CHIBA — There’s something about Shunsuke Watanabe that just brings out the best in Daisuke Hayakawa. Neither can really explain it, but for some reason they just click.
Unfortunately for Yokohama, the unlikely tag team was in out in full force Saturday afternoon at Chiba Marine Stadium. The submarine hurler pitched eight strong innings and Hayakawa led the offense, guiding Chiba Lotte to an 8-3 victory over the Yokohama BayStars.
Fittingly they did the postgame hero interview together in front of a raucous home crowd. Watanabe (5-1) was brilliant at times over eight innings, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out four. He was perfect through 4 1/3 innings before giving up a single to Takahiro Saeki. With the win Watanabe has already matched his win total of a year ago when he was 5-11.
“I was schooled by (Lotte catcher Tomoya) Satozaki,” Watanabe said. I was pitching at a very good pace and trying hard.”
“His condition is very good and his control is very good,” Marines manager Bobby Valentine said of Watanabe. His control of all his pitches is better than it was at this time last year. He pitched very well. He kept his concentration. He was good today.”
The change-up was of particular use to the starter as it allowed him to set up the Yokohama batters time and time again.
“It’s working very well,” Valentine said of Watanabe’s change-up. “It makes his fastball better. He’s getting a lot of strikes with it and he’s getting a lot of outs with it. His control is better (than last season). Plus, Satozaki is working very well with his combinations.”
Hayakawa had a big day as well, going 4-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs scored. The outfielder commented afterward that he wants to see Watanabe pitch more because he always hits well with the submarine hurler on the mound.
“When he was at Orix he hit my balls many times,” Watanabe said of Hayakawa. “In a way we are a good tag team. I’m so glad he’s joined (the) Marines.”
The rest of the Marines are glad as well. After batting .196 with a home run and three RBIs in 21 appearances with Orix in 2006, Hayakawa is off to the best start of his career. He entered the contest batting .298 with two home runs and 13 RBIs.
“I haven’t changed much technically,” Hayakawa said. “So I always knew I could play this well. The biggest reason is that I’ve received a lot of expectations (from Valentine). This season I’ve been playing in games. By playing there are many more things I can experience than by just practicing.”
So far, that experience is paying big dividends for the Marines.
“Hayakawa’s been playing great,” Valentine said. “He’s one of our best players. When I traded for him I thought he was a good player and he’s been even better than I thought.”
While Watanabe plowed through the Yokohama lineup, the BayStars’ pitching staff was not nearly as effective.
Starter Daisuke Miura (2-5) and relievers Kazuya Takamiya, Joselo Diaz , Shun Yamaguchi and Yuji Yoshimi combined to give up eight runs on 13 hits, four walks and two wild pitches. No matter who the BayStars trotted out to the mound, they couldn’t stop the Lotte attack.
“It was team play,” Valentine said. “They (the Marines) executed on the hit-and-run, drove guys in and got walks when they needed to.”
The fifth inning was particularly bad for the Yokohama hurlers. It began with back-to-back singles that drew assistant coach Akio Saitoh out of the dugout to pull Miura from the game.
Saitoh was on the field again moments later as Takamiya allowed the baserunners to advance on a wild pitch before walking the bases loaded. Saitoh made his third appearance in as many batters as Diaz, who relieved Takamiya, promptly walked in a run. Diaz yielded another run, on a sacrifice fly from Julio Zuleta, before finally getting Yokohama out of the inning.
Miura took the loss after being charged with six runs on eight hits through four innings. Lotte struck in the first, after a deep double by Kazuya Fukuura allowed Hayakawa to score from first to make score 1-0. The Marines pushed the lead to 3-0 after Takeshi Aono followed Benny Agabayani’s double with a two-run homer in the second.
Hayakawa and Fukuura were at it again in the third, leading off with consecutive singles. Hayakawa scored on a sacrifice fly by Saburo Omura to make it 4-0.
After adding two runs in the fifth, off Diaz and Takamiya, Lotte answered a BayStars rally with two more runs in the eighth to take an 8-2 lead.
Shuichi Murata homered in the top of the ninth off reliever Yusuke Kawasaki to account for the game’s final run.
Carp edge Hawks
FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Knuckleballer Jared Fernandez limited the damage to one unearned run in six effective innings and the Hiroshima Carp escaped with a 2-1 victory over the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks on Saturday.
Buffaloes 7, Tigers 0
At Skymark Stadium, Hirotoshi Kitagawa doubled in two runs in the first inning and Yoshihisa Hirano threw seven sharp innings as Orix extended its unbeaten streak to seven games, including a tie, with a shutout of Hanshin.
Giants 4, Eagles 1
At Fullcast Stadium, Michihiro Ogasawara and Damon Hollins each hit a two-run homer as Yomiuri beat Tohoku Rakuten to pick up its first interleague win of the season.
Ogasawara and Hollins both connected off Koji Aoyama (3-6) in the first and second innings, respectively, giving Tetsuya Utsumi (6-2) early run support.
Dragons 7, Lions 1
At Goodwill Dome, Masahiko Morino hit a three-run homer and Kenichi Nakata threw one-run ball over eight innings as Chunichi beat Seibu for its third straight win.
Fighters 6, Swallows 4
At Sapporo Maruyama Stadium, Atsunori Inaba broke a 4-4 tie with a seventh-inning RBI single as Nippon Ham beat Tokyo Yakult to extend its winning streak to six.