CHIBA — The Chiba Lotte Marines threw everything but the rule book at the Seibu Lions on Tuesday night. Good thing their manager was there to back them up.
Akira Otsuka hit a go-ahead home run in the fifth and Marines manager Bobby Valentine broke out the rule book during a sixth-inning tirade as the Marines turned a close game into a rout with an 8-1 win over the Lions at Chiba Marine Stadium.
With runs at a premium in the early going, Otsuka broke a 1-1 tie with a shot to left field, his first of the season, off Seibu starter Kazuhisa Ishii.
“Wasn’t it great to have Otsuka contribute like that,” Valentine said. “He’s been here and been playing a good brand of baseball. He was really the key player today.”
The Marines added a run in the sixth on a high flyball by Toshiaki Imae that the Seibu fielders lost in the night sky. Second baseman Yasuyuki Kataoka ran from his position to make the catch but was unable to haul it in.
With two on and one out, the Marines were in prime position to extend their lead until the umpires huddled together and called Imae out due to the infield fly rule. An incensed Valentine came racing out of the dugout and vehemently argued the call to no avail.
“The rule says it has to be an ordinary effort,” Valentine said, noting that Kataoka ran a long way to make a play on the ball. “It wasn’t an ordinary effort in my opinion.”
Not to be deterred, the Lotte skipper went back to the dugout before returning to the field brandishing a rule book. It didn’t work, however, as the decision was upheld.
“Well I just asked them to read it,” Valentine said. “I was trying to explain that to him. When I’m excited, sometimes my words don’t come out properly. I think the umpiring in this league is very good. Sometimes you’ll have a dispute.”
Imae got the last laugh, driving in a run with an RBI double during a four-run seventh that put the game out of reach.
Kazuya Fukuura, who is dealing with an early-season injury, also had a big day for the home team, going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.
“It’s great to have Fukuura back,” Valentine said. “He said he’s pretty much pain-free. That’s what we’ve been waiting for.
“To have him in our lineup getting hits, getting on base and scoring run is very important for our team.”
Submarine hurler Shunsuke Watanabe scattered nine hits and allowed one run over a gutsy 6 2/3 innings and struck out five to improve to 3-1 this season and lower his ERA to 2.58.
“He battled and got the big outs when he had to and got some double plays,” Valentine said of Watanabe. “I thought he had really good composure today.”
Ishii (3-1) matched Watanabe almost pitch-for-pitch through four innings before Otsuka took him deep to left. He took his first loss of the season after allowing three runs — two earned — on six hits and striking out four in six innings of work.
Tomoya Satozaki put Lotte ahead early with a single to right that drove in Tsuyoshi Nishioka to make the score 1-0 in the first. Seibu pulled even in the third on Hiroyuki Nakajima’s RBI double.
Otsuka gave Lotte the lead with his home run in the bottom of the fifth to make the score 2-1. Imae’s infield fly drove in a run in the next inning to make the score 3-1.
The Marines broke the game open with four runs in the seventh and Fukuura capped the victory with an RBI single in the eighth.
The two teams will meet in the second game of their three game series at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday at Chiba Marine Stadium. Shingo Ono is scheduled to get the start for the Marines while Lions ace Hideaki Wakui will toe the rubber for Seibu.
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