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The Final Stretch: Hamu @ Lotte, 23-26 September 2014

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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.

 

Game 1 – Lotte WINS 8-4

Hamu: Masaru Nakamura (7-1, 3.60 ERA) @ Lotte: Ayumu Ishikawa (8-8, 3.55 ERA)

By: Steve Novosel Tuesday was a wonderful day at QVC for a multitude of reasons - a national holiday, a sunny and warm setting with a bit of a breeze, super rookie Ishikawa on the hill looking for his 9th win, some plans for a tribute to Satozaki after the game, and the evening ending with a lovely fireworks display. And yes - yes! - a win, too!
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Good job 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?

FUKUURA2) 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


 

Game 2 – Lotte WINS 9-5

Hamu: Hiroshi Kisanuki (1-2, 2.25 ERA) @ Lotte: Yuta Ohmine (2-4, 3.65 ERA)

By: Steve Novosel Improbably, the dream is still alive, folks, as Our Marines pulled out another victory in a wet, but amazingly fun match at QVC. So many cool things happened in this, there's hardly enough time to discuss them all.
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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.

from marines.co.jp

from marines.co.jp

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?”
“BOOOOOOOO!”
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


 

Game 3 – The Dream Is Over. Lotte Loses 9-2.

Hamu: Luis Mendoza (6-13, 3.90 ERA) @ Lotte: Yoshihisa Naruse (9-10, 4.38 ERA)

By: Steve Novosel There is no miracle to be found in Chiba this year. No fairytale run towards a Climax Series spot. No spoiler of Hamu's plans. I suppose there is something good to be said for making it through game 140 with a chance to make the post season, but frankly, it doesn't feel really good right now.
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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


 

Game 4 – Lotte WINS 8-1

Hamu: Hiroshi Urano (7-3, 3.63 ERA) @ Lotte: Yuki Karakawa (3-9, 4.96 ERA)

By: Steve Novosel One day after the chase for the Climax Series officially ended, joy. The Baby-Faced Killer on the bump - his first complete game in over 2 years. Lifeless offense last night - 8 run explosion tonight. And in the final game vs Hamu in 2014, a fond farewell to a baseball legend, Inaba. You could say it was a nice evening at the ballpark.
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from marines.co.jp

from marines.co.jp

After such a difficult season and a tough loss to end all chance at the climax series, this game seemed like it was a love letter to the fans.

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


Kakunaka's Ouenka


Chance 1


Iguchi's Ouenka


Game 4 Box Score in English


Comments 17

  1. I read through a lot of comments on my Facebook from fans in the outfield, and I think I need to revise my opinion on the Inaba Incident yesterday.

    I do think it’s good that we fans honored the retiring Inaba by giving him hearty applause as he entered the game, and yes, the season is all but over already but I didn’t think about two things:

    1) The season was NOT over – it still isn’t – and until the point that it is actually over (at the very least) we should only be cheering our own players during the game. How do the players feel when their fans are cheering their opponent, even in a special situation like this?

    2) The situation with Ishikawa. This is the big one and I can’t believe I missed it when I wrote up the game. He’s in a battle for the rookie of the year award right now – his main competitors are on the Fighters (+ Seibu’s Takahashi). Getting another inning or two of run-free ball could have been huge for his chances to win that award, but instead he left almost immediately after the Inaba incident.

    There’s a screen capture that’s floating around on twitter of Ishikawa + Daichi looking over at their own fans cheering the guy who’s at bat, in a competitive game. Ishikawa then gives up a hit to Inaba, Fighters fans go crazy, then our Ouendan cheers ISHIKAWA! ISHIKAWA! very loudly. Too late. Kawagoe-coach comes to the mound, Masuda comes in, the two runs score.

    Ishikawa must feel horrible, as must Masuda. This is not the case as in 2009 with fans booing their own player (Nishioka) in a very contentious situation – that season was toast at that point, Nishioka had made some ill-advised comments, and the MVP fan club was in the midst of a very public divorce with the team. No, this was the case of our fans not supporting our player at a time that was (at least for him) a critical moment. We failed. It was wrong and it shouldn’t have happened.

  2. There hasn’t been a lot to cheer for this year. If fans find something to get excited about by honoring Inaba, I say do what makes you feel good. As fans, we all invest a lot into supporting our teams. As long as it’s not through violence or cynicism, we have every right to take what we want from the experience.

    Of course, I love the ouendan for it’s all-for-one mentality. It’s what makes the experience so special and intimate. That DOESN’T mean we should always blindly and robotically follow a single objective. That sounds overly fanatical, and frankly not so enjoyable to me. It also creates an atmosphere of exclusion and churlishness.

    I can only speak for myself, but for me cheering is a form of self expression. Who am I to judge how others choose to express themselves? Again, as long as it’s not violent or cynical – which this clearly wasn’t – I don’t see the harm.

    Ya maybe in the heat of the moment when they’re trying to play their hardest, it caught the players off guard. As professionals, with a little reflection they should be big enough to deal with it, if not appreciate the gesture in the grander scheme of things. It’s not like we were rooting for our own guys to fail. We were honoring one of their colleagues.

    1. A minor counterpoint: I don’t think anyone, even the hardest of the hardcore in the ouendan, would say its not the right of Lotte fans to cheer how they want, even if that includes cheering an opposing player in a special case.

      But they would say – and I think, fundamentally, I agree with them – is that such cheering shouldn’t be done in the home ouenseki. That should be reserved for cheering the home team only….

      1. I wasn’t there last night, but you mentioned that some ouendan members were yelling at other members for doing the Inaba Jump again last night. You’re saying the rational is that home ouenseki should only be for cheering the home team? No exceptions.

        1. Well, there are signs in the outfield that say that exact thing – this section is for cheering for the home team exclusively, nobody with visitor team uniforms or goods will be allowed entry, etc.

          No exceptions is a bit harsh to say, but certainly the prevailing opinion of the fans should take precedence, don’t you think? If you’re not supposed to cheer, and the official cheering group doesn’t want you to cheer, then you probably shouldn’t cheer in that situation, right?

          Self expression is certainly OK, but if your self expression is bothering a lot of people and it’s prohibited self expression, you probably should reconsider your plans or move somewhere where it’s not prohibited…. Respect the wa.

  3. If enough people in the ouendan were cheering in game 1 for the players on the field to hear it, it must have been more than a couple of outlying fans. I don’t like the idea of a hardcore, fanatical wing of the fans dictating how everyone should behave and shaming those that go against them. I wasn’t there though, so admittedly my gauge of “prevailing opinion” could be off.

    Obviously, the ouendan as an institution has been around a lot longer than me. I’m not going to tell them how to run their operation. Hell, I wasn’t even there. Based on your and others’ accounts though, the hostility just doesn’t sit well with me.

    1. Well as I said I don’t think there’s any hostility towards fans not in the gaiya cheering Inaba at that point, just in the gaiya. Disappointment, perhaps, but not hostility.

      Last night the anti-Inaba crowd far, far outnumbered the “I wanna Inaba jump” crowd. Interestingly, the pro-jumpers were all seated very far from the ouendan in the gaiya. Dunno. I think if you are in the ouenseki you are signing up for a certain level of commitment. Same with the upstairs naiya ouenseki. It explicitly states that those seats are for those cheering the home team.

      The PL is far more relaxed about such things than the CL, actually. Wandering around a PL team’s ounseki with the wrong goods or cheering the other team regardless of situation would probably result in some violence.

      1. Maybe that’s the story for last night. To quote your game 1 write-up though…

        “…So when Inaba PH, and Fighters fans started the Inaba jump + ouenka, well, pretty much everyone joined in…”

        Fair enough on the hostility/disappointment semantics though.

        1. Personally I think if everyone had stopped at the jump there would have been no issue at all. Who doesn’t love the Inaba jump? But why sing his song during a competitive game? Hmm.

    1. Actually, that was a few comments too late. You’re last comment actually makes a lot of sense. I thought that would make more sense too.

      1. Or my version: We Love Marines. Or if you don’t that’s OK too. We are are unique snowflakes that should express their special gifts to the world.

  4. Re: Off-season rumors in the Game 3 post.

    Our biggest need is clearly starting pitching, followed by power in the heart of the lineup. If we resign Despaigne and continue to develop Aja, that takes care of the latter. If we make any trades or free agent signings, it should be for starting pitching. I don’t think we need to look outside of the organization for other spots.

    Obviously, I’d love to see the foreign players all return too. The news has me hopeful that Cruz & Huffman will return. Sadly, it looks like the end for Braz and Greisinger. If that is the case, I wish those two the best.

    If it is the case that Itoh is back, I really hope he changes his strategy. Unlike his first year when we got off to a good start and limped into the post-season, it seems like this year we’ve been in panic mode since the first loss. Now he’s had two years to get to know his personnel, I’d hope he is comfortable enough with a core set of guys coming out of spring camp to ride out rough stretches. The constant shuffle of guys from the starting lineup to ni-gun can’t be good for guys’ psyches. In-game management is a slightly more subjective topic, but the personnel management has clearly failed.

    1. Braz should be back. He won’t, it seems, but he should. Never got a fair shake this year despite putting up nice numbers when he had the chance to play. The lack of a LH power bat next year (as it stands now) will definitely be an issue.

      It’s too bad about Grei, but he’s been injured so it’s not surprising. I haven’t heard anything at all, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Rosa is gone.

      Despaigne has to be the biggest priority this offseason. He’s got what fans crave! Him and a developing Aja will put butts in the seats, too.

      Pitching – where to begin??? The team needs to go after the best possible arm in the first round. And the second round. And in the FA market. Right now there aren’t enough viable arms to even form a 6 man rotation.

      I’ll leave my comments about coaching, etc for our season review 😉

  5. Hey – nice site. I plan to revamp mine in the offseason. Some of what you have on yours, I already had planned to put on mine. I have other ideas too, but nothing mind blowing. I might want to contact you and pick your brain for ideas and methods…

    1. Thanks! We’d be more than happy to help you out. I’ve actually yanked a bit off the site this year from previous years (we’ve been live since 2009).

      I’ve got a major revamp that I’ve been working on that I just haven’t been able to get live yet, so a lot of things will change this offseason – for the better.

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