The second game of the final Orix-sen showed up on a lovely – but hot – late September day. It was a festival day, with much singing and dancing both inside and outside the stadium. The game itself was spirited as well – both on and off the diamond. The balls were flying out of the park and the pitching staff showed real guts as Lotte pulled out a 6-2 victory over the visiting Buffaloes.
A day game: a real novelty these days. Saturday’s game was the first day game since late June – really! All of the home games in July and August were night/twilight games and so far in September every home game has been a weekday game. The last home day series was a rainy affair, so really this was the first time to bask in the sun at the ballpark since the Hanshin series in mid-June. (Well, I made a few road trips, but still)
We showed up plenty early to soak up the atmosphere of the final home stand. The stadium wasn’t all that crowded despite the announced attendance of 25K+, so I was able to pull the seat switcheroo and snag a pair of front row seats. It’s amazing where you can go with a bunch of old tickets and acting like you know where you’re going.
Bobby V signed many autographs before the game, too!
On the hill for our Marines was Naoyuki Shimizu who, quite honestly, has had a very disappointing season to this point with an ERA in the mid 4’s and not so many wins. He’s been erratic at best, definitely not as solid as he has proven to be in his career. On this day, though, he was quite solid – scattering 10 hits in 7+ innings of work but limiting the runs scored to only two, giving the team a great chance at victory.
The Lotte offense grabbed the game from the get-go to take an early lead. Getting things started was today’s hero, Tsuyoshi. He smacked a dinger into the right center stands from the leadoff spot to put Lotte up 1-0 before the first home out was recorded.
Fukuura continued his hot September with a blast of his own in the third. From my seat I didn’t think it was going out but it kept on sailing, right into the right field stands. 2-0 after 3.
In the 4th, Imae and Hayakawa both singled with two outs to set up Tsuyoshi – he bangs a double to center, scoring both men easily! 4-0 Lotte after 4.
Shimizu loaded the bases in the 5th and gave up two on ground-outs to make it a 4-2 game. He would cruise through the 6th and 7th innings before getting into a real jam in the top of the 8th. Shimoyama led off with a single and Rhodes doubled him to third – runners on second and third with nobody out. Bobby wasn’t taking any chances, in comes Ogino to put out the fire. Ogino was super hot in the early part of the season but went through an awful stretch, but here in the late part of the season he’s come back around to be quite effective as of late. This game was no exception – he gets out the next three batters to end the Orix scoring chance and keep it at 4-2.
Lotte could use some insurance runs, and insurance runs they got off of the bat of seldom-used Minami, who smashed a homer to deep right with Ohmatsu on to make it 6-2. Sikorski came in in the top of the 9th to seal the victory, and he did just great after a leadoff walk. Another nice win for Lotte over Orix! I talked to one of my friends in the stands after the game, she commented “Rare win, eh?” I guess it has been this year against Orix. But you know, as awful as the team played early in the season against Orix they finished the series on a tear – winning the last four decisions to end up with a 9-14-1 record against the Buffaloes. Considering the record was 2-11 at one point…
So the players of the game were Tsuyoshi (obviously) and Ogino (for such a meaty performance in the 8th).
The game was far from controversy free, though. (Unfortunately, perhaps) As with Friday’s game, the stands were filled with anti-front office protest banners. At the bottom of the 7th after the singing of We Love Marines Haykawa came to bat. Instead of starting the cheers for Hayakawa the ouendan started anti-front office chants. As this continued and no cheers for the players started the infield fans started yelling at the outfield fans. The lady next to me shouted “Shut up! So annoying!” as did many other fans. Eventually the ouendan started to cheer for Hayakawa, but after he struck out the ouendan started it again during Tsuyoshi’s at bat. This pissed off the infield fans more, and most of the people sitted next to me were yelling at the ouendan.
So the game ends; Tsuyoshi and Ogino are the players of the game as I mentioned. After Tsuyoshi is interviewed, he grabs the microphone and talks to the outfield fans directly, asking them to take down their signs, not use such language as there are many kids around. Some cheers, and silence from the outfield. As Ogino and Tsuyoshi run to the outfield the outfield ouendan don’t sing Tsuyoshi’s song, and the rest of the fans must improvise. Many of the fans near me were still yelling at the outfield fans after the game. Not good – and even more unfortunately, it spills into Sunday’s game.
But the game itself was great – lovely weather and a lovely victory. I took hundreds of pics, and I’ll just post the rest at the bottom of this page.