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John E. Gibson

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Marines land skipper's 1,500th win

by John E. Gibson (Jun 5, 2008)

Bobby Valentine was in a celebratory mood after Wednesday's interleague clash with Chunichi at Chiba Marine Stadium.

It wasn't only because the 5-4 interleague victory over the Dragons gave him his 1,500th overall managerial win here and in the United States.

It was also because his lineup had a lot more familiar faces, including cleanup man Julio Zuleta--finally hitting the ball with authority--and his bullpen held up in a late-inning situation.

Zuleta, in his first game for the Pacific League's last-place Marines since May 20, homered and doubled to drive in three.

"I'm glad that I could come up today [to the first team] and hit well for him," said Zuleta, who tweaked a hamstring and had to be deactivated last month.

Valentine, who saw the Dragons put the tying run on base for cleanup batter Kazuhiro Wada in the ninth before closer Tadahiro Ogino got the job done, praised the teams he's had since starting on the bench in 1985 with the Texas Rangers.

"The players have won these games, I haven't," Valentine said after the game. "I want to thank all the players who have played for me over the years for their great effort."

Effort was the key against the Central League's second-place team and reigning Japan Series champion. Ogino gave all he had, getting a game-ending double play for his seventh save.

And after maneuvering rough waters--which included four runs on eight hits and two walks in seven innings--submariner Shunsuke Watanabe (4-3) surfaced with the victory.

The Marines bludgeoned loser Masahiro Yamamoto with six extra-base hits in less than five innings and surged to a 3-0 lead.

Yamamoto (3-2), four wins shy of 200, served up a long homer, an inside-the-park job on a lost fly, four doubles and a single.

"I just blew the game," was all Yamamoto had to say afterward. In reality, he had some help along the way.

But Chiba's powered up in the opening inning. Tomoya Satozaki doubled down the line in left to keep the inning alive, and Yamamoto fell behind Zuleta 3-0.

The big cleanup man looked at one strike, then found a new home for a misplaced two-seam fastball, hitting it among the fans in left center for a 2-0 Lotte lead.

The Marines made it 3-0 with a little home-field advantage. Wada lost Naotaka Takehara's routine fly to left, and center fielder Lee Byung Kyu didn't see it either.

The ball landed on the warning track, and Takehara never stopped running, scoring without a throw as the Dragons failed to execute the relay.

"This is the first time in my life that I've had an inside-the-park home run," Takehara said.

"I thought I hit it pretty good when it came off the bat, but Wada looked like he was going to catch it, so I knew I had gotten under it. But I just kept running as hard as I could," Takehara said of the club's second inside-the-park job this season.

Kazuki Inoue's errant throw allowed the eventual game-winning run to score in the fifth inning, even though Tyrone Woods, who homered and had three RBIs, got the Dragons to within a run in the seventh inning.

"If we catch the flyballs and groundballs, everything would have been OK," said Chunichi skipper Hiromitsu Ochiai.


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