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Marines scrap for much-needed win over Fighters

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

The Marines didn’t necessarily play their best game, but it didn’t bother them. They were desperate for a “W” as the pennant race resumed.

Starting pitcher Yuji Nishino pitched patiently, allowing one run in seven inning, as Chiba Lotte beat the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 2-1 at QVC Marine Field on Sunday.

It was a big victory for the Pacific League-leading Marines, who had struggled with a 5-7 record this month.

“It’s our first win since the interleague ended,” Chiba Lotte manager Tsutomu Ito said after the game. “It was a game in which you couldn’t afford to take a breath until the end. We’re pleased to have come up with a positive result.”

Nishino (7-2), a former ikusei (development) player, got off to a bit of a shaky start early on, but he was still the biggest reason for his club gaining the win.

After an inconsistent first couple of innings, the 22-year-old received some tips from his skipper and eventually regained his usual form.

“(Ito) told me, ‘It’s OK you give up some hits. Pitch with a faster tempo and throw more strikes,’ ” said Nishino, who allowed six hits, two walks and fanned six batters. “The words actually woke me up and I could pitch more comfortably afterward.”

The Marines offense gave Nishino much-needed run support in the midway. With the Fighters up 1-0 in six innings, Omatsu came up with a game-tying RBI double and then youngster Daichi Suzuki launched a sacrifice fly to drive Omatsu home for the game-winning run.

Marines closer Naoya Masuda created a base-loaded situation in the top of ninth, but he fanned Daikan Yoh for the final out to close out the game. Masuda has 21 saves for the PL lead.

“We lost with (ace Yoshihisa) Naruse yesterday,” Ito said of Saturday’s 4-2 defeat to the same opponent. “I didn’t want to give Nishino too much pressure, but we couldn’t afford to drop this one today.”

Omatsu was 2-for-4 with an RBI to chip in for the club, while the first baseman threw the second-base runner at third on a sac bunt play to help Masuda in the ninth.

“It came from my spirit,” Omatsu said of the fielding play. “I wasn’t thinking of anything but of making that play.”

The Fighters, who have the league’s worst record (28-33-1), had been on a season-best five-game winning streak.

For Nippon Ham, Atsunori Inaba, Michel Abreu and Takahiro Imanami went 2-for-4. The Fighters notched the sole run on a bases-loaded walk in the second.

Fighters’ starter Hiroshi Kisanuki (5-3) did a consistent job as usual, giving up a pair of runs but receiving the loss.

Eagles beat Hawks

Kyodo

Tohoku Rakuten’s Brandon Duckworth (3-3) held Fukuoka Softbank to a pair of solo home runs in seven innings and earned his first victory since May 5 as the Golden Eagles beat the Hawks 5-2 at Kleenex Stadium on Sunday.

Casey McGehee’s two-run, second-inning homer gave the Eagles the lead. Andruw Jones, who doubled and scored on McGehee’s home run, singled a run of his own in the third. Darrell Rasner allowed a walk and a single in the ninth but earned his seventh save.

Buffaloes 9, Lions 9 (12)

At Seibu Dome, Seibu’s Esteban German had four hits and drove in three runs, including one on a two-out, 11th-inning double that tied the game for good against Orix.

Lee Dae-ho’s 11th home run of the season, a solo tying shot off closer Dennis Sarfate with two out in the ninth, saved the Buffaloes from defeat, but Orix couldn’t close it out after a two-run 11th inning. Hideto Asamura singled in a run with two outs and scored on German’s double.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Dragons 9, Giants 5

At Tokyo Dome, Masahiro Yamamoto allowed four runs in five innings to extend his record as Japan’s oldest winning starting pitcher.

Yamamoto (3-1) gave up six hits and a walk and his teammates took the lead in a three-run sixth on home runs by Matt Clark and Kazuhiro Wada, who homered in the same inning for the second straight game.

“It’s great that everyone got hits for us today. The most important thing is that the team won,” said Yamamoto, who surpassed former Dragons great Shigeru Sugishita in career wins with 216.

Yamamoto said Sugishita had some encouragement for him the day before.

“He told me it would be better if I exerted myself less while pitching, and it would be a good thing if I didn’t allow any runs,” Yamamoto said.

Yamamoto moved past Sugishita and another Hall of Famer, Choji Murata, into sole possession of 16th place in career wins.

The Dragons’ Ryosuke Hirata put the game beyond doubt in the seventh inning with his second homer of the game, a three-run shot that made it 9-4. His solo homer off Giants starter D.J. Houlton opened the scoring in the second.

Yamamoto’s victory came at the age of 47 years, 10 months. The record for Japan’s oldest winning pitcher was set by Hankyu Braves player-manager Shinji Hamazaki, who won in relief in 1950 at the age of 48 years, four months.

Houlton allowed four runs, three earned, in five-plus innings. The Giants took the lead in the bottom of the fifth, when Hayato Sakamoto took Yamamoto deep for a two-run jack. Yomiuri reliever Satoshi Fukuda, who surrendered Wada’s go-ahead homer in the sixth, lost his first decision of the year.

Carp 5, Swallows 4

At Mazda Stadium, Shota Dobayashi belted a two-run, sayonara home run in the bottom of the ninth as Hiroshima snapped a four-game skid in a come-from-behind win over last-place Tokyo Yakult.

Wladimir Balentien, in the hunt for his third consecutive CL home run crown, hit his 23rd homer of the season, a three-run shot in the third off Carp ace Kenta Maeda, who allowed four runs in five innings. The Carp closed to within a run on Jun Hirose’s two-run, sixth-inning homer.

BayStars 6, Tigers 4

At Yokohama Stadium, the BayStars roughed up marquee Hanshin rookie Shintaro Fujinami, who surrendered Tony Blanco’s Japan-best 24th home run, and a two-run double to Sho Aranami. Fujinami (4-3), allowed five runs in four innings to take the loss.

BayStars ace Daisuke Miura (5-5) worked into the eighth inning to earn the victory, allowing four runs in 7⅓ innings. Jorge Sosa earned his fifth save and his second in two days.