TOKOROZAWA, SAITAMA PREF. - The Chiba Lotte Marines had trouble winning at Seibu Dome during the regular season, but the postseason gave them a chance to wipe the slate clean and start anew.
And what a start it was.
The Marines connected on three home runs and turned a comfortable lead into a rout with a five-run eighth inning in an 11-1 win over the Seibu Lions during Game 1 of the Pacific League Climax Series First Stage on Saturday in front of a crowd of 32,880.
“We played a great game for the first time in awhile,” Marines manager Tsutomu Ito said. “Our offense really clicked and the hitters showed their aggressiveness from the beginning of the game.”
The Marines lead the best-of-three series 1-0. Lotte was 3-9 against the Lions on the road this year but can bid farewell to Seibu Dome once and for all with a victory in Game 2 on Sunday.
Takahiro Matsunaga will get the start for Lotte, with Seibu sending Yosuke Okamoto to the mound.
“After today we don’t have any sense of that,” Ito said of his team’s struggles against the Lions. “Of course, you never know what could happen. We aren’t going to let our guard down until it’s over.
“Hopefully, we’ll keep the momentum going into tomorrow’s game.”
Tadahito Iguchi, Saburo Omura and Shohei Kato all went deep on Saturday for the Marines, who are hoping for a repeat of the 2010 postseason, when they swept past the Lions in two games at Seibu Dome on the way to winning the Japan Series.
Iguchi was one of the stars of that team and did his part to help the club take the first step toward another deep playoff run.
Iguchi played well against the Lions during the regular season, hitting .322 with four home runs and 17 RBIs, and kept it going with a two-out solo homer to left in his first at-bat of the Climax Series.
“I hit a high fastball,” Iguchi said. “It was out of the zone, but I pulled it. We didn’t want to go down easily in the inning and give them the momentum. I thought it would be best if we got a home run, but I was surprised I actually hit that one.
“We didn’t fare well at Seibu Dome during the season, but the Climax Series is going to be different.”
Iguchi finished 2-for-4, also driving in runs with a sacrifice fly in the third and an RBI single in the fifth.
Omura’s homer, a solo shot, came in the fourth, and Kato put a cherry on Lotte’s big day at the plate with a three-run homer in the eighth.
“Although it barely made it over the fence, I’m pleased,” Omura said. “You’ve got to show some heart (in the Climax Series), don’t you?”
Shunichi Nemoto drove in a pair of runs with a triple in the eighth, Tomoya Satozaki had a pair of doubles and an RBI in three at-bats, and Toshiaki Imae was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI single.
“My son is here to see me play today, so it was great that I was able to do something good,” Imae said. “I love this kind of atmosphere.”
In all, the Marines had five doubles, two triples and three home runs among their 16 hits. Eight of Lotte’s nine starters had at least one hit.
Marines starter Takuya Furuya gave up one run over 4⅓ innings. He pitched well early, but was in danger of squandering a 5-0 lead after giving up a home run and then loading the bases with one out in the fifth.
He was relieved by Yuji Nishino, who struck out Yasuyuki Kataoka and retired Takumi Kuriyama to end the threat.
“I thought if I got out of it, it’d give us the momentum,” Nishino said of the bases-loaded jam. “My thinking was it would be best to get strikeouts in that kind of situation, but I wasn’t too worried.”
Nishino remained in the game long enough to toss 1⅔ scoreless innings and was credited with the win in relief.
Seibu starter Takayuki Kishi took the loss after being charged with five runs over five innings.
“Overall, my pitches were too high,” Kishi said. “But no matter what I say now, it doesn’t mean much. I’ve played the entire year, but I couldn’t do anything today. We played this kind of a game and I feel responsible.”
The Lions ended the regular season on an eight-game winning streak, but whatever momentum they had fizzled in Game 1.
Seibu connected on seven hits, but Takeya Nakamura’s solo homer in the fifth was the only offense the team could muster.
“We just couldn’t avoid giving up that many runs early on,” Lions manager Hisanobu Watanabe said. “But you can’t play good games all the time. In a short series like this, these things happen.
“If we lose tomorrow, it’s over for us. So we are going to have to go out and try to get some payback.”
Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.