Inaba supplies spark as Fighters blank Marines


Staff Writer


The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters returned to their old stomping ground just in time to change their fortunes against an old nemesis.

Atsunori Inaba hit a pair of home runs and Brian Wolfe threw six innings of shutout ball to help the Fighters beat Yoshihisa Naruse and the Chiba Lotte Marines 4-0 on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.

“Naruse was pitching as he always does at the beginning, but Inaba’s home run changed the flow of the game,” Fighters manager Masataka Nashida said.

Inaba led off the third and fifth innings with solo blasts to right, his 10th and 11th of the season. The veteran usually does well at the Fighters’ former home stadium and is hitting .529 with six RBIs and five home runs in five games at the Big Egg this season.

“He is really strong at Tokyo Dome, isn’t he?” Nashida said. “Maybe he’d hit 40 here if this was our home.”

Eiichi Koyano also drove in a run for the Fighters and Tomohiro Nioka went 2-for-3 with an RBI.

The win gave the Fighters their first victory over Naruse in four attempts this year. Naruse (10-11) allowed four runs on seven hits and struck out five.

For Wolfe, it was the opposite. He had been 0-3 in four starts against the Marines before finally getting a win.

“Today I just tried to keep the ball down and keep them in the ballpark,” Wolfe said. “That was the key to my game. They were hitting balls on the ground and getting outs.”

Wolfe gave up six hits, struck out three and walked one on 91 pitches.

“The biggest thing for me, was I kept them out of those big innings,” Wolfe said. “The last couple of times they’ve had one or two big innings. Today I was able to make some pitches.”

More importantly, the slumping Fighters snapped a two-game losing streak, winning for just the third time in their last 11 games.

Second-place Nippon Ham remains seven games behind the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in the race for the Pacific League pennant.

“It’s big,” Wolfe said. “We’ve been sliding back in the standings, and Softbank’s been kind of idle also. We’re within striking distance with enough games left against them.”

Kazuya Fukuura, Toshiaki Imae and rookie Shota Ishimine each finished with a pair of hits to lead the Marines at the plate. Second baseman Tadahito Iguchi was hitless in four at-bats and struck out three times. His strikeout in the first inning was the 1,000th of his NPB career.

Hawks hammer Lions


Katsuki Yamazaki keyed a four-run second inning with a two-run single off Kazuhisa Ishii (6-8) as the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks overcame an early 2-0 deficit to beat the Seibu Lions 7-2 on Tuesday in Pacific League action.

D.J. Houlton (15-6) allowed a two-run homer to Hiroyuki Nakajima in the first but settled down to go 7⅓ innings. Seiichi Uchikawa and Hiroki Kokubo each hit solo homers for the Hawks.

Buffaloes 1, Eagles 0 (10)


BayStars 2, Giants 1

At Yokohama Stadium, pinch runner Keijiro Matsumoto scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning on a throwing error by shortstop Hayato Sakamoto as Yokohama edged Yomiuri to snap a six-game losing streak.

The last-place BayStars loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth on two singles and a walk before Sakamoto caught a ground ball off the bat of Kazuya Fujita but bounced a throw to the plate.

Yokohama closer Shun Yamaguchi (2-3) got the win with a perfect ninth. Yasunari Takagi (1-2) took the loss.

Shinnosuke Abe gave Yomiuri a 1-0 lead in the fifth with a homer into the upper deck of the right-field stands.

Dragons 6, Tigers 4

Swallows 4, Carp 1