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Kitagawa blasts Buffaloes to rout of Marines

by Jim Allen (May 17, 2008)

Hirotoshi Kitagawa has added some energy to the Orix Buffaloes.

Hirotoshi Kitagawa, who missed the team's first 31 games, homered twice and drove in a career-high six runs as Orix overran the Chiba Lotte Marines 10-3 on Friday at Chiba Marine Stadium.

It was the Marines third straight loss, while the last-place Buffaloes won three straight for the first time this season.

Kitagawa, normally a first baseman, started at third base in all three wins.

"I won't say I'm used to being there, but anywhere the manager wants me to play is OK," the 35-year-old Kitagawa said. "I'm really happy, not just to be back, but rather because I'm feeling healthy and being able to play ball the way I can."

The multi-homer game was Kitagawa's first since June 25, 2005 and matched his career high.

Marines starter Shunsuke Watanabe (3-3), who fell behind in counts early and often, allowed eight runs in 1-1/3 innings, his worst start in over two years.

"I don't rightly know what to say. There is no excuse. I feel extremely lame," said Watanabe, who has allowed 16 earned runs in 15 innings against Orix this season in three games.

Orix lefty Shogo Yamamoto (4-0) improved to 3-0 in six starts since being plucked from the bullpen on April 8. The 29-year-old side-armer allowed two runs on seven hits in 7-2/3 innings. He walked two and hit a batter, while striking out four.

"He did a good job," said Orix skipper Terry Collins. "It was the second game in a row where he didn't have his best stuff, but he kept his breaking ball down."

The Buffaloes' Tomotaka Sakaguchi opened the game with an infield single, stole second and went to third on a grounder, Kitagawa then clobbered the first pitch he saw, a 115-kph fastball up and in.

The Marines got a run back in the bottom of the first on a pair of singles and a double steal, in which the runner at third took off late and scored after Yamamoto trapped the man on first in a rundown.

Collins said those were the mistakes his guys could not afford if they are to keep the wins coming.

"We've just got to execute, we didn't execute the pickoff play or the rundown play very well," Collins said of giving away the first-inning run.

Watanabe hit the first batter he faced in the top of the second. A sacrifice and a Sakaguchi single put runners on the corners. With Sakaguchi going on 3-1 and the shortstop breaking for second base, a broken-bat roller from left-handed-hitting Arihito Muramatsu threaded the needle into left field for an RBI single.

With one out and Buffaloes on the corners, Watanabe had a fine mess on his hands, and once more Kitagawa was there to clean up.

This time, he got under a fat breaking ball up and over the plate and launched it to straight-away left.

"I got all of it," said Kitagawa. "Because Muramatsu had already put another run on the board, I felt very relaxed going up to bat. I really can't believe how well I was able to hit it."

A walk, a single put two more men on and sent Watanabe from the mound with his third straight failed start.

Lefty Koji Takagi, whose career began in 1987 with Orix's predecessors, the Hankyu Braves, got one out before Katsuaki Furuki tripled home two more runs to make it 8-1.

Takagi was not charged with a run in his 3-1/3 innings on the mound, the 40-year-old's longest stint in over two years.


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