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Rakuten @ Lotte, 9-11 May 2014

QVC Series Preview:

Wednesday’s win in Osaka halted a four game losing streak, pulling Our Marines back to a game below .500. Lotte followed a six game win streak that earned them a place in the top half of the PL standings by Lotte going 2-5 in their last seven games. We still occupy the third spot in the Pacific League even after the skid, as we prepare to host Rakuten for a three game weekend set at the Q.

Friday night’s series opener will showcase the front end of both rotations, with Naruse facing off versus Norimoto. Fujioka, fresh off his first win of 2014, should be slated for Saturday’s start. Rookie Ayumu Ishikawa hopes to redeem himself from last Sunday’s tough luck no decision in the series finale on Sunday.

Game 1 - Lotte LOSES 5-2 (Click to Expand)

Rakuten: Takahiro Norimoto (3-3 4.09) @ Lotte: Yoshihisa Naruse (3-2 3.15)

By: Craig Roberts An Andruw Jones three-run home run was the difference tonight with Rakuten taking the series opener 5-2. All three of Naruse's earned runs came on that one swing resulting in his third loss of the season, despite a decent seven inning 123 pitch showing. The Lotte offense left ten men on base, with Iguchi and Saburo driving in our only two runs.

Saburo's HR swing.

Saburo’s HR swing from marines.co.jp

The teams exchanged first inning errors and runs to start the game, with each team getting one apiece. In the top half of the inning, a Ginji pop up got caught up in the QVC wind. Nemoto back peddled into shallow center to meet the ball and appeared to be under it. The wind caused it to drift deeper into center though, and on the ball’s way down Nemo had to make a couple of frantic steps to reach for it. The pop up ended up landing between Nemo and an on-looking Ogino, with Nemo being charged with an error that put two men on base. Next up, an Andruw Jones sac fly brought in Okajima for the first run.

Next it was Lotte’s turn benefit from a first inning error. An Ogino single started the inning, with Daichi up next. Daichi’s attempt to sacrifice Ogino to second went even better than planned. Making his first defensive play as a Rakuten Eagle, first baseman John Bowker fielded the bunt and threw to Fujita covering first. Fujita dropped the seemingly routine throw, everyone was safe, and the second basemen was charged with an error. The crowd was just into the first la-la-la’s of “Iguchi Utte” when the next batter Iguchi reached down and sent a pitch over second base and into center. Ogino scores to tie it at 1. Two outs and a Saburo walk later, Ohmatsu grounded out to the pitcher with the bases loaded to end the inning.

A big 3 run jack by Andruw Jones came in the third to break the tie and make it 4-1. The HR was preceded by a questionable safe call on a Ginji ground ball to second. Nemoto hesitated as he fielded the ball, perhaps considering whether to attempt a tag on the runner from first. The delay gave Ginji enough time to make the play close enough for the umpire to call safe. Not a great defensive night for Nemo, with fellow middle infielder Cruz sitting on the bench. Hmm.

Saburo answered in the home half with a solo home run to pull us within two runs at 4-2. That would be the end of our offense though, as the homer was followed by 6 inning of scoreless ball for Our Marines. Rakuten tacked on another run when Nemo’s defensive replacement, Ryo Miki, couldn’t handle a ground ball in the 8th. A run scored on what probably should have been the third out, although Miki wasn’t charged with an error. The score stayed 5-2 as Falkenborg closed us out in the 9th for an Eagles victory.

Game Notes:

– Naruse’s final line: 7IP, 123P, 7H, 1HR, 5K, 2BB, HBP, 4R, 3ER.

– Uchi made his first appearance of the year, pitching the 8th in relief. He gave up one run on the Miki misplay. Minami added a scoreless 9th in relief.

– T. Ogino reached base three times (2H, BB) in the leadoff spot. He is 12 for his last 23. He’s scored at least one run in the last 6 consecutive games, scoring 9 times in total.

– Saburo is on a mini-tear himself, 5 for his last 7. He had a walk, a double, and the home run to notch his average up to .315.

Game 2 - Lotte WINS 4-1 (CLICK TO EXPAND)
Rakuten: Takahiro Shiomi (2-2 4.88) @ Lotte: Takahiro Fujioka (1-1 4.18)

By: Craig Roberts Saturday afternoon had a bit of everything for Marines fans to enjoy. Fujioka had his best start of the year. We had some timely hitting. The bullpen threw two shutout innings. There were even some nice defensive plays. Those are some winning ingredients, and a win is exactly what Our Marines cooked up Saturday afternoon.

 
Pitching & Defense:

Most Lotte fans were more than happy with Fujioka’s last two starts, 5 2/3 innings pitched with 1 and 0 earned runs respectively. Well, we got a 7 inning 1 run gem today on an efficient 99 pitches thrown. Not bad for a guy who started the year 7th on the starting pitching depth chart.

After a 1-2-3 first, innings 2 and 3 were a bit rocky. Luckily, Andruw Jones is too damn slow to even attempt to score from first on a two out double that reached the wall, keeping Rakuten off the board in the 2nd. The Eagles did get a run in the 3rd on a Nishida solo shot to left. Fujioka hit the next batter Fujita, but induced a Kaz Matsui 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. Beyond that, Fujioka scattered just two hits and a walk for the remainder of the day. We turned another 4-6-3 to end the 6th inning, and Fujioka finished his day with a trio of groundouts in a 3-up-3-down 7th inning.

Carlos Rosa sent the Eagles down in order in the 8th, and Nishino got around a walk by ending the game on a 3-6-3 Bowker double play in the 9th. The defense also played a part in the Fujioka winning effort. Ogino made a nice shoe string catch to end the first, and Luiz Cruz made a couple of fine plays at short.

Here’s a couple of Cruz clips:
CLICK HERE FOR CLIP 1
CLICK HERE FOR CLIP 2

 
At the Plate:

Our first run came in the second inning. Imae drew a two out walk, and Cruz brought him in with a timely double into left center. Cruz lined a 1-0 pitch into the gap, well past the diving left fielder Nakashima for the double. That made it 1-0 Lotte at the time.

Our biggest inning was a 2 run 5th, with all the production coming with two outs. Yoshida got things started with a hot shot to third that ate up Kaz Matsui on its way to left field. Ogino followed suit by sending a liner over the head of Matsui and down the line for a double. With two runners in scoring position Captain Daichi came to the plate. He sent an arching single over an outstretch Fujita at second base and into right. Bowker fielded it cleanly on the first hop and threw it home with his momentum headed in, but was no match for a speedy Ogino who scored standing up from second. The 2 runs broke a 1-1 tie to make it a 3-1 ballgame.

We had a 1 out bases loaded chance in the 6th and a 2 out bases loaded chance in the 8th, but only came away with one additional run. Nemoto was able to beat out a double play ball to convert the chance in the 6th. That scored our fourth run and gave us the final tally of 4-1 Marines.

 
Games Notes:

– Fujioka’s line: 7IP, 99P, 4H, 1HR, 2K, 2BB, HBP, 1ER.

– Ogino extended his runs scored steak to 7 games.

– Saburo and Yoshida each went 2-for-4 with 2 singles.

Game 3 - Lotte loses 12-2 (Click to Expand)

Rakuten: Wataru Karashima (2-3 1.96) @ Lotte: Ayumu Ishikawa (3-1 2.14)

By Steve Novosel There are many ways to judge the quality of a ball game, but by basically any standard - save one - this game was simply atrocious.

“What standard is that, Steve?” – I can hear you asking. It’s an important one – did T OGINO do a thing? And yes, yes he did a thing – a solo shot to left in the third. That trimmed the Lotte deficit to a mere 6-1 – again, in the third – and gave brief hope that a comeback could in the making.

Didn’t happen.

I lead with that tidbit because it’s quite literally the only thing this game had to recommend it. Oh sure, you could say that rookie Ishikawa threw the first 4 pitches of the game for strikes! Sure, you could say that, and it’d be true! He also gave up hits to the next 4 batters, punctuated by a 3-run shot by new Eagles player John Bowker.

No, I’m afraid the T OGINO homer is about it for this one. Ishikawa was simply shelled – no dodgy officiating this week. And he wasn’t alone – every arm that went to the hill for Our Marines just got beat up. I had hopes that the pitching could keep Rakuten under 10 runs – nope, they broke through that barrier in the 7th. OK OK – how about… let’s keep them under 20 hits? Nah, Shimauchi’s single up the middle in the 9th was the 20th Eagle hit.

And sadly for this crazy fan, it was some of my favorite pitchers getting lit up:

Ishikawa – 3+ IP, 7 ER, 10 H, 2 BB (and the HR)
Minami – 4 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 1 BB (and another HR)
Matsunaga – 0 ER in 1 IP, but gave up 2 hits.
UCHI – 2 ER on 4 hits (including, yes, a dinger)

Sad.

And outside the OGINO homer, a pair of Daichi hits, a pair of Imae hits, and a Cruz single (+ RBI via a ground out), the offense was totally impotent, too. Iguchi is slumping hard, as is Ohmatsu. Kiyota – brought up to ichi-gun last Wednesday, sent to ni-gun on Monday. Ishimine got in the game – GIDP.

Let’s be completely honest, shall we? All this tinkering with the lineup has ruined consistency. The 6 game win streak has now turned into 7 of 10 lost, 3 series in a row dropped. And yet the lineup looks nothing like what this team broke camp with – why? Clearly the tinkering is not only not working, but is quite counterproductive. The best power hitter on the roster has been in ni-gun for a month, the most exciting young outfielder has been there almost as long, and looking at that ni-gun roster, 4 of the top 5 batters in the Eastern League are Men of Lotte, yet they languish in Urawa.

If there’s going to be tinkering, bring up the young guys and let them play. Stick them in the lineup and let them get experience.

There’s only 2 more series to get this all figured out before interleague – the three game set at home vs Daiei this week and the weekend set in Sapporo. Somebody needs to come up with a coherent strategy to grow this team, and they need to implement that strategy now. I love this team and I love our players, but this directionless flailing about is pretty hard to watch.

Comments 1

  1. Thought I’d mention that I read that Itoh-kantoku said Ishikawa was tired. Pretty obvious that his condition was not good.

    I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see him skip his next start to get in some rest, though given this is NPB it’s probably more likely he’ll be given extra work instead.

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