Well, it’s official. Now two We Love Marines bloggers have waived the white flag on our 2014 post-season chances. Granted, I reached my conclusion after the first sweep at the hands of the Ham, writing my post-mortem on the August 1st.
There was a moment of “well…maybe…if…” during a 24 hour window after last Wednesday’s game. We had a chance to sweep Seibu in their home dome and pull within 6.5 games of an idle Hamu on Thursday night. Some _____(insert adjective here) managing and an Ernesto Mejia 8th inning home run later, and it’s up to 7.5 back with 21 games to go. Soon enough it’ll be magic number time.
Ok, enough negativity from me. I am a Boston guy so forgive me, but I did grow up going into “here comes another championshipless winter” mode every September. Back to Our Marines though, and our unconditional love. It’ll be interesting to see what surprises us await us in the last month of the season. For starters, let’s see if we can take something positive from this weekend’s home series versus the last place Eagles. The trend has been to give some young guys more playing time, so let’s hope that continues. Despaigne’s been back in the lineup too, it’s been a joy watching the Cuban newcomer come into his own and show off that power.
Rakuten: Takahiro Norimoto (11-8, 3.04) @ Lotte: Yuta Ohmine (1-3, 4.14)
Ohimine allowed 1 hit and 2 walks apiece in innings 1 and 3. Other that though, he allowed just one more base runner on the night, a 1-out 5th inning Okajima single that eventually led to a 6-3 line out double play. A solid win for Yuta for sure.
The Eagles were held without an extra base hit for the entire night. One of last year’s key players Matsunaga finished off the 7th inning despite allowing 2 hits, making his 2nd appearance in 2 games since missing almost all of August. Ohtani set things up with a scoreless 8th on 1 hit and a 5-3 line out double play1, and Nishino closed the door with a 1-2-3 9th on 5 pitches.
1Much to my delight, Andruw Jones was involved in both line out double plays.
Now the offense. A Tamura (2-for-4; single, triple, 1R, 1RBI) lead off single got the offense going in the 5th. Kakunaka was up with 1-out and pulled a ball high and deep into the right field stands for a 2-run HR tying the game 2-2.
Tamura was key in our go-ahead run in the following inning, this time driving it in. Cruz led off the inning 1st pitch swinging, bouncing a soft liner just fair deep down the left field line for a double. After a Nemoto bunt and Imae groundout, Tamura was up with 2 outs and Cruz on 3rd. Tamura took a 2-1 pitch the other way, lining it into right center and bounding it just through the gap and to the wall. Cruz scores, and Tamura to 3rd on the timely 2-out RBI triple making it 3-2 Lotte on the team’s 10th hit of the game.
Lotte got some insurance in the 8th inning. Despaigne increased his 1-for-4 streak to 3 games, suitably keeping his batting average at .250 for the 4th straight game.2 Alfredo was lifted for pinch runner Hayasaka, presumably to preserve this stat for my blogging convenience. Up next, Cruz crushed a no-doubt home run to left for his team leading3 15th home run making it 5-2 Marines!
2 Not to under-sell it, his OPS is at .857. If he qualified, that OPS would lead the qualifiers on the team.
3 Iguchi is the next closest at 10, with Imae (8), Despaigne (7), Daichi (6), Kakunaka (5) the only other players at 5 or more. Cruz’s 15 HR are especially good coming from a guy who provides MLB-caliber middle-infield defense on a nightly basis
Game 1 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 1 Box Score in English
Rakuten: Yasunori Kikuchi (2-0, 2.18 ERA) @ Lotte: Yoshihisa Naruse (8-8, 4.54 ERA)
Saturday’s loss featured the usual menu of the 2014 Lotte shortcomings. Yet another game with men LOB reaching the double digits. Our 13th shutout loss means we’ve been shutout in over 10% of the games so far this year. Once again, all it took was one rough inning from an otherwise brilliant start to put our Marines in a seemingly insurmountable hole.
Naruse was nearly perfect for in first 6 1/3 innings, allowing 0 hits, 1 walk, and striking out 5 on 65 pitches. The next 2/3 innings… 3 hits, 2 walks, 3 runs. Everything went downhill in the 7th after a 1 out Okajima double. Naruse allowed a 1 out walk to Jones, a 2 out walk to Shima, and then an RBI single to Masuda, and 2 run single to Nishida.
Karakawa pitched the 8th inning, allowing a run on 3 hits, as he vacillates between the pen and the rotation. Rosa struck out 2 in his first appearance in over a week, sending the bottom of the Rakuten lineup down 1-2-3.
Ten Marines reached base, but only half of those were hits. Tamura drew 3 walks in 3 plate appearances, with Nemoto and Daichi reaching by HPB. Imae had 3 of the 5 Lotte hits, 2 singles and a double. Katoh and Kakunaka each contributed a single for the other 2 Lotte hits. Of the 10 men left on base, 6 were stranded in scoring position.
Game 2 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 2 Box Score in English
Rakuten: Wataru Karashima (7-11 3.49 ERA) @ Lotte: Yuta Kimura (0-0, 5.67 ERA)
Karakawa replaced Kimura taking the hill for innings 5 through 8. Karakawa allowed a home run of his own to Masuda, an opposite field solo shot in the 7th which gave us the final score of 4-0.
Meanwhile, Karashima held Our Marines to 2 hits in 9 innings, a Daichi single in the 4th and a Katoh double in the 7th. Speaking of Katoh, he made a great catch to end the 5th inning. Not much more to add to that.
Game 3 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 3 Box Score in English