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Start Me Up

LineOur Marines fell 5-3 to the Nippon-Ham Fighters in the rubber match of a 3 game set.  As the line score shows, the teams combined for 8 runs in the first 3 innings, only to combined for 5 hits and 0 runs for the remaining 6 innings.  Starting pitcher Fujioka lasted only 3 innings, shouldering responsibility for all 5 of the Fighters runs on the evening.

Let’s Talk Starting Pitching

Starting pitching depth looms over the Marines as the biggest question mark heading into the dog days of summer.  Let us not forget, last year’s Lotte club was also in first place at this point in the season.  A lack of pitching depth is what doomed us to finish in 5th place.

During an inter-league stretch that consisted of only 4-5 games a week, Itoh-Kantoku could rely mostly on a 4-man rotation.  For the rest of the year though, Itoh has 6 starting pitcher slots that need to be filled.  Tonight’s starter Fujioka settled in nicely to a role in the bullpen during inter-league play, riding an 8 2/3 inning scoreless streak heading into tonight’s game.  Though tonight, he did not adapt well back into a starter’s shoes.

Fujioka’s final line tonight was: 3IP, 5H, 2HR, 2K, 2BB, 1HBP, 5ER.  The first home run came way of a deep 2-run shot to left-center by Sho Nakata in the 1st inning.  Michel Abreu blasted an even deeper ball to the back of the left-center field stands for a solo-shot in the 3rd.  Fujioka’s high point of the night occurred while facing the top of the Fighters’ lineup, he escaped a bases-loaded 1-out 2nd inning jam by surrendering only one run.

A Near Miss

A 3-run bottom of the 3rd for Lotte breathed new life into tonight’s game.  Little did we know at the time, this would be the last of all run scoring for the night.  T.Ogino got the Marines on the board first.  His high fly ball to left with 1 out somehow just carried over the fence for a 2-run dinger, knocking in Daichi Suzuki who reached earlier on a HBP.  It was suddenly only 5-2 Nippon-Ham thanks to Ogino’s HR.  Nemoto kept things going with a sinking drive to center field.  Center Fielder Yoh couldn’t squeeze the ball into his glove amidst a sliding attempt, and Nemo reached second with a double.  After a Kakunaka fly out, the next batter Iguchi hit a routine grounder right at the third baseman Koyano.  Koyano booted the ball, and Iguchi would reach base safely on the error.

Imae grins, as he reaches second safely on a ball that almost gave Chiba a 6-3 lead.

Imae grins, as he reaches second safely on a ball that just missed being a go-ahead 3R HR.

Next, Imae came to the plate with 2 out and runners on the corners.  SMASH! A high hit ball to left…WAY BACK, WAY BACK….And off the top of the wall!  Nemo came in to score to cut the Fighters’ lead to 5-3.  Imae just missed a go-ahead 3 run home run.  The next batter Satozaki ended the inning by lining out to second base.  At the time, Imae’s near miss seemed like a bad break for sure.  But with 8 runs scored in the first 3 innings, the feeling was that there would be plenty more chances at the plate for both teams…

Or not

…Ya, that didn’t happen.  Lotte would go on to get only 2 more hits the rest of the night.  The Fighters narrowly edged them out with 3 hits of their own.  Once again, our bullpen did an exemplary job in long relief to keep us in a game.  Tonight unfortunately, it was all for the sake of preserving a save situation for the Fighters. Ito (3IP), Nakagoh (1 2/3 IP), Hattori (1/3 IP), and Matsunaga (1IP) combined for 6 innings of scoreless relief.

Our Mairnes did make it interesting, bringing the potential tying run to the plate in the 9th after an Ohmatsu 1-out single.  But the speedy pinch runner Ishimine would not advance past 1st, as Daichi Suzuki and pinch hitter Fukuura flied out and struck out respectively for the 2nd and 3rd outs.

The Fighters gain a game on us, and the rest of the PL picks up a half-a-game as a result of the loss. Our first place lead is now 1.5 games over SoftBank, 2 games over Rakuten.

Up next, Lotte will travel to Osaka for a 3 game set that starts tomorrow night.  Karakawa (4-4, 3.56 ERA) will face off against Orix’s Chihiro Kaneko (4-5, 2.53 ERA) in game 1.

Comments 7

  1. It’s hard to overstate how bad Fujioka looked last night. It was like batting practice. Itoh looked about 134x better.

    I’m also worrying about Iguchi. He hasn’t had a hit in the last three games and as we all know, he’s not exactly good in July + August. Has his summer holiday started already?

    We hit so many deep fly ball outs in this game! Actually, Saturday as well. Makes me wonder if they decided to use up the supply of last year’s balls…

  2. Hello!
    I was at this game (as a Fighters fan — you can see me in the bottom left of the “Pacific League Movies” video of the Ogino HR as it clears the fence. – also, I shot off the lone gold-colored “victory balloon” at the end — the left stands were pretty sparse last night)

    As a Philadelphian, I was happy to clap for Iguchi as he received loads of corporate swag for being the May MVP though! Best of luck to you guys in all of your non-Ham games through the rest of the year though!
    Chiba is always a fun stadium to visit (and I enjoy seeing the giant Koala inflate during the 7th inning stretch — maybe Yakult need a big jyoa bottle now?)

    1. Hey Kevin,

      Thanks for the support – we’re going to need it judging by the way things have been going lately.

      I actually was born not terribly far from Philly, BTW, and most of my extended family is still up that way.

    2. Hey man,

      Thanks for the comment, it’s always good to hear from fans of other PL teams. I’m an east coast guy myself, from Connecticut originally.

      Glad to hear you like coming to QVC. I’ve always wondered what the experience was like out in the left field stands, I’ve never tried it out.

      Let us know next time you’re in town for a game. Thanks for checking out the site.

  3. Thanks for your replies!
    I’m primarily a Swallows fan, but Ham are my PL team. I’m actually from a bit outside Philly too, on the Jersey side.

    Next time I come out to QVC, I’ll post a reply here, and maybe we can have a pre- or post-game kanpai (the left field is pretty decent there — of course, unlike in Jingu, the opposing fans can’t mingle. (Jingu has a central snack stand area between the left and right with no barriers).

    Of course, if there’s some day with no Marines game, you’re always welcome to join me at Jingu too. Are either of you thinking of going to the all-star game on July 20th?

    1. You can mingle in the middle snack stand at QVC, and of course on the picnic tables after the game. I think there’s no restrictions on the LF standing deck, either.

      Don’t know about ASG – not normally my thing but it’s baseball, right??

  4. Hey, thanks for the info (guess I didn’t explore QVC well enough!)
    I’m not a big fan of the US all-star game, but with only 12 teams here, generally shorter-distance traveling, and unique cheering, Japan’s one is pretty fun (if you think of it as basically a festival with some baseball in the background)

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