What a nasty weekend for Our Marines in Sendai! Friday’s 9th inning disappointment carried over to a total pitching disaster and an 8-1 loss on Saturday and another inexplicable meltdown – a 5-4 loss – on Sunday. The Men of Lotte are at their lowest point in 3 months – 5 games out of first and a game out of second. In fact, Lotte is almost as close to 6th place (5.5 above Nippon Ham) as 1st.
Kicked in the Dicky
I try to be as positive as possible here, but I can’t mince words. Lotte starter Dicky Gonzalez turned in the worst pitching performance of the year, beating out Masuda’s Friday disaster, the Ohtani start in April’s 17-5 debacle, and the aborted attempt to make Ohmine a reliever. It was a bad enough start that Gonzalez is unlikely to see the field ever again in a Lotte uniform.
The first inning was not awful – a pair of strikeouts wrapped around a double. 4 up, 3 down. But the second inning was an epic implosion – 5 hits before the first out was recorded, and not tiny little dribblers through a fielder’s legs. Nope, it was a homer, a single, a double, another single1, a triple2 – all in all, 5 runs scored in the inning. It was MUCH worse than that sounds.
1It must be said that Craig posted on Twitter at that moment that Rakuten needed just a triple to get the cycle in the inning before recording an out.
2And there it is!
I’ve seen more competitive batting practice sessions.
Fujioka took over for Dicky and went most of the rest of the way, giving up another run in 4 1/3 innings of work, while Minami coughed up two more late to give Rakuten their 8 runs. This game was over in the second, though.
On offense? Would you believe Chiba led this game? Yup, in the first inning T OGINO led off with a single, Iguchi walked, Imae grounded to force out Iguchi and send Ogino to third, and Braz doubled him in. Imae was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first on the play. Aaaaand that folks was your Lotte highlight of the night.
The game was so awful that we even managed to get bit by the injury bug. Satozaki’s been out the whole month with another injury and with Emura struggling mightily behind the plate, Kawamoto’s been doing most of the work at catcher. Late in the game Kawamoto tried to field a pop foul at the backstop – the ball clipped the net right before his glove causing it to miss the glove and go straight into Kawamoto’s eye. He had to be taken off the field on a stretcher and was removed from the roster after the game. Hopefully he recovers soon!Nishino To The Rescue?
Our new ace Nishino got the start for Sunday’s series final. At the start of the game, Nishino was absolutely perfect. That’s not just a figure of speech, either – for the first 4 1/3 of Sunday’s game, Nishino did not allow a baserunner. Inexplicably, though, he not only gave up a hit in the 5th but three of them plus a walk leading to three runs3.
3If I were a smarter man I could give you some real reasons why we have seen so many starts of late that went great for the first 4, 5, 6 innings and then fell apart late. Conditioning? Pitch calling? I don’t know. What I do know is it is a whole lot of stress on the pen, and with the season well into the dog days of summer the pen is wilting a bit. We need more quality starts, and some starts going to 8, 9 innings.
Our Marines put a whole lot of runners on base against Eagles starter Mima and reliever Miyagawa. 16 baserunners for the game, to be exact (10 hits, 6 walks) – but from those baserunners Chiba could only plate 4. Sad. The first run came courtesy of an Imae timely single4 to score T OGINO in the first inning, though Imae would get thrown out on the basepaths for the second night in a row. 1-0 Lotte at this point.
4Imae was The Man on Sunday 4-4 with a walk, RBI, and a stolen base.
The Lotte offense exploded in the third inning with 3 runs on 5 hits, the big ones being an Iguchi 2-run double and an Ohmatsu single. But despite that production, and getting runners on base in almost every inning after (including bases loaded in the 7th), Our Marines wouldn’t score again.
Nishino was pulled by Itoh-kantoku in the 7th after giving up a 1-out double to McGehee. Matsunaga took over and immediately gave up an RBI double to Masuda – from a 4-0 lead to a 4-4 tie. Matsunaga was all over the place after that, walking the bases loaded before getting out of the jam with an inning ending strikeout of Hijirisawa.
The Lotte pen needed to hold the score as is to give the offense a chance to win it. Matsunaga came back out to start the 8th and quickly got out Fujita and Ginji. Matsunaga almost hit Ginji in the head with a pitch and Ginji in fact feigned that he was hit, but it was clear both live and on replay that the pitch missed him.
This was enough for Itoh to pull Matsunaga for Rosa, who promptly gave up a hit, an intentional walk, and a double to give Rakuten the lead. Aaaand that 5-4 score is how it would end.
What a crummy weekend in Sendai. Longtime followers of the team know that Chiba had a very bad history in Sendai, though, losing every game there for something like 2 years, but recently we’ve played better. With this series sweep Our Marines are 0-5 for the month of July in Sendai – even 2-3 and first place is right there.
The team is back home for the first time in 2 weeks for a 3 game set with last place Nippon Ham. Only 57 games left, time to get back to winning!