Nishioka gives Lotte fans reason to smile


CHIBA — On a day Chiba Lotte Marines manager Bobby Valentine gave back to the fans, Tsuyoshi Nishioka gave the Orix Buffaloes nothing but headaches.

Nishioka connected on a leadoff homer in the first inning and a two-run double in the fourth to help the Marines corral the Buffaloes 6-2 on Saturday at Chiba Marine Stadium.

“When Nishioka comes to play, he’s one of the stars of the league,” Valentine said. “Today he came to play.”

Lotte has won four straight as the club attempts to end a disappointing year on a high note.

First baseman Kazuya Fukuura also homered for the Marines. The Lotte veteran hit his sixth of the season in the third inning and is now one away from 100 career home runs.

“I didn’t think it would be a home run when I hit it,” Fukuura said.

Lotte pinch hitter Ryusuke Minami added a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth.

Valentine is managing his final weekend homestand for the Marines, who have two home games left this year, Sunday versus the Buffaloes and Oct. 6 against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Prior to the game, he climbed into the stands to personally hand out signed thank you cards to many of the fans who have supported him so vehemently throughout a controversial season.

Buffaloes manager Daijiro Oishi may also be in his final days with his current team. Reports say Oishi’s fate is tied to how the club finishes the year and it doesn’t look good as Orix moves closer to a last-place finish.

Nishioka may have put one of the final nails in the coffin, helping send the Buffaloes to their third straight loss with a 2-for-4, three-RBI day at the plate.

“Obviously I’m happy that I could hit a home run in that spot,” Nishioka said of his first-inning blast into center field.

Lotte starter Naoyuki Shimizu threw seven-plus innings of two-run ball, improving to 6-7 after allowing two runs on 10 hits with four strikeouts.

“I thought Shimizu pitched a win today,” Valentine said. “He was trying to hit his spots and not trying to do too much and made good pitches when he had to.”

Shimizu ran into trouble in the eighth and was relieved after putting runners on second and third. Reliever Tadahiro Ogino cleaned up the mess, retiring three batters in order to end the inning.

“Ogino has been such a good pitcher for us,” Valentine said. “Today he came into as tough of a spot as you can come in. Tying run on second and a runner on third and he was outstanding.”

Shinji Shimoyama and Tuffy Rhodes each drove in runs for the Buffaloes, who look to be heading for a last-place season after finishing second in 2008.

Linden ignites Eagles

TOKOROZAWA , Saitama Pref. (Kyodo) Todd Linden went 4-for-5 with two homers and four RBIs as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles rallied from a four-run deficit to beat the Saitama Seibu Lions 10-6 on Saturday in the Pacific League.

Third-place Rakuten moved three games ahead of fourth-place Seibu in a bid to reach the postseason for the first time in club history.

Three consecutive home runs by Fernando Seguignol, Linden and Jin Nakatani brought the Eagles within 4-3 in the fifth inning at Seibu Dome. Rakuten took the lead for good at 5-4 in the same frame, chasing Takayuki Kishi (12-5) in the process.

Fighters at Hawks — late


Giants 1, Carp 0 (10)

At Tokyo Dome, Hayato Sakamoto had a two-out game-winning single in the bottom of the 10th inning, lifting red-hot Yomiuri over Hiroshima for its ninth consecutive win.

Dragons 10, Tigers 7

At Nagoya Dome, Tony Blanco and Masahiko Morino drove in seven runs between them as Chunichi rallied to beat Hanshin to snap a five-game losing streak.

Swallows 5, BayStars 4

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Aaron Guiel singled in two runs and Kazuhiro Hatakeyama homered to help Tokyo Yakult move into third place with a win over Yokohama.