Being the best team in Japan doesn’t appear to be enough for the Chiba Lotte Marines.
Benny Agbayani homered twice and Naoyuki Shimizu fanned 11 batters in a seven-inning complete game as Lotte beat Taiwan’s Sinon Bulls by mercy rule, winning 12-1 in the Konami Cup Asia Series on Friday at Tokyo Dome.
Lotte solidified a spot in the Konami Cup championship game Sunday night with the win. It will play the winner of Saturday’s game between the Bulls and the Samsung Lions, teams that lost to Lotte by a combined 18-3 in tournament play.
“After only seeing them in one game, they both look like they have good ballplayers,” Marines skipper Bobby Valentine said of Sunday’s potential opponents.
Agbayani homered in consecutive innings, a solo homer to left field in the sixth and a three-run shot in the seventh that sailed into the right-field stands and gave the Marines a double-digit lead to end the game early.
Lotte’s five-run seventh inning came in response to Sinon’s sixth, which saw the Bulls plate their lone run against Shimizu after getting three straight singles.
Shimizu dominated Sinon outside the sixth, taking a perfect game into the fourth inning and allowing four hits.
“I heard their batters were good, and I was careful not to allow baserunners,” Shimizu said. “I aimed accurately into the strike zone, and mostly I felt I was able to do the pitching I wanted to do.”
The Marines, playing as the visitors, gave Shimizu a lead before he threw a pitch.
Bulls pitcher Yang Chine Fu walked the first batter he faced, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who stole second base and reached third on an error.
Toshiaki Imae flied out to center field, giving Lotte a lead it never came close to losing. Lotte scored its first run without benefit of a base hit.
The Marines, winners of seven straight, added to the lead in the second as Lee Seung Yeop and Agbayani reached base in the second and later scored on a double by center fielder Akira Otsuka.
“I worked on taking pitches to right (field) in batting practice, so as it turned out I was able to drive the ball just like I pictured in my mind,” Otsuka said. “We’re representing Japan in this series. We can’t embarrass ourselves out here, so we’re going all out.”
Yang finally settled down in the third, retiring the side in order and striking out Saburo Omura to end the inning, the first of five consecutive Marines batters he fanned before a Hisao Heiuchi walk ended the streak in the fifth.
Another Bulls error in the fourth put Nishioka on base, and back-to-back hits by Matt Franco and Saburo plated three more Lotte runs, leaving Saburo alone at third after his triple, which bounced high off the right-field wall.
“The ball floated on me,” Saburo said of the trailing blast. “I didn’t really think I had hit it that well. I thought it would be caught, but the ball had some spin on it. It turned out to be a hit. A hit’s a hit.”
Lee had a bases-loaded single in the seventh, scoring two runs, before Agbayani came up and hit his second longball of the evening. Franco was 3-for-4, Lee was 2-for-4 and both players scored two runs.
Agbayani was 2-for-3 with the homers and a walk.
All four Sinon hits came from the top three positions in the order,including a pinch hit in the sixth.
Also at Tokyo Dome, the Samsung Lions and China Stars had better showings Friday, but the Lions were stronger, winning 8-3 in the early Konami Cup game.
Samsung jumped out to a 6-0 lead after five innings, totaling 10 hits against China starter Lai Guojun, who also walked six batters.
China will face the Marines on Saturday in the early game at Tokyo Dome in a noon start. Tomohiro Kuroki will start for Lotte against a Chinese pitcher to be determined. Samsung and Sinon play Saturday at 7 p.m.
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