CHIBA — The Tokyo Yakult Swallows came into Saturday’s interleague matchup in the Central League cellar, while the Chiba Lotte Marines entered atop the Pacific League. None of that accounted for much over the next three hours.

Behind a Masakazu Fukukawa home run, a squeeze bunt and some timely hitting Yakult came out on top 3-2 against the PL’s best Saturday at Chiba Marine Stadium.

Yakult starter Shohei Tateyama (2-2) was strong over 6 2/3 innings to pick up the win.

The Swallows picked their spots, collecting 10 hits, to spoil an otherwise solid outing by Lotte starter Shingo Ono (2-4). The Marines hurler took the loss after yielding three runs in a complete game effort.

“He pitched great,” Swallows slugger Alex Ramirez said of Ono. “He always pitches great against us. He’s a good pitcher. We just had that one inning.”

It was that one inning, the fifth, that ultimately decided the game. Yakult began it with a single by Mitsuru Manaka. Shinya Miyamoto followed with an RBI double to make it 2-2. Yasushi Iihara then laid down a squeeze bunt to drive in Miyamoto and give the visitors a 3-2 lead.

Ono did not allow a baserunner past second after the fifth but the damage had already been done.

“He had one inning where he couldn’t find himself,” Marines manager Bobby Valentine said of Ono. “But I think he pitched good enough to win. We just didn’t get the runs across.”

News photoYakult Swallows outfielder Yasushi Iihara drives in the go-ahead run on a squeeze bunt in the fifth
inning against the Chiba Lotte Marines at Chiba Marine Stadium on Saturday. The Swallows won 3-2.

Swallows manager Atsuya Furuta and his team had to sweat things out before securing their third straight win. Leading 3-2 in the ninth, closer Shingo Takatsu watched as the park barely contained a deep double by Hisao Heiuchi and saw another deep ball, this one from Takeshi Aono, sail foul.

Despite the close scares, Takatsu got Aono to groundout, stranding Heiuchi at third, to pick up his eighth save.

Lotte put runners in scoring position several times, but too often was not able to turn opportunities into runs. Valentine blamed himself.

“I used that bunt too many times and gave up two crucial outs,” the manager lamented. I shouldn’t have done that.”

Marines outfielder Benny Agbayani came up injured after stealing second in the fourth and was forced to leave the game. Lotte was already without the services of injured infielder Julio Zuleta, while outfielder Daisuke Hayakawa is playing but is less than 100 percent.

“We’ll know later,” Valentine said of Agbayani. “It hurt him too much to play.”

After Fukukawa’s shot put Yakult up 1-0 in the third, Lotte countered with a two-run fourth. The Swallows took the lead back for good in the next frame.

While the the Marines may mourn missed chances, the Swallows are hoping they have something to build on.

“We’ve been putting it together these last couple of days,” Ramirez said. “We just gotta keep going and we’ll be OK. It’s a long season.”

Fighters win again

SAPPORO (Kyodo) Yu Darvish pitched one-run ball over eight strong innings and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ bats came alive in an 8-5 win of the Hanshin Tigers to win their 10th straight game on Saturday.

Darvish (6-2) surrendered a fourth-inning leadoff homer to Takashi Toritani for his first hit of the night but was virtually unhittable, allowing two hits with five strikeouts and one walk in front of a crowd of 42,222 at Sapporo Dome.

Naohisa Sugiyama (2-4) got roughed up for six runs in 3 2/3 innings. Nippon Ham posted double-digit hits for the second straight night in a 14-hit attack.

Kensuke Tanaka had an RBI double and Atsunori Inaba followed with a two-run homer for a 3-0 lead in the third.

In the fourth, Hichori Morimoto singled in a run and Inaba had an RBI double. Fernando Seguignol drove in two more runs with a double off the right-field wall and Nippon Ham made it 8-1 in the seventh.

Nippon Ham reliever Hideki Sunaga imploded in the ninth, loading the bases before yielding a grand slam to Tomoaki Kanemoto.

Micheal Nakamura took the mound in emergency relief and escaped a bases loaded jam with two outs for his 10th save.

Dragons 4, Hawks 3

At Yahoo Dome, Hirokazu Ibata drew a bases-loaded walk that scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning and Masahiko Morino added a two-run homer in the sixth as Chunichi held off Fukuoka Softbank.

Giants 11, Lions 6

At Goodwill Dome, Takahiro Suzuki had an infield RBI single, Yoshinobu Takahashi followed with a two-run double and Tomohiro Nioka hit a three-run homer as Yomiuri rallied for six runs in the fifth en route to winning its fourth straight game for the first time this season.

Buffaloes 3, BayStars 1

At Skymark Stadium, Yoshihisa Hirano won his third straight start with 8 1/3 impressive innings as Orix beat Yokohama to snap a three-game losing streak.

Eagles 3, Carp 1

At Fullcast Stadium, Hiroshima shortstop Eishin Soyogi made a costly fielding error on Kenshi Kawaguchi’s sharp grounder in the eighth inning, allowing two runs to score that tipped the balance in a victory for Tohoku Rakuten.

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