Chiba Lotte Marines 3 Hanshin Tigers 2
1-0 (2nd), 1-2 (3rd), 2-2 (7th), 3-2 (9th)
The Lotte Marines are based in Chiba and are managed, for the 2009 season at least, by the wonderfully named Bobby Valentine, an American import who has captured the hearts of a large portion of the Chiba peninsula.
This season they’re a bit behind the leaders of the Pa-League, in fifth- though the league is very close.
Tonight’s starting line up is Akahoshi, Sekimoto, Toritani, Kanemoto, Arai, Katsuragi, Hirano, Kanoh, and Abe. Abe is starting for his first time I believe.
Abe pitched well in the four innings he was there- allowing 5 hits but getting 5 strikeouts, and generally containing the Marine offense. After four he was replaced by pinch hitter Shimizu (quite poor)- while this seemed a little odd, it is far better than the mistake of leaving a pitcher in for too long, and actually gave a long period in which our “all-star” relief could be utilised. Despite giving up a run, Hanshin took the lead in the third when Sekimoto, Arai and Katsuragi combined to get two home. In the “lucky seventh” break I noticed for the first time that the releasing of the Condom Balloons has been replaced by a rousing chorus of Rokko Oroshi, apparently due to the fears of BIRD FLU (capitals for added panic). Anyway, be that as it may, by the bottom of the seventh Hanshin had utilised Abe for 4, Egusa for 2, and Atchison for 1. For the eighth came Williams- and with the ninth reserved for Kyuji Fujikawa, it really was an all-star use of our relief. Could they do it?
Unfortunately Williams was true to his recent form, and with two out failed to keep his nerve, allowing a hit and a runner to get home to even the game 2-2. A nice piece of catcher-pitcher communication got the three out, and it was Hanshin at bat. Now the game scene had changed- with the score at 2-2, Hanshin needed more from the offence. Things started well- Katsuragi was walked to first. Hirano sacrifice bunted to get Katsuragi to second, and almost got to first in time as well, although not quite. Unfortunately Kanoh was then struck out. Next came pinch hitting favourite Hiyama- but he couldn’t do anything, flying out to bring a curtain down on the eighth.
Innings number nine, and up stepped Fujikawa Kyuji, who had kept his nerve in the previous evenings game to secure a 4-3 Hanshin victory. Sadly things went awry- a two base hit was followed by an error from Kanoh in catching a foul ball, then another two baser brought the runner home to make it 3-2 to the Marines. Disaster! Disquiet swept the stands at Koshien, even as the third out was taken. So…into the bottom of the ninth, starting from Akahoshi, with Hanshin needing at least one run… Akahoshi grounded out, then Sekimoto got a base hit. Next- Toritani. He got to first, but Sekimoto was out at second. So finally…Kanemoto for all or nothing….his second swing didn’t look at all sharp- this is “May Aniki” not “April Aniki”- and then he flew out, and that was that.
All in all a dispiriting, disappoiting defeat. We had fought well, our starter had performed, and we’d got hits. But our “star relief” of Williams and Fujikawa let us down- yet another weakness developing in our team. Time will tell, but our mixed run in a poor season continues. Next up – Seibu Lions at Koshien.