CHIBA — Shunsuke Watanabe entered Thursday’s game between the Chiba Lotte Marines as a pitcher in need of a good break. Lucky for him Saburo Omura was more than willing to deliver.
Omura lined a tie-breaking single into center field to break a seventh-inning tie and lead the Marines to a 5-4 win over the Seibu Lions at Chiba Marine Stadium.
“Saburo’s been a great player for us all year long,” Marines manager Bobby Valentine said. “Tonight he got the big hits to give us the victory.”
The submarine hurler Watanabe gave up four runs in three shaky innings to start the contest, then got stronger as the game wore on. He struck out seven over seven innings.
“Actually he got better,” Valentine said. “He didn’t have very good control early. When he gave up the four runs he really got much better and concentrated perfectly.”
After giving up a deep three-run shot to Alex Cabrera in the third, Watanabe retired 13 of the next 14 batters he faced while the Marines fought their way out of a three-run hole.
” Shunsuke Watanabe held on after giving up the first four runs and just pitched perfectly after that,” Valentine said. “He gave us a chance to win.”
Omura’s timely hit helped give Watanabe (7-6) his first win since a 5-1 complete-game victory over Tokyo Yakult on June 3. Despite pitching well over the past month, Watanabe came into the game having lost five straight decisions after jumping out to a 6-1 record earlier in the season.
“He gave up less runs than he did tonight and he got losses in the past,” Valentine said. “I was really pulling for the win for us and for him. He deserved it.”
Lions reliever Satoshi Yamazaki took the loss after allowing Omura’s single in the seventh.
Starter Chris Gissell lasted only 2 1/2 innings to continue what has been a bad season for the right hander. Gissell (1-9) entered the contest having lost nine consecutive decisions.
He lost an early lead in the second when a Benny Agbayani double drove in a run to tie the score at 1-1.
Gissell returned to the mound in the third with a three-run advantage courtesy of Cabrera’s 20th homer on the season. He allowed the first two batters of the inning to reach base before giving up a deep triple to Omura that scored two runs
Thursday’s game marked the second time in as many starts that the Seibu hurler was pulled after 2 1/3 innings. Gissell was also given the early hook after giving up four runs in Seibu’s 5-1 loss to the Softbank Hawks on August 9. He has now given up seven runs in his last 4 2/3 innings. The Seibu starter hasn’t won since beating Orix on April 8th.
Minoru Yamagishi gave up the tying run in the sixth on a Tomoya Satozaki sacrifice fly.
After losing five of six, the Marines have won two straight as they prepare for a showdown with the Pacific League-leading Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Despite being third in the league, Valentine played down the importance of the upcoming three-game tilt.
“With 40 games left there’s no crucial series this early,” Valentine said.
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