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Marines take command early, control stubborn Tigers

by Jim Allen (Jun 15, 2008)

It was all about command and control. Tigers pitcher Scott Atchison had no command and the Marines took control.

Atchison fell behind to nearly every hitter he faced, allowing Chiba Lotte to clobber Hanshin 10-6 on Saturday afternoon at Chiba Marine Stadium.

The Marines, who were coming off a loss and who've struggled all season to avoid losing streaks, wasted no time getting back in the game against the Central League leaders after surrendering two runs in the top of the first.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka fouled off a pair of 3-2 pitches in the zone before drawing a leadoff walk to open the home half of the inning for the Pacific League's cellar dwellers. He stole his ninth base of the year before Kazuya Fukuura drew a seven-pitch, one-out walk that helped put the Marines offense in gear.

"I was really just focused on one run in that inning," said Nishioka, who scored three runs and drove in two with a third-inning homer.

With the runners going on 3-2, Saburo Omura fouled one pitch before lining an RBI single up the middle. Shoitsu Omatsu, whose error allowed one run to score in the first, got ahead 2-0 before singling to right center to tie it.

Tomoya Satozaki also fouled off a 3-2 pitch with the runners going before singling up the middle to give the hosts the lead.

Jose Ortiz lined a sacrifice fly to left and Benny Agbayani unloaded on a high fastball, rocketing it well back in the left-field stands for his third homer and his first since April 16.

Nishioka singled to open the second against Atchison. He went to second when Kazuya Fukuura was awarded first on interference and scored on Omura's second straight single.

Jose Ortiz led off the third with his fifth home run, and Agbayani's single ended Atchison's wretched afternoon. Nishioka capped the third inning with a two-run homer off reliever Kenta Abe. Atchison (4-4) was charged with eight runs, seven earned, on 81 pitches over two-plus innings.

Shimizu (5-5) lasted six innings, with one of his four runs being unearned.

"I started out poorly and all I could think of was to focus on my arm motion," Shimizu said. "My teammates turned the game around, so I was careful to shut our opponents down in the next inning.

"I got some great plays behind me. Those guys are real ballplayers, and they saved me."

The Tigers opened in textbook fashion, leadoff man Norihiro Akahoshi reaching on a single and going to third on a perfect hit and run as Kentaro Sekimoto lined a single after faking a bunt. Both runners scored when Takahiro Arai's double to right was misplayed by Omatsu.

But the Tigers were unable to bring Arai home, thanks to two big strikeouts by Shimizu and third baseman Toshiaki Imae's flashy play on a tough bouncer near the mound.

"Keeping that runner on third base with no outs, not letting that runner score, Shimizu did a great job there," said Marines manager Bobby Valentine.

With Shimizu done, however, the question had to be who was going to put the Tigers away. The Marines bullpen entered the game with a PL-worst 4.03 ERA and it struggled again.

Brian Sikorski retired neither of the two batters he faced in the seventh. A run scored but, veteran lefty Koji Takagi got out of the inning, thanks to some great defense by first baseman Fukuura.

"Takagi was really the key, going after the 4, 5, 6 hitters and allowing just one run," Valentine said.

The Tigers' Lew Ford opened the eighth with a pinch-hit home run that sent lefty Yusuke Kawasaki from the mound after facing one batter. But Yasutomo Kubo and Tadahiro Ogino were able to keep the Tigers from getting any closer, thanks to a pair of excellent catches by center fielder Akira Otsuka.

"With a good team [the Tigers], the stands half-full of their fans, against a pitcher we've never faced and down by two runs, it would have been very easy to fold our tent," said Marines manager Bobby Valentine. "But I was very proud of them. They weren't going to give up today."


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