Our Marines traveled to Sendai for a three game set with the second place Rakuten Golden Eagles, bringing with them a two game lead over Rakuten in the Pacific League. Two blowout losses (by a combined score of 15-4) and a rain-out later, and we are now no longer in sole possession of first place. Two poor outings by Lotte starting pitching are in part what allowed the Eagles to stake their claim for a share of the top spot in the PL. At nearly the half way point of the season, the two teams now find themselves tied with 40-30 records – Lotte has played one additional game resulting in a tie (40-30-1).
In game one on Tuesday, Rakuten hit hard early and often for a 7-0 victory. With our starter Karakawa giving up 4 runs in the first two innings, we never stood a chance on the road against one of the best pitchers, if not the best pitcher in Japan, Masahiro Tanaka. The Eagles’ ace scattered 9 hits over the course of 8 innings for the victory.
The Eagles also won decisively in game 2 on Thursday, by a margin of 8-4. If on Tuesday we went up against the unstoppable force of Masahiro Tanaka, and if on Wednesday we went up against the unstoppable force of mother nature…on Thursday we went up against the unstoppable force of a near-no hitter hangover “letdown” game.
Thursday night was just the second time in Takuya Furuya’s career that he was called upon to start for the Marines. His first start occurred a week ago, in which he came within a pitch of a no hitter. I suppose we can give him a pass for a 4 2/3 inning 6 ER performance given his brilliance last week.
Unlike Tuesday, the Lotte bats at least put up a fight, even if it wasn’t enough to stop a surging Rakuten club. We were able to answer a first inning 2-run homerun by Andruw Jones with two runs of our own in the third. An RBI single by Iguchi, and a run scoring sac fly by Saburo knotted the game at 2-2.
Three consecutive 2 runs innings by Rakuten in the 4th, 5th & 6th (which included another Jones 2-run shot) proved to be too overwhelming for Chiba, who could respond with only a singular 2-run inning of their own in the 7th. The two Lotte runs in the 7th were thanks to a single up the middle by Iguchi, which brought home Okada and Nemoto. Iguchi’s 3 hit-3 RBI performance was pretty much the only bright spot for the Marines on the night…or the series for that matter.
Hopefully this Rakuten series was just a mere bump in the road, and not a turning point. Friday night brings with it the first game of a 3 game weekend get-together with our Kanto area rivals, the Saitama Seibu Lions. Looks for Steve and I in the
right field mosh pit ouenseki on Saturday.