CHIBA – The Chiba Lotte Marines’ pitchers were off to a good start, but the team’s offense was having a little trouble getting things going against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Oddly enough, it was the Eagles who eventually gave the Marines the push they needed.
Shunichi Nemoto hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh, and the Eagles walked in a pair of runs later in the frame that helped propel the Marines to a 6-3 win on a cold Saturday afternoon at QVC Marine Field.
The victory moved the Marines a game above .500 with a 9-8 record.
The teams entered the seventh with the score knotted at 2-2. Marines outfielder Shota Ishimine led off the frame with a single that gave Lotte a baserunner and sent Eagles starter Brandon Duckworth to the showers.
Reliever Norihito Kaneto retired the next batter, then walked pinch hitter Saburo Omura to bring Nemoto to the plate. The Lotte infielder swung at the first pitch he saw and broke the tie with an RBI single to left.
“I wasn’t able to do anything in my previous three at-bats, so I was determined from the first pitch of that at-bat,” Nemoto said. “He had just given up a walk, so I thought the first pitch of the next at-bat would be important.”
Kaneto walked the next batter before being relieved by Kazuya Takahori, who issued back-to-back bases-loaded walks and an RBI groundout.
Marines outfielder Katsuya Kakunaka, last season’s Pacific League batting champion, had a good day at the plate and finished 3-for-3 with a walk. Second baseman Daichi Suzuki went 1-for-4 and drove in a run in the fourth with his third triple in as many days.
“I’ve never in my baseball life had three triples in three straight games,” Suzuki said.
Toshiaki Imae was 0-for-2, but tied the game at 2-2 with a sacrifice fly in the sixth and helped Lotte tack on an insurance run with on an RBI groundout in the seventh.
Marines reliever Masaki Minami (1-0) struck out the side on 14 pitches in the seventh to earn the win. Naoki Masuda struck out the only batter he faced in the ninth for his fifth save of the season.
Shunsuke Watanabe got the start for Lotte and pitched well, despite a few control issues, until being hit on the right foot by a ball off the bat of Yusuke Kosai in the fifth. Watanabe left the game after 4 2/3 of one-run ball and did not factor into the decision. The Marines said tests on the submarine hurler’s foot revealed no damage to the bone.
“It was frustrating to have to leave the mound with my condition the way it was,” Watanabe said.
Duckworth was charged with three runs over six-plus innings in the loss, which made him 1-2 on the season. He allowed six hits, struck out one and walked two.
“It was hit and miss,” Duckworth said of his outing. “I was able to make some good pitches when I got into some trouble, but you can’t let anyone get on base leading off an inning, No. 1, and No. 2, when you score, you need to shut them down. That’s where I was upset with myself today. We scored that one run in the sixth (to go ahead 2-1), and then they scored a run in the bottom half. That just can’t happen.”
Rakuten’s Kazuya Fujita drew a bases-loaded walk in the second that put the Eagles ahead 1-0 in the second, and later singled in a tiebreaking run in the sixth. Kosai accounted for Rakuten’s third run with an RBI double in the ninth.
Kosai, Andruw Jones, and Motohiro Shima all finished with two hits for Rakuten. The Eagles connected on eight hits, to the Marines’ seven, walked five times and were hit with pitches on three occasions, but turned those opportunities into just three runs.
“They made pitches when they had to,” said Eagles infielder Casey McGehee. “It’s just one of those days. In a long season, you’re going to have those days.”
The Marines, who beat Rakuten 3-1 on Friday, will attempt to earn a three-game sweep of the series when the teams meet Sunday afternoon in Chiba.
Buffaloes tame Hawks
Orix capitalized on a second-inning lead on a solo homer by Mitsutaka Goto and a sacrifice fly by Takayoshi Kawabata and added two more in the third on RBI singles by Lee Dae Ho and Aarom Baldiris, who drew a bases-loaded walk in the fourth, as the Buffaloes defeated the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 6-1 on Saturday in the Pacific League.
Buffaloes starter Yuki Nishi (2-0) allowed a run in six innings. The 23-year-old right-hander gave up three singles and three walks, while hitting a batter and striking out four.
Fighters 4, Lions 0
At Sapporo Dome, fourth-year right-hander Brian Wolfe (1-3) threw a five hitter in his first shutout in Japan, Sho Nakata homered off Yusei Kikuchi (2-1), and Hokkaido Nippon Ham snapped a two-game losing skid with a win over Seibu.
Right fielder Ryan Spilborghs made a two-run error on Haruki Nishikawa’s RBI single in a three-run second.
BayStars 3, Dragons 2
In Yokohama, pinch hitter Takayuki Kajitani had a clutch two-run double in the eighth inning as the BayStars rallied for a win over Chunichi.
The rain would not let up and near the end of the game the water could be seen pouring off players’ helmets. Controversy was also sparked on an interference ruling in the decisive inning, but Kajitani came through to give his team its second win in a row.
In the third inning in a driving rain with runners on second and third, Yokohama second baseman Kensuke Uchimura made a fabulous sliding catch in foul territory for the second out in the third, immediately scampering to his feet and throwing home to stop Ryosuke Hirata from even thinking about scoring.
But after a walk loaded the bases, Uchimura wasn’t as lucky as he tried to make another fine play when he leapt but missed Kazuhiro Wada’s bloop single to right that pushed across two runs.
Former Dragon Tony Blanco, who played hero the previous night with a walk-off three-run homer in the 10th inning, connected to the stands in left on a first-pitch offering by lefty starter Yudai Ono with one out in the bottom of fourth to cut Chunichi’s lead in half.
BayStars starter Shugo Fujii fell into trouble again in the fifth, getting two quick strikeouts only to allow a single to Masahiko Araki. Hector Luna reached on an error and Fujii walked Wada to load the bases, but the lefty got Matt Clark to fly out to left with the count full.
Tigers 1, Swallows 0
At Koshien Stadium, lefty Tatsuya Kojima (1-0) went seven scoreless innings and got run support from a Takashi Toritani RBI double in the opening frame as Hanshin won its third in a row.
Left-hander Masanori Ishikawa (1-2) limited the damage to one run in seven innings, striking out five with no walks but got little help from his teammates
Giants 2, Carp 0
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, rookie Tomoyuki Sugano allowed one hit over six exceptional innings, Jose Lopez and Hisayoshi Chono both hit solo blasts off Shota Nakazaki (1-1), and Yomiuri beat Hiroshima for the second straight day and notched their seventh win in eight games.
Sugano (3-0) struck out five, walked two and hit a batter. Giants lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi allowed a hit in two scoreless innings to earn his 154th career hold, surpassing the Nippon Professional Baseball record he shared with Chunichi’s Takuya Asao. Kentaro Nishimura fanned three in the ninth for his eighth save.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5