Another series, another Chiba Lotte Marines championship.
The Marines beat South Korea’s Samsung Lions 5-3 in the Konami Cup Asia Series final Sunday at Tokyo Dome, overcoming a seven-strikeout effort by Samsung starter Bae Young Soo and a late Samsung rally.
Benny Agbayani was named Konami Cup Most Valuable Player for the Marines, who were a perfect 4-0 for the Asia Series.
Agbayani drove in the go-ahead runs, and Masato Watanabe added to the lead with a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
“This was the last game of the season, so we absolutely wanted to find away to win,” Agbayani said, acknowledging the crowd of 37,078. “With all the support of Marines fans and Japanese baseball fans, we couldn’t lose.”
Masahide Kobayashi gave up three ninth inning hits, allowing the Lions to score two runs. He fanned Kim Dai Ick for the final out with the tying runs at first and second.
The Lions pestered Lotte starter Shunsuke Watanabe, reaching base in the first six innings, but between Watanabe’s ability to induce groundouts and a strong Lotte defensive effort, Samsung plated only a run against the submarine pitcher.
As in three out of four Konami Cup games, Lotte scored in the first inning.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka started with a double, and Bae hit Toshiaki Imae with a pitch to put two runners on base.
Nishioka and Imae moved into scoring position on a passed ball, and Bae walked Saburo Omura to load the bases. Nishoka later scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Franco.
Bae stopped the bleeding after giving up another walk as Tasuku Hashimoto flied out, leaving the bases juiced.
Samsung had runners in every inning but was only able to score in the third, tying Lotte before Agbayani and the Marines took the lead for good.
Imae singled and Franco doubled, giving Agbayani a chance to improve his series average. After going 0-for-4 against Samsung in Lotte’s first Konami Cup game, Agbayani was 4-for-8 with four walks, four runs and 9 RBIs in the final three games.
A day after recording the game-winning hit against the China Stars, Agbayani again came through in the clutch, knocking a base hit into right field, scoring Imae and Franco.
Lotte led the rest of the way.
“It was a great win for a great team, and the home fans got to see it,” Lotte manager Bobby Valentine said.
The Marines sealed Bae’s fate the following inning, adding a pair of runs with two outs.
Bae walked Nishioka, and Masato Watanabe, subbed in for Imae, stepped to the plate for his first at-bat of the night. Ahead in the count 1-0, Watanabe took a fastball over the wall in left field.
“I was very relaxed,” Watanabe said. “I was looking for a fastball to hit. I got all of it. I hit the ball, and without thinking, I pumped my fist.”
Bae was pulled after giving up two runs in consecutive innings.
Soichi Fujita and Yasuhiko Yabuta each pitched a scoreless inning of relief, before Kobayashi put the game in jeopardy.
The Lions had opportunities, but they stranded 11 base runners.
Samsung’s Park Han Yi, Yang Joon Hyuk and Park Jin Man all had multiple hits.
Agbayani, who was 1-for-2 in the championship game, won a Volkswagen as a reward for being named MVP.
Lotte’s season finished with Interleague, Pacific League, Japan Series and Konami Cup championships in hand. The Marines have won 13 of 15 games since the end of the Pacific League regular season.
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