Can they create sub-par drama once again?
The Chiba Lotte Marines have won their first game of fall baseball. On Thursday, they defeated the SoftBank Hawks 8-2 in Game 1 of the Climax Series First Stage at Chiba Marine Stadium. So far, 15 of the 18 teams that have won the first stage have advanced to the final stage. Chiba Lotte has an 83% chance of reaching the upper stages.
Chiba Lotte finished second in dramatic fashion, defeating the Rakuten Eagles in the season finale. They finished with 70 wins, 5 draws, 58 losses, and a 5.7L2 ratio, beating SoftBank, who finished with 71 wins, 3 draws, 69 losses, and a 5.7L1 ratio, by one point.
“Monster pitcher” Roki Sasaki returned to the mound after a 27-day absence and was dominant. He retired nine consecutive batters in the third inning. He threw 41 pitches and struck out four.
In the top of the first inning, he threw a fastball at SoftBank’s No. 1 hitter, Ukyo Shuto, that reached 161 kilometers per hour. Shuto was thrown out on a pitcher’s interference. Against No. 3 Yuki Yanagita, he threw four forkballs in a row and got her to strike out swinging.
Lotte manager Masato Yoshii praised Sasaki’s pitching, saying, “She’s not perfect yet, but she threw her best ball.”
Two home runs in the bottom of the first inning put the game out of reach.
Takashi Ogino hit a leadoff homer in the first. He took a 150-mile-per-hour fastball from right-hander Stewart Jr. into the left-field stands. Two batters later, Gregory Polanco hit a solo home run to the right-center field wall. The Pacific League’s home run leader (26 this season) spun his bat coolly.
After SoftBank scored two runs in the top of the sixth inning to take a 4-0 lead, Chiba Lotte used four hits in the bottom of the inning to pull away for three runs.
A familiar face watched the game from the stands for Chiba Lotte fans. It was former head coach Bobby Valentine (73).
Valentine led Chiba Lotte to its first Japan Series title in 31 years in 2005, when Lee was the center fielder. That year, Chiba Lotte finished second in the pennant race and swept the third-place Seibu Lions in the first stage of the playoffs. In the second stage, they knocked off league leader SoftBank to advance to the Japan Series.
In the Japan Series, Chiba Lotte swept the Hanshin Tigers in four games to lift the championship trophy. In the first year of the playoffs, a lower-ranked team defeated a higher-ranked team in a best-of-three series. 먹튀검증
If Chiba Lotte defeated SoftBank, they would meet the first-place Oryx Buffaloes in the final stage. It was renamed the Climax Series when the Central League introduced playoffs in 2007.
Chiba Lotte may have the 2005 Highest Prize Series in their heads.