It’s the bottom of the 6th at QVC Marine Field. Our Marines are down 6-1 to Hanshin and I gotta take a break. Craig was just telling me that despite the deficit he felt a charge in the humid stadium air.
“Remember that early season game when we were down big early but came back to win?”
“Yeah, I do,” I say.
“This game feels a lot like that one, only I am wearing a lot less layers.”
I can’t say I agreed much at the time, but it was a pleasant thought to contemplate. In fact, I was thinking this post would be super short, that due to Hanshin’s big lead and our inability to get much going on offense that the game might turn out to be quick and painful. What do I know?
While down under the infield A seats I heard a huge roar. I’ve spent a lot of time at QVC, I know that roar. That’s the sound of Lotte fans getting damn excited. They had a good reason, too – Iguchi had just belted a solo shot off the first pitch from Tigers starter Enokida to move the score from 6-1 to 6-2. I had to rush back and see what was going on – right when I get back through the tunnel BAM! Imae cracks ANOTHER homer to make it 6-3 Hanshin!
Now we had ourselves a game.
Abe had to step in as the starter to fill in for freshly-injured Greisinger. Abe’s had his ups and downs but he got the win and gave up no runs in his only start of the year. In the first inning Hanshin managed 2 hits off Abe (including a leadoff single by returnee Tsuyoshi) but couldn’t score. In the 4th, Abe’s luck would not hold.
A leadoff walk to Toritani and a double deep off the center field fence by Murton put runners on second and third with no outs. Abe pitched was around Arai (sr) to load up the bases and forced Imanari into a double play. I thought the way the ball was hit (straight back at Abe) there was a chance at a triple play, even, but Abe took his time to be sure, fired it to Emura at home, who reeled it to Iguchi at first for a DP. It looked like Abe might escape, but Arai (jr) put an end to that idea with a 2-run single up the middle, and after a single by Hidaka the extremely light-hitting Shibata launched his first career homer gently over the right field wall. NOT GOOD, and 5-1 Hanshin.
Abe was done. He finished the 4th and was pulled for Ueno. Final line for Abe – 4 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 5 ER. That’s not so good.
I’m an Ueno fan and I think he should be in the rotation, but his pitching tonight didn’t support that cause much. In the 5th Murton unloaded a deep solo shot to right to make it 6-1 Hanshin, and while that would be the only run Ueno would give up he did give up three other hits and a walk in 2 IP – taking a mind-boggling 51 pitches to get through those 2 innings.
A good part of that was that those three hits and the walk all came in the 6th, yet Hanshin couldn’t score a run thanks to the arm of Kiyota in right, who gunned down Arai (jr) at 3rd on a Shibata single.
And that, friends, was all Hanshin was going to get done this evening.
The first Lotte run was actually a nice bit of Itoh small ball. A single by Imae followed by a walk to Saburo and a sac grounder by Kiyota set the stage for Daichi’s sac fly and a second inning 1-0 Lotte lead.
Flash back to the 6th inning: Hanshin has stolen that momentum from Our Marines long ago. Hanshin fans are LOUD as usual – they smell bird blood and want to beat us down. Iguchi and Imae’s jacks quiet things down and start to get things going in the right direction.
After Imae finished his celebratory trot, the offense got back to work. Saburo followed up Imae with a walk but Kiyota hit into a DP to erase both runners. But Daichi (2-3 on the night with a walk, HBP, and the sac fly plus lots of great plays in the field) wasn’t going to let the inning end like that, so he drops a two out double to right. Kawamoto (in for Emura after the Murton HR) knocks a single to left, Daichi’s racing home and he gets there to bring it to a 6-4 Hanshin lead. Interestinger and interestinger!
Our Marines blew some serious chances to get this even closer. In the 4th, 3 hits and a walk wasn’t enough to plate anyone as Iguchi was thrown out stealing third after a Saburo strikeout. A pair of singles with two outs in the 8th by Daichi and Kawamoto went for nought as Fukuura was rung up looking on a very questionable pitch. But it’s a 9 inning game, not an 8 inning game, no?
Old friend Kubo in for Hanshin in the 9th as the Tigers try to close it out. Nemoto gets to set the stage as he leads off – and he does set it with a double to center! Nice! T Ogino grounds out to send Nemoto to third, Iguchi just needs a sac fly to get him home. And he does hit a fly on the 5th pitch – but WAY WAY deeper than was needed to score Nemoto and deep into left field! His second homer of the game ties it all at 6-6! WOW! That’s 5 homers in the past 5 games and none of them bigger than that one.
Lotte loads up the bases thanks to a pair of walks and a HBP by Kubo but can’t score anymore – off to extra innings. Nobody on the Lotte side of the field is upset with that – we love Our Marines and their spirit!
Unfortunately Our Marines could not do anything in extra innings – 9 up and 9 down by reliever Tsutsui. No mind – if we can stop Hanshin from scoring we’ll at least put an extra half game between us and Seibu (who lost tonight). That’s up to Masuda, Matsunaga, and Carlos Rosa to get it done – and let me tell you they sure did get it done with some great help from the defense.
Matsunaga got himself into a tight spot in the 11th thanks to a leadoff single by Toritani. A sac bunt by Shunsuke (not ours!) sent Toritani to second so of course Matsunaga intentionally walked Arai (sr) to set up the force. Conrad was caught looking on strike three for the second out, but Arai (jr) singles to left. The Tigers are gonna chance it – Toritani is rounding third. T Ogino scoops it, probably gives a sly smile that says “You ain’t running on me!” and promptly guns down Toritani at the plate.
What we ended up with is a 12-inning, 5:15 long 6-6 draw. Given how the game looked when I took my break in the 6th, I am not at all unhappy with that result. The pen gave up 9 hits and 4 walks over the last 7 innings but gave up precisely no runs – that’s all we can ask for.
Up next – Karakawa v Messenger right back at QVC on Thursday night.