CHIBA – The Seibu Lions have used one of baseball’s most potent offenses to build a nearly insurmountable lead in the Pacific League and establish themselves as an early favorite to reach the Japan Series.
None of that really means much to Shunsuke Watanabe.
The Chiba Lotte Marines scored four quick runs off Kazuhisa Ishii and Watanabe continued his mastery of the Pa. League leaders as the Marines topped the Lions 8-5 on Tuesday night at Chiba Marine Stadium.
“He gave up some hits but he never gave in,” Marines manager Bobby Valentine said of Watanabe. “He kept the ball out of the center of the plate so there weren’t those home runs that these guys are used to until late in the game.”
Lotte starter Watanabe (12-5) tossed eight-plus innings and was charged with five runs on 12 hits en route to winning his fifth decision over his last seven starts. He is 5-1 during that span, with three victories over Seibu, including a complete-game shutout of the Lions on July 20.
“He’s been a terrific pitcher for us,” Valentine said. “He’s leading the way for the rest of the starters.”
Watanabe entered the contest with a 2.17 ERA against the Lions and improved to 5-0 in five starts against Seibu this season.
Lotte leadoff hitter Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and his new hairdo, led the way for the Marines with a 4-for-5, two-RBI day at the plate.
“He did a great job,” Valentine said. “He wanted to prove he could hit with blond hair, or whatever color hair that he has. Now we know he can do that.
“He led the way and everyone followed, including (Jose) Ortiz and (Toshiaki) Imae. Everybody in the lineup was swinging the bat really well tonight.”
Lions starter Ishii lasted just 1 2/3 innings, taking the loss after allowing four runs on six hits. Ishii (10-8) also had a walk and hit a batter during his brief outing.
The Marines jumped out front early, taking a 1-0 lead on a Shoitsu Omatsu run-scoring sacrifice fly in the first.
Lotte stretched the lead to 3-0 in the next inning on a two-run double by Nishioka then added another run on Imae’s RBI double later in the inning.
Takumi Kuriyama got the Lions on the scoreboard in the third with an RBI double to make the score 4-1. Seibu added a second run in the fifth to cut the Lotte lead in half.
Akira Otsuka hit a two-run homer off reliever Koji Onuma to make the score 6-2 in the seventh. The Marines added two more runs on RBI singles by Ortiz and Daisuke Hayakawa in the inning.
Seibu’s Hiroyuki Oshima took Watanabe deep to right to cut the lead to 8-3 in the eighth. The Lions added a pair of runs in the top of the ninth to close out the scoring.
The two teams are scheduled to meet in the second game of their three-game set Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. at Chiba Marine Stadium.
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