Game Preview: Now is the time of year we bid adieu to Hamu. We’ve said goodbye to Daiei already, but we’ll meet them again in Climax. We’ve said or goodbyes to RAK, at least at QVC, but of course there is more with them in Sendai. For Hamu, though, this is it. Enjoy the offseason, see you in March.
We’ve just faced a rough goodbye ourselves – Our Marines left Tokorozawa on a sad note, celebrating Lions jumping around home plate in the 10th inning. It’s in the past now, we’ve got to give a PROPER goodbye to our friends at Hamu tonight! I’m not of a greedy mind – we like Hamu – so let’s say a 3 run victory for Chiba, OK?
The Baby-Faced Killer takes on the not-long-for-Sapporo Tadano. I’ll be in the outfield (not as a player, of course! Well, unless they need me, that is.) screaming my lungs out.
By Steve Novosel For those who follow Our Marines - cheer them at QVC and on the road, catch the games on TV or in the paper, follow the team from overseas and cheer when you can - does it get any better than a crucial, extra inning 1-0 Sayonara victory off the venerable bat of Chiba's own Fukuura, scoring fleet-of-foot fan favorite (and my favorite) T OGINO?
No, friends, it does not get any better than that.
As you can guess by the final score, pitching reigned on this wet evening. The Baby-Faced Killer climbed the hill looking to bounce back from two straight bad starts – one that looked worse in a box score than in person, and the other that was rather brutal any way you look at it. Tonight, though – a VERY nice outing from Karakawa. You can look past the walks a bit – he had 4 – and focus squarely on the 7 innings pitched, the 6 strikeouts (one off his season high), and especially the zero runs allowed. The walks were no problem at all – one was intentional, and the other three were just scattered. He looked really sharp for the first time in weeks.
Yuki’s counterpart was the soon-to-be-senryokugai’ed Tadano, probably making his last start for Hamu. Tadano had all sorts of problems with his walks, but he managed to escape the self-induced trouble every time. The big jam Tadano ended up in was in the 4th, when walks to Iguchi, Fukuura, and Nemoto loaded the bases with a pair of outs, but Kanazawa1 popped out weakly to short to end the scoring chance.
1If I am going to criticize Kanazawa heavily for some of the bad results from the pitchers he has caught – and I have, many times – I must give him credit for tonight’s great work by the pitching staff. Lovely game.
Lotte batters got great wood on Tadano’s pitches many times only to line hard hit balls right at outfielders, or to loft balls really deep but too high to go out. Saburo twice flew out in this manner. So did Imae. In fact, despite the 6 Tadano walks, he took a no hitter into the 7th inning before giving up a hit on the first pitch to Saburo. He left after that inning, only giving up the one hit and no runs to go with the 6 walks.
Shifting the Balance
Rosa and Masuda took over for The Baby-Faced Killer and were equally superb – no, even more so. Three up and three down for both in the 8th and 9th, and three Ks combined for the two.
The Hamu pen got ever more shaky as the evening progressed. Masui was surprisingly OK – giving up an Iguchi hit, but wiping it out immediately via Imae DP. Miyanishi was next in the 9th and was very rough – he got two quick outs before Nemoto and Kanazawa singled to put runners on the corners. Kuriyama-kantoku chose to put Ishimine on to get a force at all bases and bring up Daichi, who unfortunately grounded out to wipe out the scoring chance.
In the late innings the rain started to fall, and by the top of the 10th it was coming down pretty decently. Hattori came in for the first extra frame and quickly got two outs before allowing singles by Sugiya and Nishikawa. Itoh-kantoku had to go to the pen again with runs so scarce – in came Minami. Hmm. Minami vs PL home run leader Abreu first – walk to load the bases. Hmmmmm. That brought up the dangerous Koyano – Minami quickly got a 1-2 count on the veteran 3B but Koyano is not just a Fighter but a fighter as well – he fouls off 4 pitches in a row before Minami gets him out on a swinging strike three. Huge.
The Decisive Blow
In came Tanimoto, and this is where the slipping Fighters pen came to see it’s fate. Tanimoto walked T OGINO on 4 straight, and then threw 3 more balls to Iguchi before getting a strike. Iguchi popped the second strike foul and deep, but the ball went right off Sato’s glove for a big E7. Next pitch – Iguchi MAULS fastball on a rope, deep, right off the left field fence. He hit it so hard that the insanely fast OGINO could only get to third, and Iguchi only to first.
Big trouble now – still no outs. Imae is wisely walked to load the bases and get a force anywhere. Fukuura up – he’s been pretty warm lately but tonight has just drawn a pair of free passes. First pitch from Tanimoto – ball. Second pitch – it’s a fly ball, not terribly deep, right at Sato in left. That’s not going to score a lot of people but T OGINO is not just anyone, he’s the fastest guy on the team and a great runner. Ball – caught. OGINO – tagged. In he comes, in comes the ball, the play – it’s close, but YES he’s SAFE and LOTTE WINS. WINS!!!
The sayonara victory pushes the Lotte lead to 1.5 for second and 3.5 over Seibu with the Lions heading to QVC on Tuesday night. Our Marines cannot clinch a CS spot until Thursday at the earliest now, and can’t clinch second until the weekend. With just 6 games left on the regular season slate, it’s looking a bit brighter now.