/

Karakawa strikes out 12 to tame Buffaloes

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

The wind was wildly blowing in from the shore. Mostly, it troubled the Orix Buffaloes. Meanwhile, the Chiba Lotte Marines took advantage of their home field’s trait as they have always done.

Starting pitcher Yuki Karakawa was particularly masterful in Lotte’s 12-1 win over Orix at QVC Marine Field on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old right-hander recorded his career-high with 12 strikeouts, giving up just three hits and a run in eight innings.

“I was concerned (about the wind),” Karakawa said after the game. “But I figured I could pitch for strikes during the first inning and got some run support early on. So that took away the nerves.”

Karakawa (2-1), who pitched a shutout against the Seibu Lions in his last outing, lowered his earned run average to 1.16.

Asked if he was aware of the number of “Ks,” Karakawa responded, chuckling, “Not really. Well, at least I realized I can strike out some batters.”

No. 9 hitter Toshiaki Imae went 3-for-4 with a couple of RBIs to lead the Marines’ 11-hit offensive attack in the club’s first double-digit game of the season.

Saburo Omura hit a solo homer in the third and Tadahito Iguchi had a bases-clearing insurance RBI triple in the Marines’ five-run seventh inning to give Karakawa a comfortable lead.

The wind is almost a signature of QVC Marine Field, which is built right on the ocean. The anemometer on the center-field screen indicated it was 12 meters per second toward the home plate.

“The wind was pretty strong,” said Imae, the Most Valuable Player of last year’s Japan Series against the Chunichi Dragons. “Breaking balls were biting well and fastballs were rising up.

“(But) I feel good about my batting right now and could take care of that.”

Marines skipper Norifumi Nishimura reveled in Karakawa’s development this year.

Nishimura pointed out that it is the pitcher’s mental growth more than technical improvements.

“(Karakawa) made blunders last year and I saw him trying to amend it during the training camp,” Nishimura said. “I could tell his balls were different at that time. But I would say it’s all come from his mental (development).”

The Marines have now extended their winning streak at home to six.

Meanwhile, Orix’s offensive struggles continued. For the second straight day, Buffaloes batters struck out 12 times (Lotte’s Yoshihisa Naruse fanned a dozen on Tuesday). No. 3 hitter Mitsutaka Goto was hitless and struck out for three times.

Orix has only scored in double-digits twice in 14 games since Opening Day. The Buffaloes entered Wednesday’s game with the worst batting average (.200) in the Pacific League.

Orix starter Hayato Terahara (1-2) gave up eight runs, six hits and a homer, walking four over six innings.

The Kansai club also struggled defensively, issuing three errors, all of which came while trying to catch fly balls.

Orix reliever Masahide Kobayashi pitched against his former team in the seventh, but allowed two runs.

Houlton tosses shutout

SAPPORO (Kyodo) D.J. Houlton pitched his first shutout in Japan, Alex Cabrera and Hitoshi Tamura drove in two runs apiece and the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks beat the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 5-0 to regain the Pacific League lead.

Houlton (2-1) scattered five hits and struck out five. Cabrera put the Hawks on the board with a solo homer and Tamura added a two-run shot in the fourth inning, both off Masaru Takeda (2-1).

Eagles at Lions — ppd.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Dragons 1, BayStars 0 (6)

At Aichi Prefecture’s Toyohashi Stadium, Tony Blanco hit a solo home run in the fourth inning as Chunichi edged Yokohama in a game called with one out in the bottom of the sixth.

Soma Yamauchi (1-0) threw his first career shutout, allowing just one hit to Terrmel Sledge at Toyohashi Stadium in Aichi Prefecture. Daisuke Miura (0-1) took the loss.

Giants 1, Swallows 4

Tigers at Carp — ppd.