Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Marines starter Chihaya Sasaki, reliever Toshiya Nakamura blank reeling Fighters

Nippon Ham suffers ninth straight loss

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

A trip to visit the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters was just what the doctor ordered for Chiba Lotte Marines pitcher Chihaya Sasaki.

The Fighters, meanwhile, are still desperately searching for the cure to their own malaise.

Sasaki (2-1) threw five shutout frames and got plenty of run support as the Marines piled more misery on the Fighters in a 6-0 win on Thursday night at Tokyo Dome.

“I wasn’t able to pitch well in my last three games, but I was able to win today,” Sasaki said.

Sasaki was pitching in his fifth game of the year. His only other win this year came on July 9 against the Fighters. On Wednesday, he struck out three and walked one while allowing only three hits.

Takashi Ogino backed him with a three-run double in the second inning. Taiga Hirasawa drove in two runs and Seiya Inoue had an RBI single.

“Sasaki gave us a good effort until the fifth and then (reliever Toshiya) Nakamura came in and pitched well,” said Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi. “The batters were also good and able to put up runs.”

Lotte broke a tie with Nippon Ham for fourth place in the Pacific League standings with the win and is one game behind the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

“I think the atmosphere is really good right now,” Sasaki said.

Nippon Ham, meanwhile, saw its downward spiral continue. The Fighters, who are having a nightmarish month, have lost nine straight games, their longest skid in two years.

The Fighters began this month in second place in the Pacific League, just a half-game behind the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. They’ve gone 1-12 since then and tumbled all the way down to fifth.

The closest the Fighters came to scoring on Thursday was in the second, when Kensuke Tanaka was thrown out at the plate while trying to score from first on a double by Wang Po-jung. They put runners on the corners with one out in the fifth, but came away empty-handed.

All the Fighters could muster at the plate was a double and a single by Wang, a double and a walk by Tanaka and a Yushi Shimizu single.

Starter Toshihiro Sugiura (2-3) was tagged for four runs in four innings and is still searching for his first win since May 23.

Ogino got the Marines off to an early lead with a bases-clearing double that made it 3-0 in the second. Lotte pushed across another run on a double by Hirasawa in the fourth.

Leonys Martin doubled to start the fifth, moved to third on a single by Daichi Suzuki and came around to score on an RBI single by Inoue that made it 5-0.

“With Chihaya pitching the way he was, I wanted to give him another run to work with and I’m glad I could,” Inoue said.

Hirasawa tacked another run onto the lead with an RBI single in the eighth.

Buffaloes crush Lions

Tokorozawa Saitama Pref.

KYODO

Stefen Romero crushed a pair of home runs, including a third-inning grand slam, as the Orix Buffaloes hammered the Seibu Lions 20-8 on Thursday in Pacific League action.

Eagles 4, Hawks 3 (11)

At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Ginji Akaminai hit a sayonara single in the bottom of the 11th to lead Tohoku Rakuten past first-place Fukuoka SoftBank.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5