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Rakuten @ Lotte, 11-13 April 2014

qvc_air Revenge is a dish best served cold…and windy. If there’s two things that are elicited by the mention of QVC Marine Field in April, they’re the cold and the wind. That makes this an appropriate time to welcome the 2013 Japan Series Champions, the Rakuten Eagles. You may recall that our 2013 campaign was halted in Sendai, in the Final Stage of the PLCS. Well, let’s give the Ma-kun-less defending champs a rude welcoming back to Chiba.

 

Game 1 (11 Apr 18:15) - Lotte Wins 4-3 (Click to Expand)

Rakuten: Takahiro Norimoto (2-0 2.25) @ Lotte: Yoshihisa Naruse (1-1 6.52)

By: Craig Roberts Naruse was the victor in tonight’s battle of aces, surviving a second inning in which both teams scored three runs. In the away half of the inning, Andruw Jones got the scoring started with an opposite field solo shot. Kevin Youkilis followed with a double, and with Youk on second, another former MLB’er Kazuo Matsui sent a deep drive to straight away center. The ball flew over the outstretched glove of a lunging Katoh and settled at the base of the wall. Katoh jumped back to his feet and raced over to retrieve it. This allowed Youkilis to score easily and for Matsui enough time to head for third. There was more trouble though as the cutoff man Cruz’s throw to third was low, skipping in the dirt and past Imae. Matsui heads for home and scores. 3-0 Eagles, 0 out...

Imae's HR

Imae’s HR

Naruse collected himself after that, giving Our Marines a chance to strike back in the home half. Norimoto had struck out the side in the first, but had no such success in the second. Imae got things started with a deeeeep fly to left, wrapping it around the pole, over the seats and off the back stadium wall1 to cut the lead to 3-1. Kakunaka came up next and hit grounder toward first. Kevin Youkilis slid on a knee toward second, scooped the ball, came back to his feet, and tossed it to Norimoto covering first. Kakunaka won the footrace to the bag -bang, bang, SAFE!- for an infield hit. Cruz followed looking to redeem himself for the earlier throwing error. He did exactly that with a drive into center. The center fielder Makida couldn’t get to his right quickly enough as the ball sailed past him on two hops to the wall. Kakunaka scores, 3-2 now. An Ohmatsu grounder advanced Cruz to third, but a Daichi fly to left wasn’t deep enough to send Cruz home. So with two outs, rookie catcher Yoshida delivered with a one hop single to right scoring Cruz. 3-3!!!

1At least that’s how it looked in person. It’s hard to tell from the game footage where it actually landed. As silly as it sounds – Imae absolutely crushed the ball in comparison to Jones’ home run – it felt like the solo shot was worth more than one run…at least to us beverage consuming fans in the stands. Liken it to a momentum swinging slam dunk in basketball. Make sense? No? OK.

The only other run came in the 5th. It all got started with super speedster Shohei Katoh’s one out infield single, a chopper over the pitcher’s head. Katoh dove head first to beat a throw that never came, as Kaz Matsui bobbled the ball as he moved from short toward first. Nemoto drew a full count walk to put two runners on. A hard Iguchi grounder forced Matsui to the ground at short, where he could only flip the ball upward to second for the force. There was no throw to first, creating a two out runners on the corners chance for Imae. Imae delivered AGAIN with the go-ahead and eventual winning RBI double. He did so on a liner over the third base bag. With the ball bounding down the left field line, Katoh came home. 4-3!!!

Aside from the 2nd inning, Naruse scattered four hits the rest of the night. Norimoto gave up 10 hits in 6 innings pitched. Lotte got caught taking a couple of aggressive chances on the base paths, as this limited the damage to only 4 runs. Naruse was eventually pulled after he threw ball four on his 120th pitch with an out on in the 8th, putting runners on first and second. Carlos Rosa came in and got a ground out and strikeout to end the chance for Rakuten. Nishino closed out the 9th inning to seal the victory for Our Marines!!!

Game Notes & Box Score:

– Lotte had 12 hits in the game. Batters three through six each contributed two apiece. Iguchi (two singles), Imae (HR & a single), Kakunaka (two singles & a walk), Cruz (a double, and thrown out at second on a questionable call for a single).

– Naruse’s line: 7 1/3 IP, 120P, 8H, 1HR, 3K, 2BB, 2ER (3R), for his second win of the year.

BOX SCORE FROM NPB ENGLISH

Game 2 (12 Apr 14:00) - Lotte Loses 17-10 (Click to Expand)
Rakuten: Takahiro Shiomi (1-1 4.50) @ Lotte: Yuki Karakawa (0-1 5.73)

By: Craig Roberts There’s not too much to say about this one. We got crushed, as losing by a touchdown would seem to suggest. All was good and happy in Lotte land, after a three run second inning gave us an early 3-0 lead. Then Rakuten answered in the top of the 3rd with, not 1, not 2, not 3…but 8 runs. The Eagles weren’t done for the afternoon, totaling 17 runs on 24 hits. We had a respectable day at the plate as well (10 runs on 15 hits), but most of the offense came after the Eagles lead peaked at 14-5.

A nice sunset at least.

A nice sunset at least.

Starting pitcher Karakawa was not good. He earned 7 of the 8 runs Rakuten scored in the 3rd, and was pulled with only one out. Rookie Yoshihara came in to relieve Karakawa, and gave up 4 earned runs of his own in 2 2/3.

Ok, all the negative stuff is out of the way. Let’s focus on some positives notes:

– Aja Inoue hit his first career dinger, a blast to center for the first run of the game.

– Chad Huffman, playing in his second game and first game since returning from ni-gun, got the start in LF and at hit in the leadoff spot. He had himself a day going 4 for 6, with 2 doubles, 2 RBI, and 3 runs scored.

– Nemoto got his first home run of the year, a two run shot in the 7th.

Over four hours of baseball, but that pretty much sums it all up. Not much drama today after that 3rd inning, unless you count a no out two runners 8th inning chance with the score at 14-9.

Game 3 (13 Apr 13:00) - Lotte Loses 3-0 (Click to Expand)
Rakuten: Wataru Karashima (1-0 0.73) @ Lotte: Ayumu Ishikawa (1-0 0.61)

By Steve Novosel I regret to inform you, dear Lotte fan, that the final clash of the Rakuten - Lotte series was not a particularly entertaining one, nor was it a Lotte win. That's how it goes, right?

There’s a lot of details about this game that are eerily similar to last week’s loss to Nishi at Orix. The pitchers themselves are quite similar – almost the same age, even – and their squelching of Lotte bats was almost the same. Our Marines could muster just four hits off young Karashima – a single by Aja, another by Iguchi, a double by Saburo, and one by Ryo Miki in his ichi-gun debut. None of them were in the same inning, and there were no walks to add to this total and get a chance going.

Nope, Karashima and closer Falkenborg did a fine job of giving their team a chance to win – unfortunately their team is not the one we root for.

So it was up to Ishikawa, fresh off his fabulous outing last Sunday. He was definitely not as sharp as last Sunday – 4 walks and 5 hits in 7 innings pitched – but most outings aren’t going to be as good as that one. The 5 hits were all kind of critical, though. The first was a jack off the bat of Jones to the Kiyota Seats in the 4th inning for an early 1-0 Rakuten lead.

The second and third runs had many factors – a gentle single by Koseki and a Hijirisawa HBP brought up Okajima, who lofted a high double off the left center fence to clear the bases and give us our final score of 3-0 Rakuten. We had a bit of discussion in the seats about the defensive play in center on that hit, as it seemed at least reasonably possible that Okada would make a play on it in center had he been playing (we called it an Okada 8 originally, but in my mind I think it was more like an Okada 6, meaning he was fairly likely to get to it). Who WAS in center? Kakunaka. Hmm. That’s…. interesting.

The other…. interesting move was replacing Ishikawa with…..
…..
…..
Karakawa? Maybe with Karakawa’s struggles a move to the pen is not a bad thing but I should mention he threw 67 pitches yesterday.

Regardless none of these odd roster moves caused the loss, it was just a fundamental lack of hitting in the face of good pitching, that’s all.

One thing that needs to be mentioned – Chad Huffman started his third game of the year, and while he did not contribute on offense he made a completely sick catch in right – catch it out below.

If the embed isn’t working, take a look at it here.


Next up is a road set with Seibu, the first game in Omiya (!) and the other two at Seibu Dump.

Comments 2

  1. Yesterday’s game falls into the “too ridiculous to take seriously” category. I thought it might be a good one after the early 3-0 lead but that 8 run second pretty much erased any chance at that.

    It’s interesting that Satozaki has been behind the plate for our worst pitching performances of the year. I don’t know if it’s telling, but it’s something to keep an eye on. And I see Emura was sent down for Kanazawa.

    Yoshihara’s had a couple of games where he’s looked great but he’s gotten killed 3 times in the past 2 weeks, so he’s been sent down.

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