Series Preview: Our Marines have been quite up-and-down since a 12-5 stretch which lasted through early and mid August. A pattern of inconsistency that began last month in Sendai has seemed to carry over into September. After sweeping the Fighters last weekend at home, we were outscored 12-1 in a mini two game sweep at the hands of Orix the last two nights in Osaka.
This weekend, the Seibu Lions come to town for a rather meaningful three game September set. The pesky Lions are fighting to break through into the third Climax Series spot, but currently sit 2.5 back of SoftBank for that final postseason position. Meanwhile, Our Marines are looking to potentially jockey for one last run at first place – currently 5 games back of Rakuten. At a minimum this weekend, it would behoove us to stake a more comfortable claim to the second place spot (2.5 up on SB) and perhaps knock Seibu further out of contention. The Pacific League standings have certainly began to take a more clear shape as of late, but all it takes is one weekend to turn it all on its head…
By Craig Roberts Well, we got crushed Friday night. There's no other way to put it. Let's start off in the first inning where Lotte had a chance to strike first and be the crushers, not the crushees...
With two outs, Iguchi lined a base hit into center. Daichi followed with a liner of his own, and Craig Brazell took pitch off his upper arm to load the bases for Kakunaka. But last year’s batter champ couldn’t cash in on the two out rally, and flied out to left to end the threat. It was all downhill from there.
Seth Greisinger suffered his first loss in his last 6 starts, the most recent one occurring over a month ago in Fukuoka. I won’t delve too deeply into the details of a six earned runs in three innings performance. A double and three singles led to two Seibu runs in the second inning. Two walks, a single, another walk, and a double produced four Seibu runs in the third inning.
Meanwhile the Lotte bats were kept mostly quiet the rest of the night. Not a single Lotte batter had a multi-hit game. When Marines found their way on base, timely Saitama defense prevented any Lotte chances from materializing into anything remotely threatening.
Starting pitching has been a concern throughout the year, and it continues to become more and more worrisome by the day. Our two most reliable pitchers this year, Nishino and Furuya, are both reportedly battling shoulder issues. You have to go back to August 13th (five combined starts) for a quality start from either pitcher. Meanwhile we may not see Naruse (who?)1 in Ichi-gun for the rest of the year as he is now battling a shoulder injury himself. At their best, Gresinger, Karakawa and Otani have been more than serviceable as middle of the rotation/back end starters. But all three have been prone to the occasional shelling, Friday’s game being a case in point. Beyond that, the sixth spot in the rotation is anyone’s guess. Stud rookie reliever Matsunaga is slated to start for a second time tomorrow night.
1 Ah yes, Naruse. Our ace heading into the year who hasn’t been seen in ichi-gun since interleague play.
Rakuten, SoftBank, and Seibu (obviously) all got W’s last night causing us to lose ground to all three teams that matter to us at the moment in the PL race. Hopefully Matsunaga can help us snap our three game slide tomorrow night.
By Craig Roberts First of all, I’d like to apologize for any negativity in the Game 1 recap. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, well-meaning mascots are needlessly insulted. Now that’s out of the way, I’d like to turn the page to Saturday and Lotte’s thrilling victory over Seibu.
Takahiro Matsunaga was called upon to stop Lotte’s three game losing streak in only his second start of the year. The rookie has been dominant out of the bullpen in 2013. He earned the win last time out in his first start giving up one run in five innings versus the Fighters. Taka went five innings again on Saturday, this time giving up no runs in a no decision.
In both the first and third innings, a two out hit and walk put runners on 1st and 2nd for the Lions. Matsunaga escaped both those mini jams with a strike out and fly out respectively, and faced the minimum number of batters in the other three innings pitched. After a lead of walk in the 5th, Taka got some help from a third strike foul bunt attempt for the first out. The next two outs came when leadoff man German hit a hard grounder straight back where it came from. The ball flicked off the front-left side of the mound, redirecting its course slightly leftward and on a direct line toward Daichi’s glove – already moving to his left – at short. A quick flip to Nemo and toss to first ended the inning. A thing a beauty, and the end of the night for Taka. Matsunaga’s final line: 5IP, 81P, 2H, 6K, 3BB, 0R.
The Lotte offense also went silent for the first five innings on Saturday. On top of that, the 5th inning marked the 22nd consecutive inning of offensive impotence, as Lotte hadn’t scored a run since the first inning Wednesday night. Our Marines went down in order the first time through the lineup, our first hit coming on a 1 out Nemoto double down the left field line in the 4th. A Craig Brazell line drive to right almost brought Nemo home, but the ball held up just long enough to land in a Seibu glove.
In came the bullpen to a 0-0 game in the 6th. The combination of Nakagoh (2/3 IP) and Hattori (1/3 IP) worked around a 1 out walk to retired the side. Finally in the bottom of the 6th, Iguchi broke our 22 inning scoreless spell with a MAMMOTH 2-out home run to the back row of the seats in left field. 1-0 Marines!
On to the top 7th inning. Uchi came in to pitch and stuck out the side on three consecutive batters. Our Marines then went 1-2-3 themselves in the bottom frame. #99 Carlos “I Got 99 Problems But My Pitching Ain’t One, You Got Bullpen Problems I Feel Bad For You Son” Rosa got two K’s of his own in a 1-2-3 top 8th.
With two out and none on in the home half of the 8th, it looked like we were heading for a dramatic 9th inning with a 1-0 Lotte lead. Instead Kakunaka would have none of that, and sent a deep shot to center right. The ball hit off the wall, and ricocheted back over the out-stretched gloves of two outward charging Seibu outfielders, leading to a 2-out triple. A walk to Nemoto and Iguchi brought up Craig Brazell to face fellow American Randy Williams with the bases full of Marines. Down 0-2 thanks to two big swings, Craig fouled one off, and took a ball to run the count to 1-2. After fighting off another foul, Craig sent the next pitch on a beeline toward right-center field. The 2B Watanabe leaped, reached, and got plenty of glove on the ball. But the ball was hit with such awesome Craig-like power that it practically ripped a hole through Watanabe’s glove and bounced into right. Kakunaka and Fighting Nemo score, 3-0 Lotte!!!
Masuda came in a pitched a perfect 9th to close the game and earn the save. Ho-hum, just another 4 inning, 0 hit, 1 walk, shutout performance by the bullpen. Iguchi and Brazell are the heroes, everyone is happy, and our losing streak stops at 3 games! Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!
By Steve Novosel Game 3 was rained out on Sunday, but was made up on Monday. And what a change of fortune that rain-out brought! See, Lotte and Seibu only played 1.5 innings before a biblical downpour opened up over QVC, but in that short time New Lefty Ace Furuya coughed up 4 runs due to bad fielding and a whole lot of water. But hey, that never happened! Instead, in the REAL game 3, Furuya pitched 7 very strong innings, only allowing 2 runs and picking up his 7th win of the year as Lotte beat the Saitama Kitty-Kats 4-3 in the crucial rubber match.
Here’s what you need to know about Furuya tonight: A day after throwing over 40 pitches in super bad weather during a game that never happened (wink! wink!), New Lefty Ace threw 98 pitches, giving up only 3 hits and a walk, and 2 earned runs over 7 innings of work. This, in his first start in over two weeks after being removed from the roster with some arm pain.
And make no mistake – Furuya looked to be the same cat who was beating up on the PL in July and August. His pitches looked sharp, and were it not for the fact that every hit he gave up came back to bite him (Onizaki homer, Onizaki sac fly after a pair of hits) you could say it was one of his best starts of the year. Honestly, though – with the exception of his last start in Sendai where he was clearly injured, every start that Furuya has had in the past two months has been not just good but great.
Actually the pitching in this game was pretty much opposite from the usual 2013 Chiba M.O. – great starting pitching, but a pretty shaky performance by the pen. Rosa gave up a pair of hits after taking over for Furuya, and Masuda coughed up a run in the 9th before getting Ozaki to fly out to end the game. Still, we take three earned, especially when the bats are putting more than that on the board.
How did that happen? Furuya’s foil from Sunday’s non-game – reliever-turned-starter-for-some-reason Okamoto – was decidedly non-sharp in the first inning, giving up 3 hits (Kakunaka (batting leadoff??? (how many nested parentheses can I use?)), Nemoto, Daichi, who carded an RBI), a pair of walks (Iguchi, a surprisingly effective Saburo), and a nice sac fly by Braz. Damage? 2 runs, and a 2-0 Chiba lead.
Seibu clawed back to make it a tie game, though, so the bats had to do it again. Okamoto didn’t make it easy, throwing 5 perfect innings after his first inning mess. But in the 7th, tiring, Okamoto got in serious trouble, and Our Marines made him pay. Saburo led off the 7th with a single, and after a bunt + pinch runner (Okada), pinch hitter and God of Chiba Fukuura brought in the deadlock-busting run. Satozaki singled to move pinch runner Ishimine to third, and temporary-new-Imae Hosoya Kei crushed a ball to the wall in deep left. Ishimine in, SATOZAKI trying to score from first but sadly out. Still, a nice 2 run inning, and most importantly, =if(Lotte Runs > Seibu Runs); Lotte Victory.
The cushion is back to 2.5 over Daiei, and Seibu skitters back to Tokorozawa looking in bad shape, 3.5 games back of that. Next up – crucial set with RAKUTEN starting Tuesday!