If you want to be totally negative, you can say the 2014 Chiba Lotte Marines’ backs are flush against the wall. The margin of error is not slim; it’s non-existent. Our Marines must win every game – 6 of them. Hamu must lose every game – 11 of those. If that happens, if these guys can pull off that miracle, Hamu collapses that badly – Chiba STILL needs help in the form of Rakuten and Seibu losing a game or two.
Yes, it’s the unlikeliest of scenarios, indeed, but until all chance is drained from the season we will cheer and cheer with ALL our zeal for Our Marines to move on.
Who am I kidding – we’ll cheer with all our zeal even if the guys drop every remaining game. It’s who we are, and what we do.
If there is any cause for optimism it is that Chiba gets all 6 remaining at home, 4 of them against said Fighters. Hey, it’s something. If we can’t make the Climax Series, let’s at least hope to make everyone else uncomfortable.
Hamu: Masaru Nakamura (7-1, 3.60 ERA) @ Lotte: Ayumu Ishikawa (8-8, 3.55 ERA)
As is my policy when I tell you, dear reader, how things are going in Lotteland I will be honest, at times uncomfortably so. Painfully so. But sometimes some things must be said, no? No point in sugar coating things, ¿verdad? So I must tell you these two things:
1) Ignore that box score and the lack of a “quality start” – young Ishikawa was lovely today. Through 6 innings pitched Ayu gave up 5 hits versus 7 Ks and 2 runs. One of those runs was in the first, the other on a solo shot in the second. After that road bump he settled into a nice groove, and had breaks gone slightly better his way we’d be discussing his 7 IP, 2 run performance, huzzah, huzzah. And we ARE celebrating his 9th win of the year so it’s not all bad, I just feel a bit sad that he was saddled with a pair of runs he really didn’t deserve.
Ishikawa got a quick out in the 7th, but gave up back-to-back singles to Ichikawa and PH/retiring legend Inaba1 and was gone. Masuda took over and got a quick out, and to a 2 strike count vs Nakajima before allowing a single, and another to Yoh Daikan to narrow the Lotte lead. Masuda got the next out to hold the lead, Ohtani and Nishino finished off Hamu in order, and Ishikawa gets his 9th win, but I can’t help but thing he just didn’t deserve those last two runs.
1There were 4 games left in the season vs Hamu and with such a robust crowd in attendance many wanted to say thanks to Inaba for his many great years – many Lotte fans as well. So when Inaba PH, and Fighters fans started the Inaba jump + ouenka, well, pretty much everyone joined in. This seemed to confuse our players a bit (why is the cheering in stereo?) and piss off Jin Toshio and the ouendan leaders as they motioned for the gaiya fans to pipe down, we’re still playing a game in the regular season here, don’t cheer your opponent. While I understand that and partially agree with it, come on, let everyone have fun. It’s not like there’s a realistic chance of advancing to the playoffs, is there?
2) This game was probably the best fan experience of any game I attended this year. And yeah, I was at the 6 run sayonara comeback win vs Rakuten this year. The mood in the stadium was just wonderful. The game was enjoyable for sure – any 8-4 home win is going to be fun – but the peripheral events with the Satozaki preparations and fireworks and beautiful weather just pushed it over the top. I got to go on the field after the game, we made a giant 22 + circle on the field for Satozaki (3500 fans strong) including the ouendan and Tamura + Emura-kun. We sang Satozaki songs for a video the team is making for his retirement.
After that, most of us went back to the stands while others took pictures on the field and waited for the fireworks as the team showed the “Best Lotte Games” ranking on the big screen. As the fireworks went off (launched by Emura and Tamura, of course) I sipped on my beer and enjoyed the night. Last day game of the year, folks. Enjoy.
3) Despaigne. Alfredo had a bit of a ho-hum set vs Orix this last weekend but today – nothing ho hum here. First inning – walk. Second inning – 2 run single. Seventh inning – 2 run blast to deeeeeep left. Eighth inning – deeeeeeep blast to center that missed going out by mere vertical feet off the fence. 3-4, 4 RBI with a double and a homer. That’s 11 on the year coupled with a .974 OPS that would lead the league if he qualified.
The brutal honesty part? I am going to be one mopey mopey man should he not be resigned this offseason. He’s basically factory-standard #4 hitter, the sort of player you break the bank for. Sign him. Sign him. Sign him.
And the capper on the day, perhaps? PH + RBI for living legend Fukuura. I told you it was a great day.
Game 1 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 1 Box Score in English
Hamu: Hiroshi Kisanuki (1-2, 2.25 ERA) @ Lotte: Yuta Ohmine (2-4, 3.65 ERA)
I will show why this was just about the best game in the history of games. Wanna see? Looky here.
What is that? That, friends, is a ball that was mere feet from being the first home run ball of Lotte favorite Okada’s career. Am I exaggerating to say a home run in that situation would make this season an order of magnitude better? Yes. But it would have been the story of the month, at least.
And that smash by Okada was on the second pitch of the game from Hamu starter Kisanuki. When the final totals were tallied Our Marines battered the Fighters pitching staff for 15 hits, a number only eclipsed 4 times this season, and 9 runs (7 earned). It was a heck of an entertaining display.
In fact this game was SO entertaining that you would be hard pressed to pick a hero. Okada with his near homer and modasho? Hmm. Daichi with the game’s first RBI? Hayasaka with a 2 run blast for his first hit of the year, and only the third homer of his 12 year career?
How about Yuta Ohmine with the win? “But what about those 4 runs he gave up, Steeeeeve?” Well they were ALL unearned in my mind, though he got credit for one of them. Ohmine pitched great, though his defense let him down. No QS tonight due the the 5 1/3 inning performance, but that performance was so short due in large part to the three errors behind him that kept inning after inning going. And Yuta made a spectacular line out/throw out DP to get out of a bases loaded jam in the third. Yes, Yuta would be a wonderful choice for today’s hero. But no.This game’s hero just had to be the inimitable Kakunaka, who provided us fans with one of the year’s most entertaining sequences, if not the most entertaining. The scene:
Kakunaka was having a heck of a game at the plate already with an RBI double in the ifrst and single in the third when he stepped to the plate to face Hamu reliever Kagiya with two outs in the 5th. Kaku chased a high fastball on a 1-1 count and simply scorched it high, deep,
fair wait, is it fair? I can’t tell and the ump is saying foul. So we’re saying boooooooo! It’s off to the video replay.
The issue is that the ball was so high it was really difficult to tell where it had crossed over the fence. And the umps took their sweet ol time trying to figure it out. I’m not sure how long the replay took, exactly, but it was a good 10 minutes, probably longer. We tried to chat with Yoh Daikan, right in front of us in center. Someone tried to play catch ball with him, but Yoh said “No, no my shoulder is sore!” So we yelled at Taniguchi in LF, “Taniguchi-kun!!!!” he looks over and waves meekly. Someone tried to convince Yoh “Yoh-san! That was a homer! Tell them it was a homer!” He shrugs.
Eventually the umps came back out – “Uh, foul?”
Yoh looks back at us, shrugs, and pantomimes “Hey, I didn’t say it was foul, blame them.”
“Tell them it was a home run, Yoh!”
Yoh pantomimes “Nooo they’d kill me!”
So it’s back to the action, Kaku still facing Kagiya, 1-2 count now. Next pitch – BLAM! Now THAT was a no doubt homer! Kaku circles the bases this time as a cascade of cheers and laughter rains upon him. Great moment.
Kakunaka had a good shot at the cycle with his last at bat, just needing a triple (which he is good at) – but no, a three strike, not a three base. A bizarro cycle, maybe?
Four games left. Naruse gets the call on Thursday for his last start of 2014.
Game 2 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 2 Box Score in English
Hamu: Luis Mendoza (6-13, 3.90 ERA) @ Lotte: Yoshihisa Naruse (9-10, 4.38 ERA)
All drama in this game was drained super early. 20 pitches into the first inning, 2-run Nakata blast off Naruse. 2nd inning, 3 more runs. 3rd, another. 4th, two more. Hamu piled on run after run, first off Naruse, then off Kurosawa (just up from ni-gun). 8-0 after 4 innings in an absolute must win game is no way to keep the season going.
And in the bottom of every inning – nada. No big chances, really. A pair of runs came, both on Okada ground outs. Katoh just about belted a homer, it went just off the top of the fence for a triple. I wish I could tell you more good things but I can’t. There weren’t any.
For the last 3 innings Lotte fans in the outfield – the second worst attended game of the year, I might add – gathered in one mass at the fence, gathered to cheer one last for something meaningful. But no, it didn’t help. We tried.
For his part, Naruse looked devastated. The video and pictures of him in the dugout and on the field after are just painful to look at. It’s not the way anyone wants their season to end. It may even be his last game in a Lotte uniform – he is a free agent this offseason.
There’s reports this evening that big changes are in the works. Itoh-kantoku? No, not him. Those reports seem to be confirming he’s going to be back to finish up the last year of his supposed 3 year deal. No, there’s talk of trades – big trades. Free agent signings, domestic and international. Former Seibu IF Nakajima is rumored to be a target. So is our former hero Nishioka. Talk on Twitter this morning and after the game was of trades with Hanshin for starting pitching. Kiyota and Ishimine were mentioned. Who knows.
I don’t think there are major changes needed, honestly, at least in personnel. I love our guys. What I do know is I need some time to digest this season and dwell on the future. 3 games from now all will be wrapped up and we’ll have 6 months to contemplate the upcoming season.
Game 3 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 3 Box Score in English
Hamu: Hiroshi Urano (7-3, 3.63 ERA) @ Lotte: Yuki Karakawa (3-9, 4.96 ERA)
A homegrown hero having a tough year for the second year in a row? How about Karakawa‘s line on the night:
9 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 ER on 118 pitches
Superb. And perhaps most importantly, some good feelings to take into next season.
Hot newcomer Despaigne, whom everyone desperately hopes to see camped in the #4 spot next year? 3-3 with 2 RBI, a walk, and a double.
Beloved Okada? 2-5.
Up-and-coming Takahama? A triple, walk, and a pair of runs scored.
Infielder of the future, younger brother to Yuta, Shota? Huge solo smash to left.
Captain Daichi, still very young and getting better seemingly by the inning? 2 run double.
I don’t even think our friends at Hamu are even so terribly upset at this loss as their spot in the CS is all but locked in. In fact, we had a great cheer exchange with the Hamu ouendan after the game, one of the cooler ones I’ve seen in my time in Chiba. I’ve put some video below – Fighters fans singing Kakunaka’s song, Chance 1, and Iguchi’s song.
Game 4 Digest from Pacific League TV
Game 4 Box Score in English