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Big first inning propels Marines to win over Tigers

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CHIBA — Tsuyoshi Nishioka sent ozeki Chiyotaikai an emphatic message in the third inning of the Chiba Lotte Marines’ game against the Hanshin Tigers. The sumo star got the message loud and clear. So did the Tigers.

Nishioka helped spark a six-run first inning to back starter Naoyuki Shimizu and help erase an early deficit as the Marines tamed the Tigers 10-6 in front of a crowd of 30,022 on Saturday afternoon at Chiba Marine Stadium.

With Lotte trailing 2-0 in the first, Nishioka led off with a walk and stole second before the Marines scored six runs in five at-bats on consecutive RBI singles by Saburo Omura, Shoitsu Omatsu and Tomoya Satozaki, a sacrifice fly from Jose Ortiz and Benny Agbayani’s two-run home run.

“I thought that we had to try and strike back and strike back aggressively after their two runs and Nishioka was the catalyst,” Marines manager Bobby Valentine said.

“He started it going, (Kazuya) Fukuura’s walk was big and Saburo getting us on the board with the first RBI, those were all very important plays for us I thought.”

Agbayani, Ortiz and Nishioka, who pointed and gave a “guts pose” to an excited Chiyotaikai in the stands after his two-run shot, each homered to power the Marines to their fourth win in five games.

Agbayani finished 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.

“Benny swung the bat tonight as well as he has all year,” Valentine said.

“We needed it. We needed every swing he took. His three hits were very valuable.”

The 10 runs were the most scored by Lotte since putting up 11 against the Yomiuri Giants on May 20 in Chiba.

“I was very proud of the offense tonight,” Valentine said. “With the stands half-filled with (Tigers) fans, them getting off to a 2-0 start, facing a pitcher we’ve never faced, it would have been very easy to fold our tent. But they played very hard.

“I was very proud of them.”

Shimizu (5-5) found himself in an early hole after allowing a pair of runs on three quick hits.

He got things turned around quickly, getting out of the inning — with a runner stranded on third — to throw four scoreless innings before allowing two runs in the sixth.

“I thought Shimizu did a great job of keeping us in the game, giving us a chance,” Valentine said.

“We came back with our offense and actually played very well today.”

Shimizu gave up four runs — three earned — and struck out five over six innings to earn the victory.

“He pitched really well,” Valentine said.

“He just had a real high pitch count (112).”

Hanshin starter Scott Atchison got off to a nightmarish start, allowing six runs on four hits in the first inning.

Atchison (4-4) took the loss. He was charged with nine runs — eight earned — in two-plus innings.

The Marines were ahead 6-2 when Omura extended the lead with an RBI single in the second, and home runs by Ortiz and Nishioka in the third put Lotte ahead 10-2.

Hanshin put a small dent in the lead with on Takashi Toritani’s sixth inning homer and an Atsushi Fujimoto’s sacrifice fly to cut it to 10-4.

Tomoaki Kanemoto drove in a run to cut the Marines’ lead to five in the seventh.

The Tigers’ Lew Ford homered in the eighth to account for the final run.