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Darvish cruises to 16th victory of banner season

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

While the sky was dark as a typhoon was approaching, Yu Darvish gave his club a long awaited clear-cut victory.

Darvish scattered five hits and allowed a single run in eight innings to provide the struggling Fighters the second win in their last eight games, a 6-1 victory over the Chiba Lotte Marines on Wednesday night.

“My balls weren’t bad but I couldn’t locate them to where I really wanted, so it was difficult,” Darvish said after the game at QVC Marine Field. “But my teammates gave me some run support effectively and that took some pressure off my back.”

The 24-year-old Darvish grabbed his 16th win of the season (against four losses), which leads NPB, matching his single-season high of 2008.

“Who I am today is completely different from who I was back in 2008,” he said. “So it doesn’t mean much.”

However, Darvish was pleased with the fact that he avenged his last outing against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles last week in Sapporo.

He ended up taking a loss (2-1) despite giving up just two runs (one earned) and striking out 15 batters.

But this time, if not quickly, the Fighters offense gave their ace some breathing room.

With the game tied at 1-1 in the top of the sixth, designated hitter Tomohiro Nioka came up with a two-out RBI single and then the next batter, Eiichi Koyano, smacked a three-run homer off Chiba Lotte starter Yuki Karakawa into the left-field bleachers to make it 5-1.

Nippon Ham added another in the seventh when Shinya Tsuruoka scored on Yoshio Itoi’s groundout.

“As I failed to give the team a win last time out, I was trying to give us a chance to win as much as I could,” said Darvish, who effectively used a splitter, which he doesn’t frequently use.

Heavy showers that began in the bottom of the sixth seemingly bothered Darvish a bit, as he issued a walk and allowed a single with one out. But he coolly retired the next two men to get out of the pinch.

Ryo Sakakibara worked in the ninth to end the game.

“I didn’t think he was that great today, but he still managed to hold the opponent,” Fighters skipper Masataka Nashida said of Darvish.

“So I tip my hat off to him.”

The Fighters had 10 hits. Their leadoff man Daikan Yoh went 4-for-5, including a triple.

With Nippon Ham up 1-0 in the fourth, the Marines tied it at 1-1 with some fortune.

Darvish hit Toshiaki Imae and allowed two unlucky hits to produce the tying run. But that was the biggest resistance they had against Nippon Ham’s mighty pitcher.

Marines starter Karakawa (8-5) gave up seven hits in six innings and was responsible for all the five runs.

Katsuya Kakunaka was 3-for-4 for Chiba Lotte.