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Imae powers Marines past Eagles

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The wind may have affected Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles pitcher Takahiro Norimoto on Friday night, but not nearly as much as Toshiaki Imae’s bat did.

Imae hit a towering home run in the second and hit a tie-breaking double in the fifth to back starter Yoshihisa Naruse in the Chiba Lotte Marines’ 4-3 victory over the Eagles on Friday night at QVC Marine Field.

“I was able to really get in good swings during my at-bats today,” Imae said. “This is an important game for the team.”

After the Marines went down in order in the first inning, Imae began the second with a deep drive to left that looked like it may never come down.

The Lotte third baseman said he didn’t know if he’d ever hit a ball that far during a game.

“Maybe during batting practice,” he said.

Naruse (2-1) was shaky at the start, but overcame a three-run second inning to earn the win. The left-hander threw 7 1/3 innings, allowing three runs — two earned — on eight hits. He struck out three and walked two.

“I didn’t want to think too much,” Naruse said after the game. “I was just trying to keep things simple.”

While the Marines avoided back-to-back losses, the Eagles fell for the third time in as many games.

Rakuten got off to a strong start behind a solo home run from Andruw Jones and Kaz Matsui’s RBI triple, both coming in a three-run second inning, but couldn’t muster anything more once Naruse settled down.

“I just got a pitch out over the plate,” Jones said of the home run, his second of the year, “That guy doesn’t make many mistakes. You have to take advantage when he makes a mistake and he made a mistake that inning.

“After that, he didn’t make many. He tried to keep the ball low, we got a couple of hits here and there, but he pitched good today.”

Norimoto (2-1) started the game strong, but his control suffered as the wind picked up in the second. He recovered and was able to keep the Eagles within striking distance but ultimately took the loss. The second-year hurler pitched six innings and allowed four runs on 10 hits. He struck out nine and walked one.

Naruse breezed through the first inning, but opened the second by giving up Jones’ home run. Kevin Youkilis followed with a double and came home on a triple by Matsui, who also scored on the play when shortstop Luis Cruz threw the ball away trying to get the out at third.

Norimoto had a nearly identical start to the game.

The second-year hurler struck out the side in the first and gave up the home run to Imae to begin the second. Cruz doubled in a run later in the inning, and Yuta Yoshida came through with a two-out RBI single to right that knotted the score at 3-3.

Imae broke the tie in the fifth with a two-out double to left that made the score 4-3.

The Eagles got the tying run to third with two outs in the eighth, but reliever Carlos Rosa ended the threat by striking out Akihisa Makida.

Kishi tosses complete game
Sapporo KYODO

Takayuki Kishi threw a complete game against 2012 PL MVP Mitsuo Yoshikawa (0-2), Naoto Watanabe went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and the Seibu Lions snapped the Nippon Ham Fighters’ two-game winning streak, winning 5-2 on Friday night in the Pacific League.

Kishi (1-2) scattered three hits, struck out four and walked two.

CENTRAL LEAGUE
Carp 4, Dragons 3

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Bryan Bullington limited the damage to three runs and five hits in six innings in a battle against former Atlanta Braves righty Kenshin Kawakami to lead Hiroshima past Chunichi.

The Carp took the opener of the three-game series against the Dragons, who saw their winning streak snapped at four games.

Bullington (1-2), who walked two and struck out one in a 93-pitch outing, won his first start of the season. The former major league righty said he had his change-up working for him on this night in front of a sparse crowd of 15,601.

“It feels good. I had a tough spring training. The first two starts didn’t go the way I wanted them to. So it’s nice to come out and give us a chance to win,” said Bullington. “I finally felt like I had a decent changeup. My first two games, my fastball and slider were OK, but tonight I finally got that third pitch together to help me out.”

Three relievers shut down Chunichi in the final three innings, Kam Mickolio picking up his fifth save with a 1-2-3 ninth. Kawakami (0-2) yielded four runs — three earned — and seven hits in six innings of the loss.

Bullington wasted a three-run lead when he allowed a run on Yohei Oshima’s groundout before Masahiro Araki drove in runners on the corners with a two-out triple in the fifth. But Shogo Kimura had a triple leading off the bottom half of the inning and scored the winning run on Ryosuke Kikuchi’s single to center.

“It seems like I’ve had an inning in every game that’s hurt me. The guys were able to give me a lead and came back the next inning to pick up the run, so we got the lead right back,” Bullington said.

Brad Eldred, who has been batting the last several games in the cleanup spot in place of slumping Kila Ka’aihue, drove in the opening run with an RBI single with two outs in the first. Ka’aihue, who struck out swinging in his first at-bat in the No. 6 spot, had a two-run single in the fourth that made it 3-0.

Bullington issued a leadoff walk to Chunichi catcher Masato Matsui in the third, but Kawakami laid down a poor bunt as he failed to advance the runner and was out on a double play.

The Carp are 3-1 against the Dragons after beating them in the season-opening series.

Tigers 5, Giants 1

At Koshien Stadium, Matt Murton crushed a three-run drive off lefty Toshiya Sugiuchi (0-1) for his fifth homer as Hanshin beat Yomiuri to take the opener of the three-game set.

For the Tigers, Mauro Gomez delivered an RBI double in the eighth for an insurance run. Hanshin starter Randy Messenger (1-1) threw one-run ball over eight frames.

Swallows 6, BayStars 5

At Yokohama Stadium, Tokyo Yakult took a big lead with a four-run third, Wladimir Balentien had a solo blast for his fourth homer, and the Swallows snapped a four game-skid with a win over Yokohama, which lost despite rallying for two runs in the ninth.