CHIBA--He has been the Marines ace for years despite uninspiring overall numbers, yet Naoyuki Shimizu is coming through in the clutch once more.
The right-hander allowed two runs in 7-2/3 innings in Chiba Lotte's 4-2 win over the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, leaving the Marines a half-game behind the third-place Hokkaido Nippon Ham fighters in the battle for the Pacific League's final playoff spot.
"He's set a great example for the other guys with guts and determination," said Marines manager Bobby Valentine, whose club starts a two-game series today in Sapporo.
In the last game at Chiba Marine Stadium for outgoing SoftBank skipper Sadaharu Oh, Shimizu (13-9) put on a gutsy performance for his manager from the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
"We went through the WBC together," Shimizu said. "I have so much respect for him. The only thing I could do was battle and challenge batters. It's sad to think he's leaving, but if he says something, some words of encouragement in the future, nothing would make me happier."
Shimizu, who struck out six and surrendered five hits without issuing a walk, left a few pitches up but worked aggressive in the zone from the outset.
After stranding a pair of first-inning runners, the Marines hit the scoreboard with two runs in the second off SoftBank southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada (8-7). The lefty retired the first two men in the inning but the Marines got on the board on straight singles by Akira Otsuka, Kei Hosoya and Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Daisuke Hayakawa shanked a fly ball down the right-field line that fell for a run-scoring double.
Nishioka and Hayakawa set the Marines up for another score in the bottom of the seventh with one-out singles. Captain Tomoya Satozaki, who had stranded three men in scoring position in three fruitless at-bats, delivered the fourth time around with a two-run double.
"We really needed that hit," Valentine said. "We had a chance to put him [Wada] away early but we couldn't do it."
Hidenori Tanoue halved the Marines' advantage in the top of the eighth with a two-run, pinch-hit home run that knocked Shimizu from the mound. The blast came right after new second baseman Hisao Heiuchi, one of three defensive substitutes who entered in the top of the eighth, started a big double play.
Brian Sikorski came on finish the eighth. In the ninth, Tadahiro Ogino allowed a leadoff double and a couple of loud outs to
the warning track before nailing down his 28th save.
Oh honored by Marines
Prior to the game, the Marines held a ceremony for outgoing Hawks manager Oh. After a video tribute showing some of his team's highlights at Chiba Marine and one of a number of loud ovations from the crowd of 30,018, Lotte manager Bobby Valentine presented Oh with flowers.
"It's a sad day for all of baseball worldwide," Valentine said. "I feel like it's a great friend being lost, and he'll be missed."
After the managers embraced, the Marines players lined up to shake his hand. The last was slugger Julio Zuleta, who enveloped his former skipper from 2003-'06 in an embrace.
"That exceeded my expectations," said Oh. "But you know the fans, the players, they are really pure of heart. When you step aside from the game for a moment, you could feel their sense of sportsmanship. I really appreciated that."