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CHIBA — The Chiba Lotte Marines keep losing bodies, but the Hanshin Tigers keep losing games.

News photo
Chiba Lotte Marines third baseman Toshiaki Imae singles to right in the eighth inning to set a new Japan Series record by getting hits in his first eight at-bats in Game 2
against the Hanshin Tigers at Chiba Marine Stadium.

Lotte fielded a lineup that was short three regular starters, but the Marines rallied behind right-hander Shunsuke Watanabe and a persistent offense Sunday at Chiba Marine Stadium, routing the Tigers 10-0 to take a 2-0 lead in the Japan Series.

The air was clear after thick fog brought an early close to Saturday’s Game 1, and Lotte again got an early start against Hanshin, but it was three sixth-inning home runs — back-to-back shots by Saburo Omura and Matt Franco and one by Lee Seung Yeop — that helped Lotte build an insurmountable lead.

“It was a great win and a great team effort,” Marines manager Bobby Valentine said. “Watanabe was fabulous, and the hitters were just as good. It was only one win, but we got it in front of the best fans in the world.”

Toshiaki Imae continued his Japan Series hot streak, setting a record by getting hits in his first eight at-bats, going 4-for-4 again in Game 2. Imae became the 20th player to have four hits in a Japan Series game, the record, and the third to have multiple four-hit games in the Series.

He is the first player to get a hit in his first eight Japan Series at-bats.

“I knew I broke the record,” Imae said. “But the team winning was more important.”

Lotte took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning, when the potent offense that helped the Marines compile Japan’s second-best record in the regular season came to life, much to the delight of the majority of the 28,354 fans.

Tomoya Satozaki singled with one out, and he scored when Saburo homered to left field, putting Lotte up 4-0.

“I was looking for it inside, and it came inside,” Saburo said. “I finished off the home run with a guts pose. Hitting that home run in front of all these people in the Japan Series is the greatest feeling. I felt so happy.”

News photoMarines hurler Shunsuke Watanabe pitches against the Tigers at Marine Stadium. Watanabe tossed a four-hitter for the win.

Franco became the sixth Lotte player to hit a home run in the Japan Series in the next at-bat, taking a Yuya Ando slider into right field.

“I really hit it well,” Franco said. “After Saburo hit the home run before, I felt energized and wanted to follow it with something big.”

Benny Agbayani continued Lotte’s tear with a double, which ended the night for Ando, who lasted 5 1/3 innings, striking out one batter, walking two, and giving up seven hits and five earned runs.

Again ignoring the power in its bullpen, Hanshin brought in Hirotaka Egusa, who gave up a home run to Lee, the first batter he faced.

Lee has homered in both Japan Series games.

Egusa gave up a single to the seemingly unstoppable Imae before fanning Tasuku Hashimoto to end the inning.

Hanshin had no chance to match the Marines’ offensive explosiveness because of Watanabe’s dominance. The submarine sensation threw a complete-game shutout, surrendering just four hits to the Central League champs.

For the second straight night, Tomoaki Kanemoto and Makoto Imaoka — Hanshin’s most productive batters during the regular season — were hitless. Watanabe struck out four Tigers.

“I am so happy,” Watanabe said. “I treated this game as a regular season game (to keep from being nervous). Thanks to Imae and the other hitters for the run support, and thanks to the great fans for their support. If they keep backing us like this, we can win at Koshien, too.”

Hanshin did not even have a base runner until the third inning, when Watanabe got out of a jam with runners on first and second by getting Norihiro Akahoshi and Takashi Toritani to hit into consecutive fielder’s choices.

Hanshin stranded two runners in the third, including Atsushi Kataoka at third base. It was a key opportunity missed, as the Tigers had only two runners in scoring position the entire game.

The Tigers only had runners on base in two innings: the third and the sixth.

Watanabe gave up consecutive hits to Akahoshi and Toritani in the sixth, but Andy Sheets grounded into an inning-ending double play, snuffing Hanshin’s last serious threat.

Another impressive part of the win was that the Marines played not only without infielders Makoto Kosaka and Koichi Hori, but also without first baseman Kazuya Fukuura, who injured a muscle in his lower back during practice.

Valentine got some fresh bats into the order in the eighth inning, and the Marines added to their lead.

Akira Otsuka, pinch-hitting for Franco, led off the inning with a single, and he came around to score after three wild pitches from Egusa, one of which came on ball four against Agbayani, allowing him to reach second base as Otsuka scored. Kenji Morozumi went in as a pinch-runner for Agbayani, and he scored on an Imae bloop single.

Imae plated the final run when Hashimoto hit a triple in the next at-bat.

Game 3 will be Tuesday at Koshien Stadium from 6:15 p.m., where Lotte’s Hiroyuki Kobayashi will face a Hanshin starter to be named.

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