The Chiba Lotte Marines established themselves as the top team in the Pacific League during the first portion of the PL schedule.
Opening night of the interleague season revealed manager Tsutomu Ito’s club might be aiming a little higher than that.
Shunichi Nemoto hit a tiebreaking two-run single in the eighth inning, and the Marines rallied past the Yomiuri Giants for a 5-3 win in front of a crowd of 45,953 on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.
“I was grateful for the chance and wanted to make the most of it,” Nemoto said of his hit in the eighth off reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi.
The game, one of six on the first night of interleague play, pitted the first-place teams from the Central and Pacific Leagues against each other, with round one going to the PL representative.
“This is a great start for us in the interleague season,” Ito said. “We’d been doing well against the teams in our league, and it’s good to know we can beat Central League teams too. Especially the Giants.
Lotte has been on fire of late, winning 10 of their last 11. The Marines fell behind 3-0 on Tuesday, before rallying to score two runs in the sixth and three more in the eighth.
Lotte has been particularly adept at coming from behind to win games.
“Our team never gives up,” Nemoto said. “As long as we have a chance, even late in the game, we find a way to turn the tables and win.”
The Marines trailed 3-2 entering the eighth, but found themselves with runners on first and second after Shota Ishimine singled and Kei Hosoya followed a sacrifice bunt by drawing a walk. Ikuhiro Kiyota doubled in the tying run, and Nemoto’s single to center pushed Lotte out to a 5-3 lead.
“Yamaguchi is a tough pitcher to hit,” Nemoto said. “We were very fortunate to win against him tonight.”
Nemoto ended the game 2-for-3 and drove in three runs, one coming after he ended a 10-pitch at-bat in the sixth by drawing a bases-loaded walk. Kiyota entered the game as a pinch hitter in the sixth and was 1-for-1 with a walk and an RBI.
Masaki Minami (2-0) threw a perfect seventh to earn the win in relief. Naoya Masuda worked the ninth for his 13th save of the season.
The Marines became the first team other than the Hanshin Tigers to earn a road victory over the Giants, who fell to 16-5-1 at home this season.
The Kyojin, the reigning interleague champions, were the hottest team in Japan to begin the season, but have fallen into a slump, having lost five of their last seven.
Shinnosuke Abe was 2-for-3 with an RBI for Yomiuri. Starting pitcher Toshiya Sugiuchi’s only hit was an RBI double, and Hisayoshi Chono finished 1-for-4 with a run-scoring triple.
Yamaguchi (1-1) gave up three runs in the eighth and was charged with the loss. Sugiuchi allowed a pair of runs in 5 2/3 innings and finished with a no-decision.
Abe gave the Giants an early lead with an RBI double in the bottom of the first.
Yomiuri second baseman Daisuke Fujimura singled to lead off the home half of the fifth, and Sugiuchi aided his own cause with his RBI double. Chono brought Sugiuchi home with a triple down the right-field line that made the score 3-0.
Saburo Omura singled and Toshiaki Imae doubled to give the Marines runners at first and second to begin the sixth. Daichi Suzuki struck out swinging for the first out of the inning. Rookie Shohei Kato followed with a grounder back to the pitcher, who threw home, but the Giants botched the rundown, which allowed Omura to score. Naoya Emura flied out for the second out of the inning and Kiyota walked to load the bases.
Nemoto kept himself alive during a 10-pitch at-bat, eventually drawing a bases-loaded walk that made the score 3-2 and sent Sugiuchi to the showers. Scott Mathieson came on in relief and retired Takashi Ogino to end the inning.
The Marines broke through in the eighth against Yamaguchi, scoring three runs to take the lead. The Lotte bullpen did the rest and nailed down the win.
The teams will meet in the final game of their two-game series on Wednesday at the Big Egg. Starter Seth Greisinger will be making his season debut for the Marines, while Hirokazu Sawamura (2-2) will take the mound for the Giants.
“Tomorrow Greisinger will be making his first start of the season,” Ito said. “We’re counting on him to do a good job.”
Home runs bury BayStars
Andruw Jones and Casey McGehee both homered and drove in five runs between them in support of Masahiro Tanaka, who threw three-run ball over eight innings as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles routed the Yokohama BayStars 7-3 on Tuesay at Yokohama Stadium.
Tanaka (6-0) scattered seven hits and walked two and is undefeated in six starts for the Eagles who have won seven of their last eight. Tony Blanco hit his Japanese-baseball leading 19th homer and was 2-for-4. Daisuke Miura (2-3) took the loss.
Dragons 5, Fighters 4
At Nagoya Dome, Matt Clark hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the seventh inning as Chunichi rallied to beat struggling Hokkaido Nippon Ham, which fell to its eighth loss in a row.
Clark went 1-for-2 with two sac flies and Hector Luna had a 3-for-4 night and drove in a run. Reliever Kenichi Nakata (2-1) allowed one run in two innings for the win and Hitoki Iwase worked the ninth for his 10th save.
Buffaloes 1, Tigers 0
At Koshien Stadium, Tomotaka Sakaguchi hit a solo homer with one out in the fifth inning, Brandon Dickson went seven scoreless innings and Orix blanked Hanshin to win its fifth straight.
Dickson (4-1) allowed three hits, struck out eight and walked three. Yoshihisa Hirano worked the ninth for his seventh save.
The Tigers’ six-game winning streak ended.
Lions 4, Swallows 3
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Jose Ortiz had a tiebreaking RBI single in the fifth inning as Seibu rallied to down Tokyo Yakult and snap a four-game losing skid.
Fourth-year reliever Toshihiro Iwao (1-0) tossed two scoreless frames for his first career win. Akinori Iwamura went 4-for-5 with a two-run homer for the Swallows, who matched a season worse with their fifth loss in a row.
Carp 7, Hawks 1
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Kenta Maeda limited the damage to a solo homer by Bryan LaHair over seven innings of five-hit ball and struck out six as Hiroshima beat Fukuoka Softbank for the first time in three years.
Shota Oba (0-2) was roughed up for four runs in four innings.