CHIBA — After only pushing across a single run in the first game of their series with the Orix Buffaloes, the Chiba Lotte Marines were in need of a fresh start. After a rainout the previous day, the Marines returned to the diamond with a vengeance Thursday night at Chiba Marine Stadium.

Lotte’s bats came alive as they chased Orix starter Hidetaka Kawagoe after scoring four runs in 4 1/3 innings en route to a 5-1 win.

Slugger Julio Zuleta led the way for Lotte, going 3-for-4 with two home runs and three RBIs. A third-inning blast was his sixth of the young season, two behind league leader Tuffy Rhodes (eight). He added his seventh homer in the seventh. Zuleta, who entered the game batting .258, victimized both Kawagoe and reliever Mamoru Kishida with towering shots.

“I’m very excited,” Zuleta said. “I gotta concentrate with the injuries I have. I have to hit the ball with the right part of the bat.”

Zuleta had a big night despite nursing a broken finger.

“(He’s) playing with a lot of pain,” Marines manager Bobby Valentine said of Zuleta. “He’s playing like the warrior that he is. He’s playing well.”

With the run support behind him, Lotte starter Hiroyuki Kobayashi pitched seven effective innings, striking out six.

Reliever Yasuhiko Yabuta entered in the eighth with runners on the corners and two outs. He quickly retired the Buffaloes to end the threat before picking up the save after a perfect ninth.

“Yabuta is pitching great,” Valentine said. “He came in at a big time in the game and got the last four outs. I can trust Yabuta as much as I can trust anybody.”

Kawagoe fell behind early as a Benny Agbayani double in the second drove in Matt Watson. Things only got worse for Orix in the third when Zuleta crushed an outside fastball to make it 2-0.

“Well, when Kawagoe’s command is on, it’s really good,” first-year Orix manager Terry Collins said. “But today his command wasn’t as good as it was in the last game.”

Tsuyoshi Nishioka struck in the first with a leadoff single. Takeshi Aono followed with a walk.

In the fifth, Zuleta’s RBI single put the Marines ahead 3-0. That would prompt a visit from Collins, ending Kawagoe’s outing with two runners left on base.

Eagles sweep Hawks

SENDAI (Kyodo) Hideki Asai pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings in emergency relief Thursday, leading the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to a 3-1 win in a sweep of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in the Pacific League.

Lions 6, Fighters 2

At Goodwill Dome, rookie right-hander Takayuki Kishi (2-1) tossed two-run ball with eight strikeouts over 6 1/3 efficient innings as Seibu shut the door in a close game with clutch hitting in the eighth to beat Hokkaido Nippon Ham.


Giants 8, Carp 1

At Kyocera Dome, Michihiro Ogasawara singled in the go-ahead run in a four-run fourth inning, leading Yomiuri to a rout of Hiroshima.

Dragons 9, Tigers 7

At Nagoya Dome, pinch-hitter Hidenori Kuramoto delivered a two-run single in the seventh inning and Chunichi overcame a six-run deficit to beat Hanshin.

BayStars 14, Swallows 1

At Jingu Stadium, Ryoji Aikawa hit a grand slam to cap a six-run first inning as Yokohama thumped Tokyo Yakult.

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