CHIBA — Chase Lambin put an exclamation point on a ninth-inning double with a Superman-esque dive into the bag.
The Lotte outfielder isn’t the Man of Steel, but he and starting pitcher Shunsuke Watanabe sure looked the part after helping save the day for the Marines.
Lambin led off the ninth with a double and pinch runner Keisuke Hayasaka scored the winning run on Shoitsu Omatsu’s “sayonara” single as the Chiba Lotte Marines rallied to beat the Chunichi Dragons 2-1 in front of 28,117 fans on Saturday at Chiba Marine Stadium.
“I’ve been doing that,” Lambin said of his gutsy approach to reach second in the ninth. ” ‘The Lambin Leap,’ I guess.
“I just tried to fire them (the fans) up a bit with a little enthusiasm.”
Watanabe threw 8 1/3 strong innings of one-run ball to keep his club in the game. The submarine hurler struck out four and allowed six hits but did not factor into the decision.
“Even though I didn’t get a win today, I was able to pitch well and the team was able to win,” Watanabe said.
Watanabe gave up an RBI double to Masahiko Morino but kept the Dragons at bay for much of the afternoon to keep the Marines in position to mount a rally. He was relieved by Brian Sikorski, who earned the win, in the top of the ninth.
“He really pitched well today,” Marines manager Bobby Valentine said of Watanabe. “He gave up the one run on the double to Morino. Luckily, that ball stayed in the park. He pitched great after that.”
Despite Watanabe’s solid outing, he looked destined to take the loss as the Marines trailed 1-0 heading into the eighth. Tadahito Iguchi led off the inning with a double and later scored the tying run on a wild pitch.
“Leadoff doubles usually turn into runs,” Valentine said. “We got two big leadoff doubles in the eighth and the ninth and turned them into the only runs we needed.”
Dragons starter Chen Wei Yin didn’t factor into the decision, but went pitch for pitch with Watanabe, striking out four in seven shutout innings.
“Chen is also a good pitcher so I tried my best,” Watanabe said.
Chen, who lowered his ERA to 1.33, allowed six hits and struck out four.
Morino provided the offense for the Dragons with his RBI double in the fourth. Morino finished 2-for-4 and was the only Dragon to record multiple hits against Watanabe.
Chen got himself into a jam early, giving up a leadoff single to Tsuyoshi Nishioka and issuing one-out walks to Saburo Omura and Iguchi to load the bases in the bottom of the first.
Chen wiggled out of trouble by striking out Tomoya Satozaki and retiring Benny Agbayani to end the inning.
Dragons shortstop Hirokazu Ibata led off the fourth with a single and advanced to second after a sacrifice bunt by Masahiro Araki. Morino followed with a double off the right-field wall to give Chunichi an early edge.
The Dragons looked primed to add to their lead in the sixth after loading the bases with two outs. The opportunity didn’t bear fruit, however, as Watanabe struck out Keiji Oyama to keep the game close.
It was more of the same for Chen in the sixth, with runners on second and third with one away. The Dragons starter got away unharmed again, retiring Lambin then benefiting from Atsushi Fujii’s sliding catch in center to put away Toshiaki Imae.
Iguchi led off the eighth with a double and moved to third on a Satozaki bunt. Valentine called on pinch hitter Kazuya Fukuura to drive in the run but got an unexpected assist from reliever Takuya Asao, who threw a wild pitch that allowed Iguchi to score and set the stage for the dramatic finish.
SAPPORO (Kyodo) Yu Darvish threw his second shutout of the season in a nine-strikeout effort as the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3-0 in interleague play on Saturday.
Darvish (6-1) scattered eight hits and walked two on the way to winning his sixth consecutive decision. The Pacific League leader moved 11 games above .500.
Giants 7, Eagles 1
At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Yomiuri left-hander Tetsuya Utsumi won a duel against ace Hisashi Iwakuma, pitching seven scoreless innings in a rout of Tohoku Rakuten.
Lions 10, BayStars 6
At Seibu Dome, Kazuyuki Hoashi pitched four-run ball over eight innings and Seibu’s bats came alive.
Hawks 5, Carp 4
At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Jose Ortiz hit a two-run triple to highlight a four-run third as Softbank beat Hiroshima.
Tigers 7, Buffaloes 3
At Kobe’s Skymark Stadium, Tomoaki Kanemoto and Takahiro Arai drove in two runs apiece as Hanshin downed Orix to snap a six-game winless streak.
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