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Rhodes on hold at 53

by Jack Gallagher

OSAKA — The great home run chase held steady Monday night, as Kintetsu slugger Tuffy Rhodes went 0-2 with a pair of strikeouts, walked and was hit by a pitch as the Kintetsu Buffaloes beat the Chiba Lotte Marines 5-3 at the Osaka Dome.

Pacific League WonLostTiedPct.GB Daiei 67 56 1 .545 – Kintetsu 67 57 2 .5403 0.5 Seibu 68 58 0 .5396 0.5 Lotte 59 61 2 .4916 6.5 Orix 58 60 4 .4915 6.5 Nippon Ham 47 74 3 .388 19

Rhodes set a single season record for home runs in the Pacific League on Sunday afternoon when he crushed his 53rd on a pitch from Daiei Hawks southpaw reliever Shuji Yoshida high into the third deck. It was the decisive run in a key 7-6 victory.

The significance of the blast was great, as in addition to being a record-breaker, it also kept the Buffaloes in the thick of the PL pennant race.

Monday’s hero was Koichi Isobe, who cracked a three-run homer in support of Sean Bergman, who scattered five hits over seven innings, as the Buffaloes cut their deficit on the idle Hawks to just half a game. The first at-bat of the night was a painful one for Rhodes, as he took a 1-0 fastball from Lotte starter Shunsuke Watanabe right in the back in the bottom of the first inning. Rhodes got up, dusted himself off and jogged to first base. In true major-league fashion he didn’t even touch the spot where he was hit.

Rhodes struck out swinging against Watanabe, who throws in a unique submarine style, in the third. In the sixth, Rhodes walked on a full count against Watanabe, having to jump out of the path of a wayward pitch to avoid being plunked again.

This time Rhodes wasn’t so cordial, pointing at Watanabe after the near miss and glaring at him as he ran toward first base.

Rhodes struck out looking in his final at-bat of the evening on a 2-2 pitch from reliever Takashi Kawai in the seventh.

Kintetsu opened the scoring in the bottom of the second on a double by Isobe, a sacrifice by Yuji Yoshioka and an RBI double by designated hitter Kenji Kawaguchi.

The contest remained tight until the bottom of the sixth, when Eiji Mizuguchi led off with a single, Rhodes walked, and after Norihiro Nakamura struck out, Isobe smoked a Watanabe offering into the right-field seats for a three-run homer to make it 4-0 for the Buffs.

Bergman (8-4) cruised into the seventh having allowed just two hits, but lost the shutout after retiring the first two batters of the frame, when he gave up a single to pinch hitter Naoki Matsumoto and a triple to Makoto Kosaka. The Marines then cut the deficit to 4-2 on a single by Kazuya Fukuura that scored Matsumoto.

However, just when it looked like Lotte had something going, Frank Bolick grounded out to end the inning.

Yoshioka added a solo homer to center, his 24th of the season, for the Buffaloes in the eighth.

Akira Otsuka closed out the scoring with a solo blast for the Marines in the ninth off reliever Akinori Otsuka.

Watanabe (1-2) allowed four hits, struck out seven and walked three in 62/3 innings.

Lions 1, Fighters 0

Mitsutaka Goto (3-2) scattered three hits and struck out six over six innings and three relievers held on for a shutout victory as Seibu whitewashed Nippon Ham at the Tokyo Dome.

In the top of the first inning, Seibu leadoff man Hiroyuki Shibata doubled off Nippon Ham starter Akio Shimizu (2-7) and Masaji Shimizu walked. Kazuo Matsui then singled home Shibata for the game’s only run.

Kiyoshi Toyoda pitched the last inning for his 26th save.

Hawks at BlueWave — ppd.