CHIBA – There were four players, all pitchers, on the hero interview podium for the Chiba Lotte Marines on Saturday afternoon.
One for each win of their current run.
Mike Bolsinger threw six innings, the Lotte batters came up with just enough timely hitting and the suddenly streaking Marines picked up their fourth straight win with a 3-1 victory over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters on a windy and slightly chilly afternoon at Zozo Marine Stadium.
Bolsinger (0-1) limited the Fighters to Sho Nakata’s leadoff homer in the fifth to pick up his first win of the season.
“It feels good,” Bolsinger said. “I’m going to pitch against them probably a lot more during the year. It always seems to be a battle, even last year, it was a pretty good game always.”
Bolsinger went 13-2 in 2018, his first year in Japan, but had gotten off to an 0-2 start, with a 5.59 ERA this year. He lost to the Fighters in his last outing, allowing two runs in five innings, and got a bit of revenge this time around.
“It’s a little bit different than last year, kind of got off to a slower start,” Bolsinger said. “But I kind of got heated up last outing and worked off that.”
Bolsinger struck out four, walked two and allowed one run in six innings. Tomohito Sakai, Yuki Karakawa and Naoya Masuda, who earned his fourth save of the year, each worked a scoreless frame behind Bolsinger and then joined him on the podium.
“All of the pitchers were in pretty good shape today,” manager Tadahito Iguchi said.
The Marines got off to a slow start in April and entered this week on a four-game losing streak, a skid that included being swept by the Fighters during a three-game set at Sapporo Dome last weekend.
The Marines have bounced back, sweeping the defending Japan Series champion Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to begin the week and stretching the win streak to four on Saturday.
Bolsinger said afterward the mood in the clubhouse has more or less remained even-keel through the recent ups and downs.
“It’s strange, it really hasn’t changed,” he said. “Obviously, it’s nice to get four wins in a row. I think our spirits are a little bit higher. But that’s kind of been the thing with this team. You really can’t tell when we’re losing or when we’re winning. We try and keep that mellow sense.
“It’s hard not to be happy when you get four wins in a row, getting back into the standings and everything like that. So it’s pretty awesome. It’s fun. We’re having fun.”
Kennys Vargas got the Marines on the board with an RBI groundout in the second and Katsuya Kakunaka added to the advantage with an RBI double in the third.
“My first at-bat didn’t go so well, but after I switched bats, I felt like I could get a hit,” he said.
Shogo Nakamura, who was 2-for-4, singled in the third run during the fifth, after Nakata had cut the lead to one run.
Nippon Ham’s Naoyuki Uwasawa allowed three runs on eight hits across seven innings in the loss. Uwasawa (2-1) struck out four and walked two batters.
“He’s disappointed,” Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama said. “He really wanted to win.”
Other than Nakata’s homer, his third this year, the Fighters only managed five singles from three players. Takuya Nakashima was 3-for-3, Nakata was 2-for-4 and Kensuke Kondo was 1-for-4.
The clubs will meet for the finale of their two-game series on Sunday afternoon. The Marines’ Ayumu Ishikawa (0-0, 3.38 ERA) is slated to take the mound against Fighters pitcher Kohei Arihara (2-0, 0.41) at Zozo Marine Stadium.
“We lost three straight in Sapporo the last time we faced them,” Iguchi said. “So we really want to try to win tomorrow.”
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5