The Chiba Lotte Marines broke out their whippin' sticks in the sixth inning Sunday at Tokyo Dome, cranking out three home runs en route to a 6-0 win over the Orix Buffaloes.
Yoshihisa Naruse (3-1) got the win for Bobby Valentine's club, restricting the Buffaloes to just three hits through eight innings. The 22-year-old left-hander, who was 16-1 last year with a miniscule 1.82 ERA, struck out nine batters Sunday and walked one.
"Naruse was very good for us, as usual, but he threw more pitches (124) than usual today," said Valentine. "He had to work a little harder, but he's one of the best pitchers in the game. We needed a win today and he gave it to us."
Tadahiro Ogino worked the ninth for Lotte. He gave up a double to Alex Cabrera and walked Tuffy Rhodes, but got Osamu Hamanaka to ground into a double play to end it and preserve the shutout.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for Lotte and improved their record to an even .500 at 13-13. Orix slid to 10-15.
"We had lost a couple of games in a row so I really wanted to pitch well tonight," said Naruse. "I've won two games in a row personally and I hope the team can now get on a good roll, too."
One inning after Shunichi Nemoto had stroked an RBI triple to put the Marines up 1-0, Shoitsu Omatsu teed off on Orix starter Kazuki Kondo with a solo homer to right in the sixth. DH Tomoya Satozaki then doubled and Jose Ortiz brought him home with an RBI double off the wall in left to make it 3-0.
Tasuku Hashimoto followed up with a two-run tater and that was the end of Kondo's day. Orix skipper Terry Collins brought in Eric Junge and he didn't fare much better, giving up a solo blast to Toshiaki Imae to cap off the five-run, sixth-inning outburst.
Both Valentine and Naruse cited a solid defensive effort from the club as being key to the victory. Tsuyoshi Nishioka was back at shortstop, after being rested with a sore leg, and he made several fine plays. In the fifth inning, center-fielder Daisuke Hayakawa made a diving catch to rob Tomotaka Sakaguchi of a potential extra-base hit.
"That really lifted our team," said Valentine. "Those defensive plays by Nishioka and Hayakawa really got us excited, and we put some runs on the board once we got excited."
Kondo (2-2) took the loss. The seventh-year right-hander gave up five runs on nine hits--including two home runs--while striking out three.
There were a total of nine doubles hit in Sunday's game--three by Orix and six by the Marines, including two by Ortiz. Lotte leadoff hitter Nemoto doubled and tripled.
On Saturday, also at Tokyo Dome, Rhodes homered twice and drove in four runs to lead the Buffs to a 9-3 pummeling of Lotte. Rhodes was 0-for-2 on Sunday, with two strikeouts and a pair of walks.
The teams are off today. On Tuesday, the Marines will host the Seibu Lions in Chiba and Orix heads up north to take on the Nippon-Ham Fighters in Sapporo.
(IHT/Asahi: April 21,2008)