It was beginning to look like a lost weekend before Chase Lambin turned things around in a hurry for the Marines.
The first-year jack of all trades hit a two-out, two-run, eighth-inning double to lift Chiba Lotte to a 6-4 victory over the Saitama Seibu Lions at Chiba Marine Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
A night after an 18-0 defeat, their worst beating in five years, the Marines wasted a huge chance early on only to find themselves trailing 4-3 in the eighth.
After three walks and two outs, the switch-hitting Lambin drilled a 2-1 slider from lefty Tomoki Hoshino off the wall in left.
"I knew he threw a fastball and a slider, and I was just looking to hit something in the zone," said Lambin. "I try not to guess. The more simple I keep it, the better for me."
With regular shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka on the bench with a sore throat, Lambin took over at short, while 40-year-old Koichi Hori made an impact at second in his season debut.
"I just want to be where the team needs me," said Lambin, who has primarily played at second and third this season, while hitting .250 with some power.
Seibu southpaw Kazuyuki Hoashi walked through fire to hold the hosts to three runs in seven innings, but righty Koji Onuma (1-2) walked two in a third of an inning and Hoshino walked the batter ahead of Lambin.
A wild pitch from right-hander Shinya Okamoto allowed an insurance run to score and complete the visiting bullpen's collapse.
Lotte ace Naoyuki Shimizu gave up four runs in six innings, but three scoreless innings of relief did the trick. Yusuke Kawasaki and Yoshihiro Ito (2-1) worked the seventh and eighth, respectively, and Tadahiro Ogino sealed his fifth save with a perfect ninth.
"After last night, blowing a three-run lead was disheartening, but I'm proud of the way we played," said manager Bobby Valentine.
"In the second, we had the right guys up at the right time. I thought we'd break it open but we didn't--but we still got the win."
Hoashi caught a break in the second when first baseman Yoshihito Ishii robbed the Marines of a leadoff single. But with nearly all of his pitches up in the zone, a walk to Lambin and singles by Benny Agbayani and Hori loaded the bases.
Saburo Omura, who singled and scored in the Marines' two-run first, singled home Lambin to make it 3-0. Hoashi, however, retired hot-hitting Tadahito Iguchi for the second out and cruised until relieved after seven.
For Shimizu, every inning was a struggle. He stranded a pair of Lions in the first and did so again in the second with the help of a run-saving stop by Hori for the third out.
The Lions, however, pounded Shimizu with extra-base hits, racking up six doubles--half of them by Hiroyuki Nakajima, who went 4-for-4 with a walk. Takumi Kuriyama's fifth-inning solo homer tied it 3-3, and Ginjiro Sumitani put Seibu ahead in the sixth with his first homer in more than a year.
Valentine thanks the fans
After the win, which stopped a two-game losing streak, Valentine was informed that over 50,000 fans had signed a petition asking the team to retain him for next season.
"That's a lot of people for [the petition] going six weeks around the ballpark," said Valentine, who was informed in December he would not return for 2010 regardless of the club's success this season.
"I'd like to shake each of their hands and thank them for their support."