Orix and Lotte played to a draw on Tuesday night, finishing tied 3-3. On Wednesday, the Buffaloes won 4-3.
Game 1 – 7/9
QVC Marine Field hosted a “Beer Stadium” on Tuesday night. There’s nothing like heavily discounted tickets and half price beers to put butts in the seats on a hot and humid July evening. It was also the Marines debut of newly acquired Craig Brazell.
Karakawa took the hill for Lotte bringing with him a 4-6 record and 4.54 ERA, going up again Orix’s Chihiro Kaneko. Tonight, Karakawa threw 7+ innings and was charged with 2 runs. Quite the serviceable start and hopefully a sign of good things to come for the Baby Faced Killer, but unfortunately it would result in a no decision.
Lotte jumped out early to a 1-0 lead thanks to a lead off homerun by Nemoto to start things off in the 1st inning. The Chiba bats came alive again for a 2-run 4th inning. Kakunaka got things started with a single up the middle. Iguchi drove him in with an RBI double (300th career 2B), going the opposite way with a gap shot to center-right. After a ground out by Imae, Craig Brazell came up 0-1 in his Lotte career. But in his second Marines AB, Craig clubbed a bounding ball up the middle for an RBI single. After Iguchi’s and Craig’s RBIs, it was 3-0 Marines.
Orix chipped away at the lead with runs in the 5th and the 8th to make it 3-2 heading into the 9th. Lotte was in position for it’s first win in July with the PL’s save leader Masuda in to close. Due to our horrific play as of late, Masuda hadn’t seen action in a week and a half. Perhaps the layoff caused some rust to form on Masuda’a right arm, as he blew the save, giving up the tying run to Shinji Takahashi. The score was now tied 3-3.
Lotte almost walked off in the bottom of the 9th. With the outfield playing shallow and a runner on, Okada sent a deep fly to left-center. Orix CF Goto made a tremendous sliding catch going toward the wall to rob Okada of a game winning hit. So, we went into extra innings instead.
The two teams combined for only 3 base runners in innings 10-12, with neither team putting up much of a threat. After over 4+ hours, Lotte and Orix finished tied at 3-3. Two-through-five hitters Kakunaka, Iguchi, Imae, and Brazell all had 2 hit performances. Karakawa pitched well too, but it still wasn’t enough for our first win in July.
Game 2 – 7/10
Furuya took the mound for his third start in a Lotte uniform, his second start against Orix. Two weeks ago Furuya threw 8 2/3 of no-hit ball in Osaka, blanking the Buffaloes in a 1-hit shutout. Things started rather similarly tonight, as Furuya added an additional 5 inning of shutout pitching, giving up only 1 hit.
Furuya would only get one more out after that. Things didn’t start well in the 6th, as Furuya was victim of a 2 base error by Kakunaka to lead off the inning. The error allowed the hitter Itoh to get three bases on a lead off single. The next hitter Adachi sac flied Itoh home to make it 3-1. Two singles and a walk later, Furuya was pulled, leaving the bases loaded with one out.
Before we get to how Lotte blew a 3-0 lead, let’s explain how they built the lead first. Chiba struck first in the 3rd inning by way of a Nemoto 1-out double down the right field line, followed by an Iguchi walk. Imae hit a base hit up the middle to knock in Nemo to make it 1-0.
The Marines added two more runs in the following inning. T. Ogino led off with a double to left field and would advance to third on a Daichi Suzuki sac bunt. Starting catcher Kanazawa1 scorched a single past first base to bring home Ogino. Okada added a hit to put runners on 1st and 2nd for Nemoto. Nemo grounded a potential double play ball to the SS, but the throw from second skipped past Orix 1B Lee Dae Ho. Kanazawa rounded third and came in to make it 3-0. Personally, I thought Nemo would have beat the throw to first anyway, but he was not credited with the RBI.
1Kanazawa later left the game with an injured knee after making a great sliding catch up against the dugout netting.
Now back to us blowing the lead. Let us recall Furuya left the game with the bases loaded and 1 out in a 3-1 ballgame in the 6th. Itoh-kantoku called on Ueno to hold the lead, facing off against Lotte-killer Lee Dae Ho. Lee Dae Ho crushed an Ueno pitch back to the mound, hit so hard that Ueno barely had time to react. The ball smashed off of Ueno’s throwing shoulder and ricocheted into shallow left field. The 2-RBI single tied the game a 3-3. Ueno was pulled immediately (hopefully suffering just a nasty bruise), and Itoh came in to get the last two outs of the 6th thanks to a T.Okada line out double play.
Orix took a 4-3 lead in the 8th thanks to an Itoi RBI single. Matsunaga gave up the two out hit, but Itoh was charged with the run and the loss. Lotte went down 1-2-3 in bottom half of the inning, going down in order for the third inning in a row. Daichi Suzuki drew a lead off walk in the 9th against Orix’s Hirano, but the Marines bats couldn’t advance him past first. Game over.
Where are we now?
Well, we are now 0-6-1 in July, still searching for that elusive first win of the month. We still sit 2.5 games back of first place Rakuten, and are holding on to the 2 spot by 1/2 game over Seibu. On the plus side, Craig Brazell looked good in his Lotte debut going 3-for-9 with an RBI and a couple of loud outs in the DH spot. In addition, our starting pitching at least put us in a position to win both games, something that hasn’t been said all month.