On a day when 39-year-old Tadahito Iguchi was named the Pacific League MVP for May, Our Marines battered the pitching staff of the Hiroshima Carp for 14 hits and 5 runs en route to a very nice 5-3 win. With losses by Rakuten and Seibu, Lotte jumps back to the top of the interleague standings and in front of the PL standings by a whopping 4 games. Who cares if it just turned June, this has been one enjoyable ride.
Lots and Lots of Bases
The case can certainly be made that Lotte should have plated more given how many baserunners we had. I am not going to be the one making that case, though. For some reason it never felt that chances were being squandered, perhaps because the game felt solidly in Chiba hands from the very first inning.
In the top of the first Nemoto led off with a double, and after a Kakunaka fly out (his only out of the game!) MVP Iguchi drilled a pitch from Carp starter Kan Otake to deep left center for his 12th homer of the year. 2-0 Lotte in the first!
Everybody in the Lotte starting lineup got a hit except the pitcher’s spot and Emura. Our Marines got multiple hits in 4 innings and stroked 6 extra base hits on the evening. Great hitting met great baserunning and the result was a constant pressure on Carp pitching.
Hiroshima tied the game at 2-2 in the second inning as Lotte starter Abe was generally ineffective before getting pulled for a pinch hitter in the top of the 5th. Matsuyama and Dohbayashi recorded doubles off Abe while Soyogi and Ishihara drove in a run each.
The Onslaught Continues
Kakunaka got in on the extra base act with a double in the third, but he couldn’t be driven in. Nemoto hit yet another double in the 5th with the game still tied at 2-2 and this time Kakunaka drove him in with a superior triple to the right center gap to break the deadlock! 3-2 Lotte.
In the 6th Daichi led off with yet another triple – his 6th of the year already – this one coming pretttty close to going out of the park. After a HBP to T OGINO (Hey!!!), Okada hit a shallow fly and Daichi raced in to make it 4-2 Lotte!
Carlos Rosa came in for the 8th. He gave up his first run of the year but I wouldn’t say he looked bad at all, honestly. Regardless, the Carp clawed back to make it a 4-3 game.
Our Marines hit 5 singles over the 7th and 8th innings – including 3 in a row to start the 8th – but couldn’t score anyone. An insurance run would be very welcome. In the 9th, we had our chance. Fukuura (!) pinch hit and led off with a gift of an infield single. Kakunaka and Iguchi drew walks from Imai, but in the Imai vs Imae matchup Imae was victorious. He popped a ball to center, plenty deep for pinch runner Ishimine to score and make it a two run lead again at 5-3 Lotte!
Masuda was in as usual for the 9th inning and he left no opportunity for Carp bats to do anything. A perfect 1-2-3 finish and Our Marines were smiling with the 5-3 victory. That’s the 19th save on the year already for Masuda, by far the most in NPB.
- Believe it or not, Iguchi’s 2-run shot wasn’t enough to get him the hero interview. Too many Lotte batters had great games led by Kakunaka. Kakunaka came a homer away from the cycle with a single, double, and a triple in consecutive at bats, and with his 9th inning walk he finished the day 3-4 and with the go-ahead RBI. Superlative.
- Nemoto also had a great game – 3-5 with two doubles and 2 runs scored.
- The first 6 batters in the Lotte lineup (Nemoto, Kakunaka, Iguchi, Imae, Daichi, T OGINO) went a combined 12-25 with 4 RBI and 4 runs scored.
- The bullpen was outstanding yet again. The team of Ueno, Hattori, Nakagoh, Carlos Rosa, and Masuda went a total of 5 innings, giving up 4 hits and a walk with 4 Ks and only the one run.
Up next – the final game of the season with Hiroshima. This one’s in Onomichi and features Bullington vs The Baby-Faced Killer1 Karakawa.
1 Look, I know as well as anyone that he hasn’t done much to justify my nickname for him in recent years but I think he’s going to get stronger and stronger again. A boy’s gotta dream.