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Marines pummel Dragons, lead 3-2

by Jason Coskrey

CHIBA — The Chiba Lotte Marines already knew the Japan Series would have to be won in Nagoya. A big night at the plate just means they won’t have as much work to do when they get there.

Lotte took an early lead with a four-run first inning and Saburo Omura put the game away with a two-run homer in the fourth to help the Marines rout the Chunichi Dragons 10-4 on Thursday at Chiba Marine Stadium.

The Marines took a 3-2 advantage in the series, which heads back to Nagoya for Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7. A win in either would give Lotte the title.

“We wanted to win three games here, but Chunichi is strong and you can’t always do what you want,” Lotte manager Norifumi Nishimura said. “But it was good we took the final game at Chiba Marine Stadium.”

The Marines finished the game with 15 hits, with all nine starters ending the night with at least one hit. Lotte roughed up Chunichi starter Kenichi Nakata from the get-go, sending all nine batters to the plate and coming away with four runs.

“Even the guys who weren’t doing very well previously came through,” Nishimura said. “I think they’re going to do their jobs in Nagoya as well.”

Toshiaki Imae was 1-for-4 and had a two-run double in the first. Kazuya Fukuura also drove in a run during the frame, as did Kim Tae Kyun, who finished 4-for-4.

“We took a tough loss yesterday and we’re playing the final game of the year in Chiba, so we wanted to finish it with a win by any means,” Imae said.

Omura was 3-for-5 and drove in a pair of runs. His home run off Nakata in the fourth put the Marines ahead 6-1 and made life much easier for Lotte starter Hayden Penn.

“We play really well at home,” Penn said. “I just wanted to keep us in the game. I didn’t panic after giving up one in the first,” he said of allowing Chunichi to take an early 1-0 lead. “I just said, ‘Hey relax, go out there and put up zeros and try to keep the team in the game.’ We’ve got a good offense and obviously tonight they showed it. They came through and made it easier to pitch.”

Rookie Ikuhiro Kiyota continued his scorching run in the series, driving in a pair of runs on a 2-for-4 night. Kiyota is hitting .368 with six RBIs in the series.

Penn benefited from the run support and picked up his first win of the postseason. The Lotte starter allowed a pair of runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings.

“This is something I will never forget,” Penn said. “It was great to get the win and send our fans out through the gates and home happy.”

Nakata was knocked around for five innings, allowing nine runs — eight earned — on 13 hits.

Tony Blanco homered and drove in three runs for Chunichi and Kazuhiro Wada also finished with an RBI.

The Dragons led 1-0 but in the bottom of the first, an error by Naomichi Donoue at second allowed Tsuyoshi Nishioka to reach first. Kiyota then fouled off two sacrifice bunt attempts before striking out swinging for the first out.

Tadahito Iguchi and Omura each followed with singles before consecutive run-scoring hits from Imae, Fukuura and Kim put Lotte ahead 4-1.

The Marines, who last won the Japan Series in 2005 under former manager Bobby Valentine, can wrap up the series with a win at Nagoya Dome.

“It was good we won the last game here at Chiba Marine Stadium, but we can win in Nagoya too, as we did last week,” Imae said. “We’ll try to bring back the Japan Series flag here to Chiba.”