Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Katsuya Kakunaka, Seiya Inoue deliver clutch hits as Marines top Fighters

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

There was sun, rain, a little hail, sun again and finally a blanket of gray clouds at Zozo Marine Stadium on Saturday.

Eventually, the Chiba Lotte Marines’ bats showed up as well.

Katsuya Kakunaka tied the game with an RBI double in the eighth and Seiya Inoue gave the Marines their only lead of the afternoon with a single later in the inning as Lotte edged the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 3-2 in front of a sellout crowd of 30,267 on Saturday afternoon in Chiba.

“We were able to get the go-ahead run,” Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi said. “We were able to come from behind in the one inning and win the game.”

Lotte went into the eighth trailing 2-1 after an RBI single by Nippon Ham’s Shota Hiranuma gave the visitors a one-run lead in the sixth.

With Naoki Miyanishi, who recorded his 300th career hold last month, on the mound for the Fighters, Marines shortstop Takashi Ogino connected on a one-out triple to right. Kakunaka followed him to the plate and tied the score with his double.

Lotte’s Shogo Nakamura then grounded out to record the second out of the inning as Kakunaka moved up a base. With the chance to be the hero right in front of him, Inoue came through with a hit.

“He hit it well and sent it up the middle, that was his type of at-bat,” Iguchi said.

Inoue bent over and took off his shin guard at first base then looked into the dugout and pumped both fists.

“I could see everyone with an excited look on their face,” Inoue said. “That’s the kind of feeling we like to have at home.”

Inoue finished 1-for-3 with a walk and the biggest hit of the day.

“I’ll do my best to continue to have good days,” he said.

Kakunaka and Nakamura each finished with a pair of hits for the Marines.

Lotte starter Mike Bolsinger, allowed a pair of runs over six innings. Bolsinger struck out four and walked three, but didn’t factor into the decision. Yasuhiro Tanaka (1-0) worked a scoreless inning and picked up the win in relief. Naoya Masuda closed it out to earn his eighth save.

Miyanishi (1-1) was charged with the loss.

The Fighters led for most of the day, taking a 1-0 advantage on a leadoff homer by Haruki Nishikawa in the first inning.

“I was aiming for the Carp streamers (flying above the scoreboard for Children’s Day, which is celebrated in Japan on May 5) and hit it,” Nishikawa said. “I thought it was going to be caught, but it just kept going.”

After the Marines got even on a wild pitch in the fifth, Hiranuma drove in the Fighters’ other run with his hit in the sixth. The single also gave Hiranuma, in his third top-team season, his first-career RBI.

The Fighters will attempt to bounce back on Sunday behind pitcher Johnny Barbato, who will be making his eighth appearance of the season, but only his second start. Barbato (1-1) made his previous start against Lotte, earning the win with five scoreless innings.

“They’re going to be hard to get out, but you’ve just gotta make your pitch,” he said. “That’s all you have to do really.”

The right-hander doesn’t expect to make too many changes despite being used mostly as a reliever so far this year.

“You just gotta go out there and make your pitches,” he said. “Nothing really changes.”

Ayumu Ishikawa (0-1) is scheduled to take the ball for the Marines.

Senga tames Buffaloes



Kodai Senga (3-0) struck out nine over seven scoreless innings and Nobuhiro Matsuda went 2-for-5 with two RBIs in the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks’ 4-0 win over the Orix Buffaloes on Saturday in the Pacific League.

Lions 7, Eagles 6 (11)

At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Yuji Kaneko singled in the winning run in the bottom of the 11th to lead Seibu past Tohoku Rakuten.


Tigers 5, BayStars 1

At Koshien Stadium, Randy Messenger threw a three-hitter and Kosuke Fukudome went 3-for-3 to lead Hanshin past Yokohama.

Messenger (2-2) limited the BayStars to a run in his 114-pitch effort. He allowed two walks, while fanning three of the 30 batters he faced in his fifth outing of the season.

“Today, the guys played great defense behind me with all the plays they made, so obviously, it was all a team effort,” he said. “The guys scored the runs when we needed to and played great defense behind me.”

Messenger did not yield a hit until Hikaru Ito’s sixth-inning leadoff single. He lost his bid for a shutout in the seventh, when Tomo Otosaka singled, advanced to third on a double and scored on a groundout.

The right-handed Messenger, playing his 10th NPB season, was making his first start since April 19, when he suffered a bruise on his pitching arm from a batted ball.

Fukudome broke a scoreless deadlock with a third-inning, RBI single off Edison Barrios (0-1). The Tigers loaded the bases against the right-hander on a Kento Itohara single, a hit batsman and a walk to set up the opening run.

Hanshin added two more runs in a three-pitcher, four-walk fifth inning.

After walking the first two batters, Barrios was pulled for reliever Takuya Shindo, who loaded the bases with a walk before hitting Jefry Marte to bring home a run. Yuta Muto replaced Shindo and issued a bases-loaded walk.

Yoshio Itoi and Ryutaro Umeno hit RBI singles in the hosts’ two-run sixth inning.

Swallows 8, Dragons 4

At Nagoya Dome, Munetaka Murakami and Naomichi Nishiura each drove in two runs as Tokyo Yakult hammered Chunichi.

Carp 3, Giants 2

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Xavier Batista’s RBI single in the 10th lifted the hosts to a walk-off victory over Yomiuri.