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Toshiaki Imae hit a two-run homer to open the scoring, and Shunsuke Watanabe came within two outs of pitching his seventh complete game this season as the Chiba Lotte Marines edged the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 4-3 Monday night.

News photoChiba Lotte Marines third baseman Toshiaki Imae is congratulated by his teammates after
hitting a two-run homer in the second inning Monday at Chiba Marine Stadium. The Marines beat
the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 4-3.

Imae delivered a blast to left-center off Cory Lee (1-2) in the second inning at Chiba Marine Stadium, extending his hitting streak to 15 games since July 17.

“The ball went up high, so I didn’t think that that would be a home run. Somehow it made it over the fence,” Imae said.

The Fighters pulled within one in the seventh but Lotte catcher Tomoya Satozaki added an insurance run with a solo homer to left in the bottom half, followed by a Koichi Hori sacrifice fly to center in the eighth to make it 4-1. Akinori Inaba’s ninth-inning two-run double was two little, too late for Nippon Ham.

Watanabe (12-3) matched a personal best with his 12th victory after scattering nine hits and three runs over 8 1/3 sharp innings. He walked none and struck out three.

Second-place Lotte moved four games behind the first-place Softbank Hawks, who were idle Monday. Nippon Ham lost its fifth game in a row to Lotte.

Dragons gain ground

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Hiroyuki Watanabe hit a tiebreaking single in the top of the 11th inning Sunday as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Yokohama BayStars 7-6 to move within 1 1/2 games of the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers.

Watanabe, who replaced Tyrone Woods at first base in the ninth, gave Chunichi its fourth straight victory after the BayStars sent the game into extra innings on consecutive two-out RBI singles from Masaaki Koike and Tatsuhiko Kinjo in a three-run ninth.

Carp 4, Tigers 1

In Matsuyama, Tomonori Maeda drove home the go-ahead run with a two-run double in the fourth inning and Tom Davey pitched six strong innings to lift Hiroshima to a victory over Hanshin.

Swallows 4, Giants 1

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Shugo Fujii threw six sharp innings and helped his own cause with an RBI single as Yakult won its third straight game while handing slumping Yomiuri its fourth loss in a row.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Eagles 5, Hawks 3

In Sendai, Takeshi Yamasaki hit a tiebreaking three-run homer to lift Rakuten to its first victory in six games with a triumph over Softbank.

Buffaloes 5, Marines 1

At Chiba Marine Stadium, Takeshi Hidaka had a pair of RBIs with a double and a solo homer as Orix beat Lotte.

Fighters 9, Lions 8

In Sapporo, Michihiro Ogasawara hit a “sayonara” homer off Kiyoshi Toyoda (3-1) as Nippon Ham came from four runs down with a late-inning rally to edge Seibu.

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