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Otake gets better of Sato to keep Carp in hunt

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The Hiroshima Carp were in desperate need of a win and Kan Otake gave them one.

Otake outlasted Tokyo Yakult Swallows rookie Yoshinori Sato in a pitcher’s duel and Akihiro Higashide scored the winning run on an error in the ninth as the Carp kept their playoff hopes alive with a 1-0 victory on a chilly Thursday night at Jingu Stadium.

“I just tried to focus on how I was pitching and I was able to do that,” Otake said.

Otake (9-13) threw eight scoreless innings to keep the Swallows on ice until Yakult’s pesky young starter was lifted for a pinch hitter in the eighth.

“He pitched great, he really did,” Carp manager Marty Brown said of Otake. “He had some extra time off and I really think it helped him. He really pitched well.

“It boils down every night to starting pitching. Those guys matched each other through the biggest part of the game. He (Sato) really threw the ball well and he didn’t seem to tire. Fortunately they pinch-hit for him and Otake went up there and shut them down that inning.”

Hiroshima took advantage of the pitching change in the ninth beginning with Higashide’s leadoff single off reliever Ryota Igarashi. Higashide later advanced to second on a passed ball.

Higashide was in the process of advancing to third on an Alex Ochoa groundout when first baseman Yuuichi Matsumoto’s errant throw to the hot corner allowed him to come around to score the go-ahead run.

“The little things on the bases win and lose ball games,” Brown said. “He (Higashide) made an aggressive play to go to third, caused them to speed the game up and they threw the ball away.”

Closer Katsuhiro Nagakawa preserved the win in a scoreless ninth to earn his 38th save of the year. Brown said Otake likely would have continued to pitch had the game remain tied. But with a one-run lead the manager was taking no chances.

“We have one of the best closers in the league,” Brown said. “When you’ve got him sitting down there with a one-run lead, that’s his job.”

Otake was brilliant for most of the night, despite finishing with no strikeouts, and he had to be with the way Sato was throwing.

Locked in a pitching duel, 19-year Sato (1-1) showed veteran’s poise as he danced his way through the Carp lineup. Sato never really ran into trouble, allowing just four hits, striking out six and lowering his ERA to 5.81.

Dragons edge closer

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Lee Byung Kyu hit a pair of crucial homers in consecutive at-bats as the Chunichi Dragons rallied to beat the Yokohama BayStars 6-4 in 10 innings Thursday and inched closer to a playoff spot in the Central League.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Marines 2, Eagles 1

At Chiba Marine Stadium, Chiba Lotte held off Rakuten to avoid losing three in a row.