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Omatsu, Hashimoto lead Marines past Eagles in slugfest

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CHIBA — Shoitsu Omatsu made sure he put the Chiba Lotte Marines in position to win their third game in a row. Late in the contest, Tasuku Hashimoto made sure they did just that.

Omatsu hit a three-run homer to give his team the lead and Hashimoto drove in two runs in the eighth inning to help stave off a frantic rally and the Marines defeated the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 7-6 on Tuesday night at Chiba Marine Stadium.

“They battled, they scored seven runs to win the game and they played great defense,” Marines manager Bobby Valentine said of his club.

There were some tense moments for Marines fans in the eighth, however, with Jose Fernandez and Takeshi Yamasaki driving in a pair of runs off reliever Yusuke Kawasaki to trim the Lotte lead to a single run.

With the lead down to one, Hashimoto hit a two-run single in the bottom half of the frame to give Lotte some breathing room.

“It was a very good job of hitting (during the game),” Valentine said. “The two-strike hitting early in the game, Hashimoto’s clutch hitting, (Akira) Otsuka coming off the bench. . . Very good hitting in the game tonight.”

Rakuten threatened again in the ninth, scoring two runs to cut the Lotte lead to one.

But reliever Tadahiro Ogino ended the rally once and for all by retiring Teppei Tsuchiya to end the game.

The Eagles were in total control early before Omatsu took Rakuten starter Satoshi Nagai deep in the fourth-inning to erase a two-run deficit. The homer was Omatsu’s fourth of the season.

“Omatsu following the back-to-back hits by (Daisuke) Hayakawa and (Tomoya) Satozaki was just what we needed,” Valentine said.

The Marines outfielder was also the difference maker on April 12, albeit in more dramatic fashion, with a two-out “sayonara” pinch-hit RBI single that defeated Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

Nagai (2-2) began the game on fire, striking out the side in the first inning and retiring the first 10 batters he faced. Things went sour for the 23-year-old in the fourth with Hayakawa and Satozaki connecting for a pair of hits before Omatsu took his 0-1 slider for a ride to give Lotte the lead.

Nagai took the loss after being charged with five runs on six hits and striking out eight over 5 1/3 innings.

Lotte starter Shingo Ono (1-0) wasn’t quite as sharp as Nagai early on but pitched well enough to earn the victory. He allowed both runs on five hits and struck out two in six innings of work.

Ono began his night by dodging the shards of Naoto Watanabe’s bat after the Rakuten shortstop led off the game with a broken-bat single. Ono escaped unscathed, for the most part, but was tagged with a run on an RBI single by Yamasaki later in the inning.

Ono went on to retire the next eight batters before giving up another run in the fourth.

“I though after that first ball, the bat hit off his shin, he had to pitch with some pain for a couple of innings,” Valentine said. “But he did a heck of a job getting the win.”

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At Koshien Stadium, Scott Atchison pitched six shutout innings with seven strikeouts and three Hanshin relievers held Hiroshima to one hit the rest of the way.

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At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Hiroyasu Tanaka and Kazuhiro Hatakeyama hit solo home runs to help make a winner of Tokyo Yakult starter Masanori Ishikawa, who pitched one-run ball over seven innings against Yokohama.