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John E. Gibson

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Otsuka's 'accident' sparks Marines

by John E. Gibson (Apr 23, 2008)

There was a lot of button-pushing in Lotte's 8-1 win over Saitama Seibu on Tuesday Chiba Marine Stadium.

Lotte skipper Bobby Valentine hit the right one when he started Akira Otsuka. The reserve outfielder hit a solo homer, his first since Sept. 23, 2005, that broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning.

"I got lucky," said the 15-year pro, who has started four games--all wins--for the Marines this season. "I wasn't sure what to do with that pitch--I just swung at it and happened to hit it.

"It has really been a long time since I hit a home run. I'm sure [Seibu starter Kazuhisa] Ishii didn't think I'd hit a home run either. It was an accident," said Otsuka, who went 2-for-4.

The umpires, though, pushed the wrong button on Valentine, inspiring the Lotte skipper to give them a five-minute tongue-lashing in the sixth inning.

Toshiaki Imae's twister down the right-field line was apparently not deep enough to be considered an outfield fly and it fell untouched. Kazuya Fukuura had raced home on the play and scored to make it 3-1 Lotte, but the umpires huddled and decided the infield fly rule had been called. They declared Imae out, although the run counted.

But the delayed call, the depth and difficulty of the fly sent Valentine out of the dugout for an animated discussion. After retreating to the bench, Valentine returned with a rulebook as a prop as his gesture-laden argument continued.

"The rule says it has to be an ordinary effort by the infielder for an umpire to call an infield fly. And from where the second baseman was playing on the infield position, he had to run a long way for that ball--it was not an ordinary effort," Valentine told reporters after the game.

"It just wasn't a good decision, in my opinion. An ordinary effort means he's standing underneath the ball, waiting for the ball to come down. It didn't seem to me that he was ever really standing there waiting for the ball."

The Marines only got one run in the inning, but it didn't matter in the end. A four-run seventh put the game away.

Lotte broke the ice in the home half of the first. Tsuyoshi Nishioka got plunked to open the frame, and Tomoya Satozaki knocked him in with a clutch single to right.

"I've been blowing a lot of chances recently, so I'm happy I was able to contribute," said Satozaki, who has been limited to the designated hitter role because of an injury.

"The only way I can contribute...now is at the plate, so each time I go up there, I try to make the best of it."

Otsuka led off the seventh with a single and, after a sacrifice and a single, scored from third on a fielder's choice.

Shoitsu Omatsu singled in a run to a make it 5-1, and a run-scoring error and a double by Imae closed out the inning.

The Marines made it 8-1 in the eighth inning when Fukuura, who hadn't played since April 3 because of a bad back, singled home Nishioka for his second RBI.

Ishii (3-1) allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits, two walks and a hit batter. He fanned four over six innings.

Shunsuke Watanabe (3-1) got the win with 6-2/3 innings. He worked around nine hits and a hit batter, walking none and fanning five.


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