/

Naruse goes distance as Fighters struggle

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

With one out between him and a complete-game victory, Yoshihisa Naruse finally cracked. Unfortunately for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, it was too little, too late.

Naruse surrendered a two-run home run in the ninth, a blemish on an otherwise solid outing, and his offense backed him up in a big way as the Chiba Lotte Marines held off the suddenly slumping Fighters 5-3 on Tuesday in front of 29,793 fans at QVC Marine Field.

Naruse (10-9) went the distance, allowing three runs on six hits and striking out six. Just the way they drew it up, according to manager Norifumi Nishimura.

“That was our plan,” Nishimura said, referring to Naruse tossing a complete game. “But today, our batters also did really well.”

Naruse is now 3-0 in three starts against Nippon Ham this season. Prior to Sho Nakata’s blast in the ninth, Shinya Tsuruoka’s run-scoring groundout in the eighth was all the offense the Fighters could muster against the lefty.

“He just did what he does,” Fighters leadoff man Bobby Scales said. “Not to take any credit away from him, he did his job and he made the pitches, but we didn’t have a very good approach as a team.”

The Marines got their licks in at the plate as well, supporting Naruse with a 10-hit performance.

Lotte infielder Jose Castillo drove in the night’s first run with an RBI double in the fourth and finished 2-for-4. Ikuhiro Kiyota added a run-scoring two-bagger later in the inning and Katsuya Kakunaka capped the frame with a run-scoring sacrifice fly.

“I wanted to be aggressive from the first pitch since we had a chance,” Kiyota said of his RBI double. “So many people came out to see us, so we couldn’t lose. Hopefully, we will make them want to go have a delicious beer tonight.”

Marines rookie Shota Ishimine drove in a run in the seventh with his NPB-leading sixth triple of the season, and a grounder by Yoshifumi Okada, who was 3-for-4, allowed another run to score.

Fighters starter Masaru Takeda (9-9) was charged with the loss after allowing five runs on 10 hits over 6⅓ innings.

The second-place Fighters are mired in a rough patch, having lost six of their last seven games.

“We been playing some good baseball for the last two months, or at least since I’ve been here,” said Scales, a midseason acquisition. “And they were playing good baseball before, because they were in kind of the same position.

“So we can’t worry about that. It’s the same team. We’re going to get back on track, and we’ll be fine.”

Buffaloes 4, Hawks 1

Eagles 2, Lions 1

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Tigers 6, Dragons 3

Carp 3, Swallows 2 (10)

Giants 3, BayStars 0