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Nemoto’s seventh-inning home run lifts first-place Marines

by David Hueston and Dave Hueston

Kyodo

Just when the Orix Buffaloes thought they had escaped with a narrow victory, Shunichi Nemoto turned the tables with a dramatic two-run go-ahead homer in the seventh inning as the Chiba Lotte Marines went on to beat the Buffaloes 8-5 on Saturday.

The Pacific-League leading Marines have won four of their last five games and improved to 1-and-1 in the three-game series, beating Orix a day after dropping an 11-7 decision. Nemoto made his last day as a 28-year-old count in a big way.

Pinch hitter Kazuya Fukuura reached on a single to left and after Yoshifumi Okada’s sacrifice bunt moved pinch runner Takashi Ogino to second, Nemoto latched onto lefty reliever Makoto Yoshino’s (2-1) full-count offering for a blast into the left-field stands at QVC Marine Field.

“I was behind in the count, so I was only hoping to make contact. I knew I put a good swing on that pitch,” said Nemoto, who turns 29 on Sunday. “This is the year that I really have to make my big year as a pro. I am so happy to have a home run in my final game as a 28-year-old.”

Ogino, who took over in right field, put the finishing touch on the victory with a two-out, two-run double in the eighth.

The weather conditions were dreary to begin with, but Orix made it even gloomier for submarine hurler Shunsuke Watanabe early on.

The right-hander got the first out of the second on a comebacker but then was lit up for four runs, featuring Bobby Scales’ two-run drive.

Hirotoshi Kitagawa and Aarom Baldiris hit back-to-back doubles to left field to score the opening run and after a base hit in the same direction by Hikaru Ito, Ryoichi Adachi hit a sacrifice fly to center.

Scales then drove a 2-1 fastball that maxed out at just 116 kph into the stands in right-center for a 4-0 lead.

Saburo Omura hit a leadoff double for Lotte in the bottom of the inning and scored on Shoitsu Omatsu’s two-out bloop single to left to cut the deficit to 4-1.

By the end of the second, the drizzling rain had somewhat settled, but Watanabe was toast when he allowed the first two base runners of the third, which led to a bases-loaded RBI groundout by Ito.

“I thought from yesterday that I’d be ready to make this start, but all my pitches that got hit were up in the zone,” said Watanabe. “When my teammates scored for me in the third, I wanted to get a 1-2-3 bottom half to get into a rhythm, but I’m sorry things turned out that way.”

Orix starter Alfredo Figaro got in and out of jams, notably escaping a first-and-third situation in the third. Having already yielded an RBI single to Tadahito Iguchi, Figaro retired PL batting leader Katsuya Kakunaka on three pitches.

But the right-hander started to tire when he allowed two more runs in the sixth, on an RBI groundout by Toshiaki Imae and Omatsu’s infield single to second, making it a 5-4 ballgame.

Orix’s bullpen took over, but Lotte had managed to put itself back in the game for a come-from-behind victory. Lotte right-hander Tomohisa Otani (1-2) won in relief.

“I was expecting my guys to come through for us, but it was still unbelievable. Yesterday we lost, so it was really important that we change the momentum today with a win. The team really came together and fought it out until the end,” said Lotte manager Norifumi Nishimura.

Hawks 5, Fighters 0

At Sapporo Dome, Fukuooa Softbank rookie right-hander Shota Takeda (1-0) threw six innings of one-hit ball to win his pro debut, and three relievers finished the shutout of Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

Yuya Hasegawa went 3-for-3 with two RBIs. Mitsuo Yoshikawa (7-4) gave up four runs and eight hits in 7⅔ innings to take the loss for the Fighters, who were limited to just three singles.

Eagles 12, Lions 1

At Saitama’s Seibu Dome, Kazuo Matsui hit a tiebreaking RBI single to trigger a six-run uprising in the seventh inning, and Tohoku Rakuten pounded away to match a season high with a 19-hit onslaught of Seibu.

Akinori Iwamura went 2-for-5 with a solo drive, his first in Japan since 2006, and three RBIs, while Teppei Tsuchiya and Kazuya Fujita had four hits apiece and three RBIs between them. Kelvin Jimenez (5-7) allowed one unearned run and three hits over six innings.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Dragons 9, BayStars 5

At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi built a 7-0 lead in the first three innings, giving Kenichi Nakata (4-7) all the run support necessary before the right-hander yielded four runs in five innings of work.

Each member of the Dragons’ starting nine had at least one hit, helping Nakata win his first decision since May 9. Brandon Mann (1-6) was tagged for five runs in just 2⅓ innings for DeNA, which lost its third straight.

Carp 9, Swallows 4

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Yoshihiro Maru hit a go-ahead, three-run home run as Hiroshima rallied in a six-run second inning capped by Takahiro Iwamoto’s three-run double.

Bryan Bullington (4-9) gave up three runs, two earned, in a 10-strikeout effort over eight innings. Tatsuyoshi Masubuchi (2-3) took the loss after allowing six runs in two innings.

Giants 7, Tigers 5