A slump defined: I went to 11 consecutive home games at the lovely QVC Marine Stadium Field Thingy without seeing a single game where Lotte didn’t have to bat in the bottom of the 9th. And nary a sayonara celebration in extra time, either. Yup, that’s 0-9-2 in 11 home games. I skipped the game on Saturday (just felt like lazing around home and watching the game on TV) and blam! Runextravaganza.
Finally some of the casualties are coming back to the field. Kim Tae Kyun has returned, Ohmatsu (who was never injured, just deeply awful) was back in the lineup thanks to Kiyota’s injury. Saburo hasn’t made an ichi-gun appearance in a month but he is playing rehab games in Urawa. That leaves the current casualty ward attendees at (deep breath): Ogino Tadahiro (STILL out after major surgery at the beginning of last year), Ogino Takashi*, Ono Shingo (injured or not? Missing in action in any case), Penn (still out after elbow surgery), Murphy (hammy), Hosoya Kei (injured during a GIDP this past week), Kiyota (finger), Ohmine Yuta (head case).
*I read over on Yakyu Baka that Ogino’s timetable for return is “sometime this year”. I love Ogino. I mean I really LOVE Ogino. He needs to sit this out and get better. If it takes until next year, shut it down. I don’t mind. We want Ogino for the next 10 years, not at 70% in September getting injured again. I was worried all offseason and late last year reading reports that he just wasn’t getting better. During Spring Camp he wasn’t at 100% but with Nishioka’s departure we needed a someone to take over at short. Now he’s out for an extend period again. Just shut it down. Get back to 100% PLEASE.
For me, the prime stat showing how bad the slump has been is the three HRs total hit by Lotte batters in that month of games. (Hosoya, Iguchi, and Imae are your trivia answers for that unasked question.) Ohmatsu – 0 HR on the season. Ditto KTK. In fact through the entire months of April and May the team only hit 13 HRs. Say no more.
After the arctic series against Yakult Our Marines traveled all the way to Yokohama for a pair. I went with; my first games at Yokohama stadium in many years. I had forgotten how lovely a place it is to watch a game, except for the perilous pitch of the outfield stands. My thoughts alternated between “Wow, what a nice place to watch a game!” and “Holy crap, if I bounce anymore I’m just going to tumble down 10 rows and take out a few families.” My seats at Friday’s game really required a guide rope and a Sherpa – but hey as long as you didn’t have to move around so much it was A-OK.
Conveniently forgetting the first game on Friday, Saturday’s game was great fun for The Return of Kim Tae Kyun’s Power (limited engagement). Down 5-3 in the bottom of the 9th, two men on, two outs, KTK was looking to crush something, anything, and he smushed a fat one into the stands. It’s was something we haven’t really seen much of this year, and certainly not since the start of interleague play – a come from behind, clutch HR. I don’t have to tell you it was mayhem in the outfield, do I?
Not forgotten in all of the comebackery was Satozaki’s second and third HRs of the year. OK, so his second was technically at the game that I am conveniently forgetting on the Friday, but whatever.
Aaand with that Lotte was off to Nagoya for a rematch with the Dragons. That’s pretty much all I need to say about that. Did I mention last time we were in Nagoya Lotte won a few important games? Yeah, let’s think back a bit….
In all seriousness, I could watch that at least 500 times without it getting old. And I have probably watched it 50 times. We can get swept in 4 games like we did this year in interleague play against the Dragons and I won’t be remotely upset for at least a few more years.
Back home we had another pair of chances against Hanshin, aka “The only team Lotte has managed to play well against in the past month.” Game 1 had Yoshimi on the mound, Yoshimi who I was talking up just last post, underrated Yoshimi, good value Yoshimi. Yeah, he got killed, didn’t even make it out of the second. But honestly the offense was looking so much better*, despite scoring just three runs.
*I know baseball is accounting and not fine art but you can still appreciate a pretty picture even if the numbers are in the red. Does that count as a mixed metaphor?
All this time Ohmatsu was heating up. Our slumping slugger started the month with and average closer to .100 than .200 but reeled off 12 base hits in 10 games. Most importantly, he ripped his first HR of the year in the second game against Los Tigres de Hanshin (which, ahem, we lost) – this after averaging 20 the past three years. If Our Marines are to wake up from their slumber, fun-loving Ohmatsu has to be one of the bats hit the alarm.
So on Saturday I slept in as Hiroshima pulled into Chiba Marine Stadium presented by QVC Field, and the Marines promptly destroyed Hiroshima pitching. You may recall we’ve done this a few times over the past couple of years. El Submarinero Watanabe had easily his finest outing of the year, a 99-pitch complete game only yielding one tiny run (scored in the 9th after it was long over). The man of the week Ohmatsu provided the bulk of the damage with a first pitch bottom of the seventh grand slam!
The funny thing is while watching this live you could almost smell the homer before he swung. He’s been so hot, and he’s the streakiest hitter on the team. I was sitting in my chair and somehow I could feel it coming. 4 runs later, 3 runs more in the 8th, and Lotte carded a 10-1 victory – only the third time this year we’ve hit double digits in runs.
Most sadly for me (as I had to miss it again) but very happy for Lotte fandom, the final game against Hiroshima featured more firepower – this time my favorite rookie Ishimine’s first career HR. And it was a crucial one, he turned a 2-2 game into a 5-2 win.
I can’t believe I missed that – Karakawa on the mound, Ishimine becoming the hero. With his first homerun Ishimine was also fought over by the Orion Beer campaign girls.
And he FINALLY gets his own ouenka – to debut this Tuesday at Tokyo Dome! Video to come.
I’m just happy the slump seems to be ending. 7 HRs in a week’s worth of ball and a few wins is a nice start.