CHIBA – The Chiba Lotte Marines couldn’t come through for their pitcher again.
Nobuhiko Matsunaka made sure the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks didn’t make the same mistake.
Matsunaka hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the top of the ninth inning to help propel starter Tadashi Settsu and the Hawks to a 3-2 victory over the Marines on Saturday afternoon at QVC Marine Field.
“I was only thinking about how to bring the runner in,” Matsunaka said. “I just did my best.”
Tomoaki Egawa had a big day at the plate for the Hawks, finishing 3-for-4 with a triple. His third hit came against Lotte’s Yasuhiko Yabuta to lead off the ninth. Yuya Hasegawa laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Egawa to second, and manager Koji Akiyama sent Matsunaka to the plate to pinch hit for Toru Hosokawa, who was 1-for-3.
Matsunaka worked the count full before lining a single into right to bring home Egawa.
Hasegawa finished 0-for-3 with an RBI and Nobuhiro Matsuda had a pair of hits and drove in a run.
Softbank’s Yuchi Honda started the game at second base, but was removed due to neck pain in the third inning. Honda had played every inning of every game since facing the Orix Buffaloes on April 13, 2010, a span of 293 games.
Matsunaka’s heroics helped Settsu (4-0) remain unbeaten. The Hawks starter gave up two runs on five hits and struck out five. Brian Falkenborg worked the ninth for the PL-leading ninth save.
There was no such luck for Marines starter Yoshihisa Naruse.
Naruse (1-2) threw seven innings of one-run ball, allowing seven hits, striking out six and walking one. He didn’t factor into the decision. It was the third consecutive outing Naruse gave up just a single run over at least seven innings without earning a victory.
Yabuta (0-1) took the loss.
Tomoya Satozaki provided all the offense for the Marines, finishing 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs.
Ikuhiro Kiyota drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the second inning and stole second with Satozaki at the plate. The Marines catcher drove him in with single to right, making the score 1-0.
Katsuya Kakunaka doubled with two away in the fourth, and Kiyota singled to put runners on the corners. Satozaki delivered again, this time with an RBI single that put the Marines ahead 2-0.
“Because we haven’t always been able to support Naruse, I’m glad we were able to score early,” Satozaki said.
In the end, scoring early wasn’t enough.
Egawa started the Hawks half of the seventh with a triple off Naruse and was driven in by Hasegawa later in the inning.
In the eighth, with reliever Naoya Masuda on the mound, reigning Pacific League MVP Seiichi Uchikawa singled to right. With Uchikawa on first, Matsuda hit a game-tying RBI double that left Naruse on the outside of the decision.
Inaba gets 2,000th hit
Atsunori Inaba recorded his 2,000th career hit with an RBI single in the first inning, but the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters were unable to celebrate it with a win in a 3-3, 10th-inning tie against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on Saturday.
The Eagles turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead in the fifth against Yuki Saito. The Fighters Ham tied the game in the sixth on Kensuke Tanaka’s RBI infield single and a bases-loaded walk to Yoshio Itoi.
Inaba, the 39th player in Japanese baseball history to reach the 2,000-hit mark, went hitless in his other four at-bats.
“I’m glad I got my 2,000th in a clutch situation,” Inaba said. “I wasn’t too eager to get it done. It was our scoring chance. I just tried to drive in a run.
“I’m so happy that not only Fighters fans in the right-field stands but also Rakuten fans were giving me a round of applause.”
Lions 8, Buffaloes 4
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Esteban German broke the game open with a three-run double in the seventh inning as Seibu beat Orix for its third straight victory.
Kazuhisa Ishii (2-0) allowed one run and four hits in seven innings. Yuki Nishi (2-2) took the loss.
Dragons 3, BayStars 1
At Nagoya Dome, Soma Yamauchi threw one-run ball over 7⅔ innings and Tony Blanco hit a solo homer as Chunichi held off Yokohama.
Naomichi Donoue and Ryosuke Hirata had RBI singles in the second and third, respectively, for the Dragons and Blanco added a leadoff blast in the fourth.
Alex Ramirez hit a pitch-hit RBI double in the eighth for the BayStars.
Swallows 6, Carp 4
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Wladimir Balentien overturned a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 lead with a three-run drive off Kam Mickolio (1-1) in the ninth inning, lifting Tokyo Yakult past Hiroshima to extend its unbeaten streak to seven games.
Third-year right-hander Ryo Hirai (1-0) won in relief for first-place Yakult. Hiroshima has lost three straight and six of its last seven.
Giants 7, Tigers 2
At Tokyo Dome, Toshiya Sugiuchi (3-1) tossed seven innings of two-run ball, Hayato Sakamoto went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, and Yomiuri routed Hanshin in the opener of a three-game series homestand.
The Giants overturned a 1-0 deficit to take a 3-1 lead on a wild pitch and a two-run throwing error by Atsushi Nomi (2-2) in the first. Yoshinobu Takahashi hit a two-run single and Hisayoshi Chono a leadoff drive in the third and fourth innings.