Series Preview: I’m not going to lie to you – this team needs wins in the worst way right now. September is not exactly looking like July yet, but the 5-6 record so far this month is the second worst month for Our Marines this season. The team batting average so far this month is a limp .227, and the ERA has ballooned to 4.37. Not coincidentally, Nishino and Greisinger are out with arm injuries, and Naruse is still absent from the roster.
This team needs a boost, and needs it now. There’s just 17 games left in the season and Daiei has crept to within 0.5 games of Chiba in the race for second.
By Steve Novosel Baseball is a cruel, cruel game sometimes, and for Our Marines Tuesday night's game was just one of those times. The Baby-Faced Killer took the hill vs Orix ace Kaneko at QVC, and instead of the great pitching duel we hoped for young Karakawa was victimized by bad calls, bad defense, and frankly baffling management decisions as Lotte got murdered 10-4.
To be honest, the outcome in a parallel universe could have been much different for Karakawa. In the first inning, Orix’s Adachi drew a walk and with two outs swiped second. I was in the ticket line at the time and watching the game on TV, and from the replay of this steal it seemed pretty clear that the ball arrived to the bag in time to get Adachi. Nemoto thought so, too, but the umpire disagreed. If that’s an out, that’s the end of the first, but instead Lee Dae Ho singled to score Adachi and the rout was on. 4 runs in the inning for Orix, Chiba down 4-0 before even coming to bat.
In the second – something even more inexplicable: Okada misplayed a ball in center. A run would have scored via sac fly, but instead it was a 2-run double for… Yeah, Lee Dae Ho1. That’s right, instead of a 1-0 game at this point it was 6-0 – Karakawa gave up 6 runs on 8 hits through 2.
1 Man, how I would LOVE to have that guy on my team. Hits for average and power and plays a nice first base. He’s a free agent, and there’s the natural Lotte-Korea connection, so maybe?
Karakawa was at 80 pitches to start the 4th, and clearly he had little left in the tank. Orix batters recorded 4 more hits and a walk off Yuki in that inning – that’s 4 more runs, putting Chiba down 10-0 after 3.5 innings. I need to emphasize this again – I cannot come up with any reason to keep him in that long, to allow him to give up that much, to put the team that deep in a hole. Ohtani took over in the 5th and went the rest of the way – a very nice bit of work in relief, to be honest. 5 IP, 4 hits, 4 Ks, no runs. Were it that his starts were more like that stat line…
It’s not very often that a team will come back from 10 runs down, and sure enough, Chiba did not. But in the last thee frames, mostly after Kaneko had left the game, the bats did score a few to make the final a bit more respectable. I was in the infield unreserved seats, and there happened to be a few cheering friends sitting nearby. So when Lotte started to get some men on base and in scoring position, we cheered very loudly. In the 9th, with Our Marines trying to claw back in it, we had a good 20 people standing in a group and cheering loudly before the Fun Police2 came to break it up.
2 It didn’t use to be that the QVC security staff was so quick to break up celebrations in the infield seats, but they’ve really been after it all year. I’m not sure why a group of people standing and singing (not blocking anyone’s view, either) is now a crime, but apparently it is.
Nemoto, Iguchi, Imae (3-4 in his first game back), and Kakunaka all recorded hits against Orix reliever Toda in the bottom of the 9th to make it a 10-4 game and give us fans a little sliver of hope, but Our Marines couldn’t score anymore, so 10-4 was the final.
The Hawks lost so we still have a 0.5 game lead for second, but Seibu is creeping up, just 4 out of third and 4.5 out of second. 16 games to go, it’s going to be interesting!
By Steve Novosel With no outs in the bottom of the first inning, sacks stuffed with Men of Lotte, Imae stepped to the plate and belted a cutter hung over the middle of the plate deep into the left field stands for a super duper quick 4-0 Lotte lead. I said to myself, 'Self, it simply doesn't get any better than this.'
I was oh too right - the bullpen imploded and Our Marines dropped a heartbreaker to Orix, 7-6.
Fujioka was not the problem with this game, though. Nope, that was the pen, and the 6th inning walkapalooza. Nakagoh took over for Fujioka and was not at all effective – a single, an unlucky infield single, and a walk loaded the bases with one out. Out went Nakagoh, in came Nin Nin – who’s ERA has gone from sub-1.00 in late June to over 3.50 now. And right after coming in, Hattori gave up a single to Hirano to score a run, a bases-loaded walk to Adachi to tie it, then another to Lee Dae Ho to push Orix into the lead. Out went Hattori, in came Ueno, and immediately his old teammate (La La La La) Takehara singled in a pair. Yup, from a 4-2 lead to a 7-4 deficit just like that.
I can use some simple metrics to tell you just how excruciating that inning was for Fans of Lotte – 3 outs, 45m. 45m! Who ever heard of a 45m half inning?
Ueno, Ledezma, and Carlos Rosa were fine the rest of the way but the damage was done. Our Marines would claw back a run in the bottom of the 6th with a solo shot by the inimitable Kakunaka, and one more in the 9th via BRAZ double and Daichi timely. That made it 7-6, but there was no more gas in the tank, and Hirano closed it out.
In the preview two days ago I said “this team needs wins in the worst way right now” and we got bupkis. Not surprisingly, Daiei got more than bupkis and now has a 0.5 game lead on Chiba. That’s not good. But that just makes the upcoming 3-game weekend series vs the Hawks that much more interesting, right?
Series Post-Script: There was a very large group of foreign fans in the outfield for Wednesday’s game, and it looked like they had a great time. If you read this, you were on TV whole bunch, especially in the late innings. Give us a shout and tell us how you enjoyed the game!