Seibu: Yusei Kikuchi (5-10, 3.38 ERA) @ Lotte: Ayumu Ishikawa (9-8, 3.64 ERA)
Rookie phenom Ayumu Ishikawa completed his season – and Lotte’s – season in style with his best pitching performance of his nascent career. Backed by a ferocious offensive attack and the collective will of a jam packed home outfield cheering section, Ayu went the distance in a complete game, no walk, 10 strikeout masterpiece. It’s the sort of performance that wins a guy a Rookie of the Year award.
We Lotte fans were more than ready for this final day. By the time the stadium opened the gates at 16:15, thousands of hardcore supporters had gathered by R-Gate to enter, ready to cheer one last time in 2014. While these final games are always festive, the blowout score, great pitching, and of course competition with our fiercest rivals turned a special night into something really extraordinary.
Ayu’s line was really impressive, but what was most impressive was how cool he was in getting out of trouble the few times he landed in it. Seibu cranked out a pair of singles in the first four innings but Ishikawa gave the Lions a huge “SHHHHH!” with 7 Ks in those same four frames. In the 5th, his first hint of adversity as Akiyama reached base with no outs after a Takahama boot at second. Wakiya tried to bunt him over but bunted poorly and the speedy Akiyama was tossed out at second, then for good measure Ayu picked off Wakiya from first. Ho hum.
A pair of singles to lead off the 8th and 9th inning were the only remaining chances for our Tokorozawa rivals but no, they weren’t going to get anything going. Not this night. Not with this future star on the hill.
At the plate, Kikuchi kept Lotte batters from coming home, but only for a while. Once the third inning rolled around Our Marines started to see every pitch as a big fat beach ball drifting slowly down the middle of the plate. Third inning – Kiyota1 double to deep center. Fourth inning – Aja double to the right-center gap (later scoring on a Shota sac fly). Sixth inning – a Kakunaka blast off the center field fence plated Daichi, later Kaku scored on a lovely double steal.
1 I don’t want to distract too terribly much from this celebratory post, but how bad does it look that Kiyota spent basically all year in ni-gun? In ichi-gun he had 3 HR in consecutive ABs, and while he only had 8 hits in 59 PAs those PAs included 8 walks, 2 HBP, 1 single, 2 doubles, a triple, and 4 HR. That’s an .826 OPS. And in ni-gun? .990 OPS with 12 HR in 274 ABs. You think he might have been able to help out the ichi-gun team a little bit?
The 7th is when the party really got started – a 2 run shot by Kiyota to left center followed by a Despa line drive HR (his 12th on the year). Man, were we dancing in the outfield after those hits!
Ayu induced Mejia to pop out to end the game and the season. The singing was long and strong, both the cheer exchange with the great Seibu fans and the traditional singing of every player’s song. These men and women, boys and girls – these Fans of Lotte – that we spend 6 months cheering with every year – it’s hard to think that we won’t be able to share any new baseball memories for many months, but such is the baseball fan’s life. There’s still the draft to come, and fall camp in November as well as Fan Appreciation Day on 22 November. But on Wed 1 October at 21:08, real baseball stopped in Chiba until next year.
Here’s a few videos I took during the game – the opening song:
And (part of) the final ouenka medley.
Game Digest from Pacific League TV
Box Score in English