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Emergency meeting pays off for Marines

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Chiba Lotte Marines manager Tsutomu Ito called his first emergency meeting of the season after his team was blown out and nearly no-hit on Wednesday.

It’s probably safe to say the message got through.

The Marines erased a four-run deficit over the final four innings, taking the lead on Josh Whitesell’s tiebreaking solo home run in ninth, and got themselves back on track Thursday night with a 5-4 win over the Seibu Lions at Seibu Dome.

“I knew that was gonna go,” Whitesell said of his home run. “It felt good to give us the lead. We had battled all the way back. After losing the first two (of the series) it’s a big win for us.”

The victory prevented Ito from being swept in his first road series against Seibu, the team he managed to the 2004 Japan Series title. The Marines also snapped a four-game losing streak against the Lions.

Ito was worried his team had lost focus after being shut out 8-0 in the first game of the series on Tuesday, and allowing Ryoma Nogami to flirt with a no-hitter in Wednesday’s 7-2 loss. He called the team together afterward, and, for one night at least, it heeded his call.

“We entered today on a losing streak, and we didn’t want to lose again,” Ito said.

Lotte didn’t make things easy early, with a number of small mistakes leading to the 4-0 hole the Marines found themselves in entering the sixth.

They began their rally in that frame, pulling a pair of runs back on a two-run single by catcher Ryohei Kawamoto, whose passed ball in the first led to Seibu’s first run.

“I wanted to do something to get us back in the game because it was my fault we were behind by four runs,” Kawamoto said. “I focused on getting something to hit because the count was 2-0.”

Daichi Suzuki tied the game with a two-run home run in the seventh, and Whitesell led off the ninth with his fourth homer of the season.

Suzuki’s home run was the first of his career. Lotte’s young infielder is having a strong start to the season having gone 23-for-59 (.390) with a pair of doubles, three triples, a home run and nine RBIs in 23 games.

“I felt like a fastball was coming and I was able to put a good swing on it,” Suzuki said. I’m happy my first home run put the team in a good position.”

Kawamoto led the Marines with three hits and a pair of RBIs, while Shunichi Nemoto, Tadahito Iguchi and Katsuya Kakunaka each finished with two hits.

Takahiro Matsunaga (1-0) worked a scoreless eighth and earned the win in relief. Naoya Masuda allowed a hit in the ninth, but kept the Lions off the scoreboard for his sixth save of the year.

Takumi Kuriyama homered for Seibu to extend his hitting streak to seven games. Yuji Kaneko and Ryo Sakata each finished with an RBI for Seibu, while Ginjiro Sumitani went 2-for-4.

Reliever Tatsuya Oishi (0-1) took the loss for the Lions after allowing Whitesell’s home run in the ninth.

The Lions led for the majority of the game. A Lotte mistake handed Seibu its first run, as Yasuyuki Kataoka was able to sprint home from third on a passed ball in the first inning.

Seibu starter Hideaki Wakui pitched himself into a tough spot in the fourth, with walks to Suzuki and Whitesell giving the Marines runners on first and second with one away. He bounced back by striking out Kakunaka looking with a nicely placed inside fastball, and getting Toshiaki Imae to go down swinging.

Kuriyama connected on the first pitch of the fourth, a 130-kph fastball from starter Yuki Karakawa, to make the score 2-0 with his second home run of the season.

“I thought it was important to get a good swing on the first pitch, and I’m glad I was able to make good contact,” Kuriyama said.

The Lions added two more runs in the frame on RBI singles by Kaneko and Sakata.

The Marines again put runners on first and second with one out to start the fifth, and again Wakui wriggled free to maintain the lead.

Lotte finally cashed in during the top of the sixth, loading the bases, then cutting the Seibu lead in half on Kawamoto’s two-out, two-run single.

Nemoto began the seventh with a liner to center, and Suzuki tied the score with his home run to right.

Both bullpens got the job done until Whitesell took Oishi deep to left in the ninth.

Eagles pound Buffaloes

Kyodo
KOBE

The Tohoku Rakuten pounded out 16 hits to turn a tight contest into a 9-3 blowout over the Orix Buffaloes on Thursday in Pacific League action.

With the game tied 3-3 in the fifth, Andruw Jones and Casey McGehee drew back-to-back one-out walks to load the bases and the Eagles took the lead on an infield single by Hiroaki Shimauchi at Hotto Motto Field.

Kazuo Matsui opened the game with a homer, his first of the season for Rakuten, while the Buffaloes’ Aarom Baldiris tied it 3-3 in the fourth with his third home run of the year.

Fighters 5, Hawks 2

At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Hiroshi Kisanuki (2-1) threw eight-plus scoreless innings, Sho Nakata went 4-for-4 with a walk and Michel Abreu hit his third home run in two nights as Hokkaido Nippon Ham beat Fukuoka Softbank.

Right-handed closer Hisashi Takeda retired both batters he faced with the bases loaded in the ninth to earn his third save.

Southpaw Kazuyuki Hoashi (1-1), who pitched just one game for the Hawks in 2012 after joining them as a free agent, allowed three runs in 4 1/3 innings in his bid to win for the first time as in Fukuoka as a Hawk.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Giants 5, BayStars 3

At Gifu Prefecture Park, Hirokazu Sawamura retired the first 19 batters he faced, and former Seattle Mariners infielder Jose Lopez drove in two runs with a homer and two doubles as Yomiuri defeated Yokohama.

Lopez opened the scoring with his seventh homer in Japan, a solo shot in the second off Yota Kosugi, he doubled twice, the second making it 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth. Lopez lined out short for in his final at-bat.

Sawamura, coming off a start in which he allowed four runs in three innings, did not allow a base runner until Kensuke Uchimura’s line single with one out in the seventh. The 25-year-old Sawamura (2-2) lost his bid for a shutout in the ninth. After the leadoff man reached on an error, Sawamura surrendered a single and a homer down the line.

The right-hander allowed three runs — two earned — in eight-plus innings. He struck out 10 without issuing a walk. Closer Kentaro Nishimura came out of the pen to retire all three batters he faced and earn his 10th save.

Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto homered to make it 2-0 in the fourth doubled in Yomiuri’s fifth run in the seventh.

Dragons 1, Tigers 0

At Nagoya Dome, Dragons right-hander Shinji Iwata allowed no runs in seven innings in his season debut as Chunichi defeated Hanshin despite being outhit 7-2.

Yohei Oshima scored the game’s only run in the fifth. The speedster reached on a fielder’s choice groundout, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and came home on Masahiro Araki’s single off Daiki Enokida (2-2), who walked five batters and hit another.

Swallows at Carp — late