CHIBA – Katsuya Kakunaka didn’t look comfortable being on the hero interview. At the level he’s playing right now, he had better get used to it.
Kakunaka drove in the winning run on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 11th inning and the Chiba Lotte Marines continued their dominance of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks with a 3-2 win on Saturday afternoon at QVC Marine Field.
Kakunaka had a chance to end the game with two away in the ninth, but struck out with runners on first and second.
“The previous at-bat was regrettable,” Kakunaka said. “But I was able to come through in the end.
“Everyone contributed. I’m very happy.”
Lotte extended its current winning streak to three with its first sayonara win of the season. The Marines have taken four straight against the Hawks and are 6-1-1 against Softbank this year.
The series is the last league action each team will see for a few weeks as the interleague schedule begins Wednesday.
Kakunaka finished 1-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Tadahito Iguchi went 2-for-4, and gave Lotte an early lead with a two-run home run in the first inning.
“We had a runner on first, so I was determined get something out of the chance,” Iguchi said.
“I was able to make a good adjustment on a breaking ball. This is the last series before interleague play. I hope to be able to enter the interleague schedule in good condition.”
Shunichi Nemoto had the Marines’ only other hit, a triple in the 11th that set the stage for Kakunaka’s heroics.
Yuhei Nakaushiro (2-0) threw one scoreless inning to earn the win in relief. Softbank’s Masahiko Morifuku (0-1) was charged with the loss.
Hiroki Kokubo drove in the Hawks’ only runs with a two-run single in the eighth that left him seven shy of reaching the 2,000-hit milestone.
Runs proved tough to come by against the two starters, who matched each other nearly pitch-for-pitch.
Softbank’s Tadashi Settsu gave up a pair of runs in the first inning then held Lotte scoreless over the next eight. Settsu allowed three hits, struck out seven and walked three in his nine frames on the mound.
Marines starter Yuki Karakawa allowed a pair of runs over eight innings. Karakawa, who notched complete-game wins in his previous two starts against Softbank, gave up eight hits, struck out three and walked three.
Lions beat Fighters
The Seibu Lions built a 9-1 lead in the first two innings, featuring Shogo Akiyama’s bases-clearing triple in the second, and held off a late surge to defeat the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 9-8 on Saturday.
Kazuhisa Ishii (3-0) limited the damage to three runs in 6⅔ innings for the win. Esteban German and Yutaro Osaki hit back-to-back two-run singles off Yuki Saito (4-2) in the first inning.
Eagles 2, Buffaloes 1
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Kazuo Matsui broke a 1-1 tie with a run-scoring single off Yoshihisa Hirano (1-1) in the eighth inning as Tohoku Rakuten won four in a row for the first time this season to return to .500.
Takahiro Shiomi (4-3) pitched one-run ball over 7⅔ innings and Koji Aoyama picked up his fourth save.
BayStars 2, Tigers 1
At Yokohama Stadium, Daisuke Miura came within three outs of pitching a no-hitter and Yuki Yoshimura broke a scoreless tie with a two-run double in the sixth inning as Yokohama beat Hanshin.
Miura (4-1), who struck out one in a 112-pitch outing, walked two batters in the first inning but had a no-hitter intact through the eighth before allowing a leadoff single to pinch hitter Shinjiro Hiyama in the final inning.
“I didn’t want to walk the batter, and a homer would have made it a one-run ballgame,” Miura said after Hiyama hit a full-count fastball off the wall in right. “I hope to pitch more and more innings for our team.”
Miura also allowed a one-out single by Keiichi Hirano and Matt Murton had an RBI groundout on an attempted double play.
Minoru Iwata (2-5) took the loss for the Tigers, who saw their winning streak end after three games.
Yoshimura sent a ball into the gap in right-center in the sixth.
“I was ready to go on the first pitch after he put the ball over the plate. I was just praying for it to fall into the gap,” said Yoshimura.
Dragons 3, Carp 0
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Tony Blanco hit solo homers in consecutive at-bats, and Shinji Iwata threw 5⅔ scoreless innings to help Chunichi end a two-game skid in a win over Hiroshima.
Carp pitcher Yusuke Nomura (2-3) took the loss, giving up two runs in seven innings of work.
Giants 1, Swallows 1 (10)
At Akita’s Komachi Stadium, Hayato Sakamoto laid down a suicide squeeze for a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning, but Ryosuke Morioka’s two-out, bases-loaded single in the bottom half tied the game as Yomiuri played out a 10-inning tie against Tokyo Yakult.