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Struggling Marines marching out of step

by John E. Gibson (Jul 2, 2010)

The Chiba Lotte Marines started the season marching proudly in perfect step. Now the team needs to take a step back and find its rhythm.

An interleague victory over the Yomiuri Giants on June 2 pushed Lotte a season-high 14 games over .500, and they were in first place in the Pacific League.

Since then, the now-second-place Marines are 5-11, including an embarrassing 19-1 bludgeoning at home on Tuesday at the hands of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

"That game, something like that might happen once or twice in a season," said veteran Tadahito Iguchi before the Marines beat the Hawks 7-3 on Wednesday.

"We just have to put it aside and concentrate on what our goal is. It's the same whether you lose by one run or by 10. You just have to take a good look at what you did wrong and work hard."

But the Marines seem to be taking togetherness to a new level with a team-wide funk.

"When we're good, we're all good, and when we're bad, the whole team is bad together," said Iguchi, who started his career with the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks and joined the Marines last year as a free agent after playing four seasons in the majors.

"We have to figure out some way to change that. Whenever you lose a game, guys have a tendency to get quiet. So it's important to speak up and get things going.

"Of course I want to take on that role and pick guys up, but the best thing for that is getting good results on the field."

Rookie Takashi Ogino was contributing to the early results, batting .326 and leading the PL in stolen bases with 25 when he injured his right knee. He was deactivated in late May and subsequently underwent surgery.

The speedy outfielder is expected to be sidelined until August.

The man with the best results was first-year lefty Bill Murphy, who started out 6-0 before dropping his first game this past weekend at Sapporo Dome.

"Every team goes through a rough patch," Murphy said. "We've had a lot of injuries--had to call a lot of guys up, send a lot of guys down. But we'll battle.

"Hopefully July will bring better numbers for us. We got off to a good start, some other teams got off to a good start, too, but we've struggled a little bit longer.

"The last two weeks, we're playing .500 instead of sweeping teams. But we'll get back in the groove."


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