CHIBA — The Chiba Lotte Marines gave Fukuoka Softbank Hawks manager Sadaharu Oh, a video tribute, flowers and a hero’s sendoff to celebrate his last visit to Chiba Marine Stadium. The win, however, they kept for themselves.
Pitcher Naoyuki Shimizu mowed down a punchless Hawks lineup as the Marines kept their playoff hopes alive with a 4-2 victory on Saturday at Chiba Marine Stadium.
Shimizu (13-9) turned in another strong late-season start for Lotte, which began the day a half-game behind the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for the third and final playoff spot in the Pacific League.
“He had great control,” Valentine said of Shimizu. “He was really dominating the strike zone. He made great pitches the entire game and did everything he needed to do to help us win.”
Shimizu allowed two runs and struck out six over 7 2/3 innings, retiring 12 consecutive batters at one point, to earn the win. The Lotte hurler picked up his third straight win (in two starts and one relief appearance) and improved to 5-1 in his last seven appearances.
“He’s pitched great,” Valentine said. “The whole second half he’s been one of our top pitchers. . . . He’s set a great example for all of our starting pitchers with guts and determination.”
Reliever Brian Sikorski and closer Tadahiro Ogino closed out the game for the Marines. Ogino worked the ninth for his 28th save of the year.
Before the game the Marines held a special ceremony for Oh, who announced he will leave his post as the Hawks manager at the conclusion of the season earlier this week.
“It’s a sad day for all of baseball worldwide to think that Sadaharu Oh is retiring and it’s a sad day for our fans,” Valentine said. “But we gave him our appreciation. I feel like it’s a great friend that is being lost and he’ll definitely be missed.”
Hawks pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, who reached 1,000 career innings in the game, took the loss, giving up all four runs on 11 hits and striking out five, over seven innings.
Wada (8-7) got himself locked into an alarming number of long at-bats as his pitch count soared into the 120s early in the seventh inning. He finished the game having thrown 141 pitches.
Lotte’s Tsuyoshi Nishioka put the Marines out in front early with an RBI single that made the score 1-0 in the second. Daisuke Hayakawa followed with an RBI double to stretch the advantage to two runs.
The Marines padded the lead in the seventh on Tomoya Satozaki’s two-run double to make it 4-0.
“We really needed that hit,” Valentine said. “We could’ve gotten Wada out of the game earlier in the game and we didn’t do it. Finally in his 1,000th inning Satozaki drove two big runs in.”
Hawks pinch hitter Hidenori Tanoue cut the lead in half with a two-run homer to left in the eighth that ended Shimizu’s day.
With the Hawks dispatched the Marines can now look ahead to a crucial two-game series with the Fighters beginning Sunday at 1 p.m.
It will be a quick turnaround for the Marines, who will fly to Sapporo to play the afternoon game.
“We’re well rested, we had two days off,” Valentine said. “This time of the season it’s fun to play games. The more the better.”
Nippon Ham will send Shugo Fujii (3-8) to the hill at Sapporo Dome, while Yoshihisa Naruse (7-6) is scheduled to start for the Marines.
Fighters edge Lions
SAPPORO (Kyodo) The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters took advantage of the wildness of Hsu Ming-chieh to score key runs in a 5-4 win over the Seibu Lions on Saturday as the Pacific League playoff race was made even tighter down the stretch in the regular season.
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Dragons 5, BayStars 4
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