CHIBA--A month after Takayuki Kishi's hot start to the season unraveled against Chiba Lotte, the Saitama Seibu Lions' right-hander got back on track on the Marines' home turf on Friday.
Kishi, whose only loss this season came against Naoyuki Shimizu on April 9, turned the tables on the Marines and their ace with a two-hit, 5-0 shutout at Chiba Marine Stadium.
Kishi (3-1) lacked command early but dug in his heels to retire the first six batters he faced despite needing 37 pitches to do so.
"My opening was not very good," said the 23-year-old, second-year man. "But the way Shimizu pitched against us before, I knew there would be no option of giving up a run early. Whether I was out of sorts or not, I had to get them out."
Shimizu (3-3), who entered having won three straight complete games--a streak he started against Kishi--allowed just a single and a walk over the first three innings.
But while Kishi raised his game starting from the third inning, Shimizu lost control of one pitch and the game in the top of the fourth.
With two out and a man on, G.G. Sato socked a high 2-1 fastball well back into the seats in left for his seventh homer of the year and a 2-0 Lions lead. It was the Lions' 20th home run in their last seven games.
"He's 32 years old. I know I'm going to have to battle him and I can't back down," said Sato, who also doubled and scored in the seventh.
"He was pitching really well. So I couldn't miss if I got a pitch to hit."
Although Shimizu got over it, Kishi never let up on the Marines, who slumped to their fifth straight defeat.
It was the Pacific League-leading Lions' sixth win in seven games.
"We're playing extremely well right now," Seibu skipper Hisanobu Watanabe said, emphasizing the obvious. "We're enjoying coming to the park, our motivation level is very high.
"Of course, it would be great if we could maintain something close to this until the end of the season."
With Shimizu on the mound, a happy ending was anything but certain.
"The time before, Nao stuck it to us, so it looked like we were going to be in for another tough battle."
With one down in the fourth, Yoshihito Ishii doubled to the gap in right-center and Sato punished Shimizu for one of his few mistakes.
"It was 0-0 through three innings and Kishi was finding another gear," Watanabe said. "Dave [batting coach Hiromoto Okubo] and I were talking at that point and said the game starts from this point.
"Not long after that, G.G. did a great job and gave us the lead."
Kishi had won his first two games of the season before allowing a career-worst eight runs in 4-1/3 innings that night at Seibu Dome.
"I didn't think about a shutout, because I just assumed they'd score at some point," said Kishi, who also threw a shutout in his season debut. "I just wanted to go at them one inning at a time."
He finished with seven strikeouts and two walks.
"His fastball was working and his slider was as good as usual. The curve was quite good tonight," Watanabe said.
"But rather than considering whether one pitch was better than another, I think the outstanding part of Kishi's game was his emotion tonight.
"It was like he wasn't going to be beat. He was rough at the beginning, against a tough opponent and that didn't deter him. He seems like he's poised to suddenly start winning one game after another."