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Buffaloes roaming in wrong direction again

by John E. Gibson (May 19, 2012)

The Buffaloes haven't been roaming in the right direction in recent years.

They've enjoyed second-half pushes in four of the past five seasons, and even finished second in the Pacific League in 2008.

Last year, the Buffaloes, came within a fraction of a percentage point of reaching the playoffs, finishing fourth just behind the Saitama Seibu Lions.

They're scuffling in the PL cellar this season because of a 13-23 start, and lousy beginnings have been the norm. But a burst to a second-place finish last year in interleague, which started on Wednesday, spurred them toward a Climax Series playoff spot.

"Last year was a heartbreaker. I mean, we lost on the last day of the season," said second-year lefty Evan MacLane on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome.

"All we had to do was tie or win and we were going to the playoffs."

And with virtually the same starters as last season, the Buffaloes are wandering off course already. They can't manufacture offense and lost leadoff hitter Tomotaka Sakaguchi to a dislocated right shoulder on Thursday in dropping the first two interleague games against the Yomiuri Giants.

"We've never really clicked as a team yet," MacLane said. "A lot of times this year, we've had good pitching but not the hitting. Then the next day, we've got good hitting, but the pitching kind of struggles.

"I feel like it's a repeat of last year. I definitely think we have the potential to do that again."

Orix's run differential is a staggering minus 46, with the fewest runs scored (101) in the PL. Even when it keeps the games close, the Buffaloes stumble at the end.

"It's nothing mental, it's not that we're just giving up," said head coach Nobuhiro Takashiro. "We just haven't been able to come up with any offense. No one is hitting."

Taskahiro pointed to a couple of key injuries--ace righty Chihiro Kaneko, who has been limited to three starts by a bad back and is just 1-1, and Takahiro Okada, who is just coming back from a bad hamstring and has spent the first six weeks mostly missing from the lineup. But Takashiro wouldn't make excuses for the other guys, who he said have not stepped up.

"We have the players to get the job done," he said. "But we have plenty of time. It's still only May."

The Buffaloes, who set a club record by not hitting their first homer of the season until their 11th game, are looking for someone to get hot with the bat.

"We're the kind of team that needs to hit," MacLane said. "We'll get a couple of guys on base, but then we can't get that [next] hit. Just a little bit more playing time--we're almost there. A little bit more confidence and I think we'll be fine."


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