Series Preview: Suffice it to say that the previous series with Rakuten could not have gone any better for Lotte. Not only did the series sweep push the guys closer to Hamu in 3rd place, but the gap over Rakuten has widened so much that it’s unlikely they will escape the PL cellar this year, let alone challenge for a Climax Series spot. Schadenfreude? Sure. That’s how it goes.
The view needs to be forward, though – all hope seemed gone a week ago but with the 5 game win streak and the concurrent Hamu slump Our Marines have a real fighting chance for 3rd, just 3.5 games back with 45 games to go. Compared to scoring 6 in the bottom of the 9th to win a game, that’s nothing. But rivals Seibu still have design on that same spot – time to quash their dreams and move even closer to A-Class land.
Due to the typhoon approaching Honshu there’s a good chance that either Saturday or Sunday’s games (possibly both) will be cancelled due to weather, though.
Seibu: Ryoma Nogami (4-7, 5.53 ERA) @ Lotte: Takahiro Fujioka (6-6, 4.11 ERA)
Fujioka got himself into a big jam in the very first inning, though it wasn’t all his fault. A one-out error by Shota at third led to a walk and timely singles by Ernesto Mejia and Asamura – 2-0 Seibu after one. Two more baserunners in the second caused no harm to the cause, but in the third a leadoff double by Okawari-kun was followed by a deep shot by Mejia – 4-0 after 2.5 innings.
Unlike Fujioka’s last start in Kyocera, Itoh wisely went to the pen for the 4th inning, and while Kimura wasn’t so hot either he did manage to keep the Lions from plating any more runners.
Fujioka’s counterpart was the slumping Nogami, but for innings 1-5 Nogami really kept the Chiba bats in check, scattering just 4 hits with no walks and no runs – quite un-Nogami-like for this year. He couldn’t keep that good pitching going, fortunately, and in the 6th inning the Lotte bats came alive. Daichi singled to lead off the frame, and after Kakunaka drew a 1-out walk Despaigne singled up the middle for the first Lotte run. Saburo singled to right to score Kakunaka and draw the score even closer – that was the end of Nogami’s night, in came old friend Hiro Kobayashi. So weird to see him at his former home but wearing Seibu colors!
Kobahiro gunned down Fukuura for out two, but Cochito Cruz smashed an 0-1 slider into the Imae spot in deep left center – another great comeback and a 5-4 Lotte lead!
Fast forward to the 8th inning. Masuda made quick work of the last two outs of the 7th inning so Itoh left him in for the 8th. Good call. But it was very, very clear that Masuda was in trouble in that 8th inning, yet Itoh stuck with him for way longer than was prudent. How long? 5 hits, 5 ER long. YIKES. Now it’s true that both the tying run and the go-ahead run were quite unlucky – the first a bouncer off the plate that nobody could get to (could have been an inning-ending DP with better luck), and the go-ahead run was equally unlucky – a liner off third base that caromed into left field. But still Masuda stayed in, an Asamura double and Akiyama single followed along with three more runs, and suddenly that 5-4 lead was inverted to a 9-5 deficit.
After the damage was done, Itoh-kantoku went to the pen but it was far too late. The Chiba bats could not mount another comeback (in fact went down in order in both the 8th and 9th), the streak over.
Fortunately Hamu also lost so the deficit is still 3.5 games, but it was a golden opportunity missed. Wakui gets the ball tomorrow to try to duplicate his magic from last Saturday (typhoon willing).
Game 1 digest from Pacific League TV
Game 1 Box Score in English
Seibu: Greg Reynolds (2-5, 4.17 ERA) @ Lotte: Hideaki Wakui (4-9, 4.53 ERA)
Our Marines nearly made it 4-3 in the home half of the inning, when Daichi just missed a home run to right field. The ball landed high off the wall for a double, easily scoring Cruz from 3rd. With one out though, Imae was unable to score from 2nd, only advancing 1 base to 3rd on the high fly ball. Katoh and Kakunaka were unable to deliver with two runners in scoring position, so the score remained at 4-1 after 5.
Ueno came in to pitch in relief of Wakui, and got out of a 2-out 2-on jam in the 6th on a nice play by Tamura. He did not fare so well in the 7th, giving up a 2 run blast to Nakamura to make it 6-1 Lions. After a Mejia single and Asamura double, Ueno was pulled for last night’s starter Fujioka. Ok, go with yesterday’s starter in mop-up duty, I get that. An Akiyama sac fly to center scored Mejia, then Fujioka got the final out to finish the inning at 7-1. Fujioka then threw a scoreless 8th to keep the lead at 6 runs.
Our Marines made it interesting in the 8th, nearly coming back to tie the game. Okada led off with a base hit to center to get things going. Kakunaka was HBP, and Despaigne followed with a base hit to load the bases with 0 out. Saburo sent a fly ball deep enough into the RF corner to score Okada on a sac fly to make it 7-2. Takahama came up next to PH for Iguchi and sent an opposite field liner to left. The LF Kuriyama attempted a diving catch on the liner, but the ball flew past him and to the wall. Takahama slides head first into 3rd with a bases clearing triple! 7-4 now!
Seibu finally goes to the pen, Okamoto replacing starter Reynolds. After a Cruz pop out for out number 2, Imae delivered a base hit to center. Takahama in, 7-5! Up next is PH Fukuura to bat for Tamura. Fukuura, not exactly known for his speed, hustles down the line and beats out a throw from 2nd base on a weak grounder for an infield single! Wow! The replay showed he wasn’t exactly safe, but we’ll take it. The inning continues with the go ahead run at the plate in the form of lead off man Captain Daichi to face new pitcher Takahashi. Daichi made decent contact, but ultimately flew out to center to end the inning.
Suddenly, we had a game on our hands. I can understand bringing Fujioka in to do mop-up duty earlier in the game. Now that we find ourselves in a 2 run game in the 9th, maybe it’s time to pull YESTERDAY’S starting pitcher. Nope. Fujioka stays in. After the first out, the Lions got a double, walk, and RBI single off Fujioka. It’s 8-5 now, but after all we had just been through, it feels like we’re down 6 runs again.
Itoh finally goes to the pen for Kanamori. 8 hits and 8 runs later, it’s 16-5. So much for the late comeback. Fighters lost today as well, so even though we didn’t lose any ground, we also have missed 2 straight chances to pull closer from 3.5 games back.
Game 2 digest from Pacific League TV
Game 2 Box Score in English
Seibu: Ryohei Fujiwara (2-5, 4.23 ERA) @ Lotte: Yoshihisa Naruse (6-6, 5.04 ERA)
Our Marines got the scoring started in the first inning. Captain Daichi led off with a base hit, and advanced on two successive grounders by Okada and Kakunaka. Clean up man Desapigne drove him home on a ground ball base hit past the SS to give Lotte the early 1-0 lead.Lotte struck again in the 3rd with a 3 run inning. Captain Daichi once again got things going drawing a lead off walk. Okada hit into a force out, but beat out the double play to keep a runner at first. Kakunaka was up next and drove a ball off the wall in right for a double. Two men in scoring position and one out for Despaigne. Alfredo struck out swinging on a ball way outside. The ball was so far outside it deflected off Sumitani’s glove and to the back stop. Okada comes home to score, Kakunaka to 3rd, and Desapigne takes the open first base. 2-0 Lotte. Up next, Fukuura lined a ball over the right side of the infield and into right. Kakunaka scores, 3-0 Marines.
The Lions went to the pen after that, with Takekuma into face Cruz. There was still only 1 out and 2 men aboard. Cruz swung at the 2nd pitch he saw, producing a hard hit grounder through the hole between the SS and a diving 3rd baseman Asamura. Despaigne rounds 3rd, hustles home and slides in safe from 2nd base to make it 4-0 Chiba.
Meanwhile, the Lions had yet to get a base runner1 off Naruse until a Wantanabe base hit in the 4th inning. They finally got on the board with their 2nd hit of the game, a lead off line drive home run by Mejia in the 5th. That dude has 5 home runs against us in 9 games. We only have 3 players with 5 or more home runs on the entire season. The Lions got another run in the 5th after a 2 out Sumitani double and RBI single by Kumashiro. Still 4-2 Lotte after 5.
1 Thanks in part to two nice catches in center by Okada.
Naruse sent Seibu down in order in the 6th, and came out with 2 outs and a runner at 1st in the 7th. Masuda finished the inning in relief on a Sumitani strike out to finalize Naruse’s line at: 6 2/3 IP, 91P, 5H, 1HR, 6K, 0BB, 2 ER.
Ohtani in to pitch the 8th. He allowed a 2-out walk, but nothing more to keep the score at 4-2. So we headed to the 9th, where things got a little interesting. Nishino was in to close, and allowed a lead off HR to Nakamura to make it 1 run game at 4-3. Uh-oh, Mejia is up next as the tying run. Not to worry though, Nishino struck him out swinging! Up next, Asamura, strike out looking! 2-outs.
Then, the heavens opened and the rain came in. It had been windy all game with typhoon 11 lingering to the west of us, but now we had the driving rain to deal with as well. Nishino walks Akiyama on 5 pitches. Tying run at 1st, go ahead run at the plate. Saito in the PH for Sumitani. Rain pouring down, Nishino throws a 0-2 pitch in the dirt. Tamura pops up, fires to 1st base…Fukuura sweeps and applies the tag…Akiyama picked off! Game over! Lotte wins! Naruse and Despaigne are the heroes. See Alfredo’s first Marines hero interview below.
Game 3 digest from Pacific League TV
Hero Interview with Naruse and Despaigne
Game 3 Box Score in English
Not only did we avoid the sweep, but SoftBank won, completing their sweep of the Fighters. Thanks to a 6-2 run, we’ve made up 5.5 games in 9 days! We are now 2.5 games out of 3rd place and a Climax Series spot.