CHIBA — The last time Yoshihisa Naruse lost a game was over two months ago. If he keeps up his current pace, it could be a couple of months before he loses again.

Naruse was dominant for six innings, escaped a jam in the seventh and was backed by a three-run home run by Naotaka Takehara as the Chiba Lotte Marines edged the Seibu Lions 3-2 on Tuesday at Chiba Marine Stadium.

Naruse gave up both runs on four hits and struck out five to beat Seibu for the sixth time this year, his most victories against any opponent. Yasuhiko Yabuta worked the eighth and Masahide Kobayashi closed out the game for his 24th save of the season.

“He was excellent for six innings,” Marines manager Bobby Valentine said, referring to Naruse. “He missed with his location in the seventh and gave up two runs but he got the big third out, too.”

With the win Naruse (13-1) improved to a perfect 11-0 against Pacific League teams. The 22-year-old pitcher’s lone loss of the season was a 2-0 defeat to the Central League’s Yokohama BayStars on June 9 at Yokohama Stadium.

“He has great stuff, great poise and great control,” Valentine said of Naruse. “That usually is the formula for success.”

Seibu starter Kazuyuki Hoashi (1-5) matched Naruse almost pitch for pitch through the first three innings before the Lotte bats came alive in the fourth.

Saburo Omura began the inning with a single into center field before advancing to third on a Tomoya Satozaki hit. Hoashi retired the next two batters before giving up Takehara’s shot to left. Takehara’s fifth homer of the year put the Marines up 3-0.

Hoashi took the loss after giving up all three Lotte runs on five hits and striking out five over 6 1/3 innings.

“He’s been tough against us all year,” Valentine said of the Lions starter.

Seibu clawed its way back into the game in the seventh after Kazuhiro Wada and G.G. Sato led-off the inning with consecutive singles. Alex Cabrera followed by ending a lengthy at-bat with a deep single to right that drove in a run to make the score 3-1.

The Lotte lead was then trimmed to one after a sacrifice fly by Hiroyuki Nakajima made the score 3-2. With the tying run at first, Naruse got the final two outs to preserve the lead.

“They might have made an adjustment (to Naruse),” Valentine said. “But I think he made some pitches in the middle of the plate.”

Play was halted in the bottom of the seventh for 25 minutes due to heavy rain.

Kitagawa lifts Orix

OSAKA (Kyodo) Hirotoshi Kitagawa hit a three-run homer in a four-run first inning and the Orix Buffaloes held on to beat the front-running Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 5-3.

News photoChunichi Dragons outfielder Lee Byung Kyu hits a grand slam off Yomiuri Giants starter Hisanori Takahashi
in the fifth inning on Tuesday at Nagoya Dome. The Dragons won 7-3.

Tuffy Rhodes put Orix ahead with a one-out run-scoring single to right field and Kitagawa took a 2-1 change-up from Masaru Takeda over the left-field wall at Kyocera Dome.


Dragons 7, Giants 3

At Nagoya Dome, Tyrone Woods drove in three runs and Lee Byung Kyu hit a grand slam as Chunichi beat Yomiuri to move within one game of the Central League leaders.

Woods drew a bases-loaded walk in the third inning and singled in two runs before Lee connected off Hisanori Takahashi (12-4) for his first grand slam in Japan in a six-run fifth that put Chunichi up 7-0. Daisuke Yamai (3-2) held the Giants to one run and four hits in six innings to win his third straight start.

Yomiuri’s Shinnosuke Abe hit his 30th homer in the eighth.

Swallows 1, Carp 0

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Seth Greisinger threw his second complete-game shutout of the season and Ryuji Miyade drove in the only run of the game with a second-inning homer as Yakult edged Hiroshima.

Greisinger (14-5) became the first 14-game winner in the league after limiting the Carp to three hits with 10 strikeouts and no walks. Masayuki Hasegawa (1-4) took the loss.

Tigers 6, BayStars 2

At Koshien Stadium, Andy Sheets hit a pair of RBI singles and Atsushi Nomi pitched six effective innings as Hanshin beat Yokohama to extend its winning streak to five games.

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