Here in late August it seems like Our Marines have developed some impeccable timing. The team has made a bit of an adjustment – offensively, defensively, and with the pitching – and the product on the field looks every bit as sweet as it did in April. Why “Six Inches”? Six inches to the left and Lotte sweeps Orix this weekend, and is on a 5-game winning streak.
Look at Iguchi – does this sound familiar? He’s on an 8-game hitting streak – 12 RBI including a grand slam this weekend. Need someone to get on in the 2-spot? How about Imae, who has had two games total in the past month where he hasn’t gotten a hit (and has scored 15 runs this month). Kiyota has been looking nice in the outfield. Yabuta is back looking like 2007 Yabuta (or: April Yabuta). Furuya has been rock-solid this month (no ER since the first). And thanks to the 11 wins since the 7-game losing streak ended, Lotte is now just 2 games out of first with 29 games to go.
Saturday’s game vs Orix – Our Marines were down 5-0 in the middle innings with Yoshimi on the hill. They needed a lift – Iguchi gave it in a big way with the aforementioned grand slam. Saburo tied it up with another blast in the next inning, and in the bottom of the 11th Ohmatsu ended it with Sayonara Smash to right – the second sayonara HR of the week for Lotte!
Sunday’s game vs Orix – almost a repeat as Kim Tae Kyun came to the plate with the bases loaded, two out, bottom of the 9th, Lotte down 5-3. He pounds one down the line, back to the warning track, all men on base sprinting around, but it’s ju-u-u-st barely foul. See for yourself – it looks like it’s on the line in the game highlights (about 3:30 in):
Anyway, that one didn’t end so well as Tae Kyun struck out on the next pitch. But close!
Tonight’s tighter-than-it-looked game against Seibu really, really could have gone either way. Bill Murphy got the start and really had his struggles early on, giving up 2 in the first two and getting out of bases-loaded trouble in both the 3rd and 4th thanks to He-Man defensive work by Tsuyoshi at short. Take a look:
I’ll be perfectly honest – it looked like this one would go the other way. All of the Seibu baserunners, Lotte missing some chances. Bottom of the 5th, Lotte loads up the bases against Seibu starter Hsu. Iguchi and Tae Kyun strike out. Fukuura gets a 2-strike count, then loads it up. He laces a liner right at Fernandez at first – but it’s off his glove and two men are in! Saburo cleans up the remnants with a cool blast to left, and Lotte goes from shaky to in control. More shades of the early part of the season. Murphy finishes strong through the 6th on a rather astounding 141 pitches, and the Marines add a few more in the late innings to run the final to 9-2.
The series continues on Wednesday with El Submarinero Shunsuke facing Ishii, and My Buddy Karakawa should get the start on Thursday. These next 5 games are absolutely critical – two more with Seibu and then 3 at Daiei. Lotte’s playing some great ball at the right time – let’s make our move now!