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Marines light up Tokyo Dome on final day of interleague

by Rob Smaal (Jun 22, 2009)

Naotaka Takehara and Tadahito Iguchi each had a home run and three RBIs Sunday afternoon as the Lotte Marines snapped a three-game losing skid on the final day of interleague play with a 9-4 victory over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome.

The Marines brought out their power game on Father's Day, cracking four home runs to make a winner of veteran right-hander Naoyuki Shimizu (3-3), who gave up just one run on six hits through seven innings. Shimizu walked one batter and struck out four.

"We really took advantage of the Tokyo Dome and got our home runs today," said Lotte skipper Bobby Valentine, referring to the fact that balls tend to fly out of the domed stadium with regularity. "(Shimizu) had good control of the strike zone with three pitches. I think he got a little tired running the bases, but that's OK."

Marines shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka made an impact on his return to the starting lineup with a home run to lead off the game in the top of the first inning off Giants starter Tetsuya Utsumi. Nishioka, who was injured when he was hit by a pitch in the leg on May 27, also had a double and scored a pair of runs, while third-baseman Toshiaki Imae smacked a breaking ball from reliever Shun Tono over the wall in the eighth inning for a two-run homer.

Valentine really liked what he saw out of Nishioka and Imae.

"We had to wait a long time to get Nishioka back, but he's 100 percent now, and we need him," Valentine said. "Imae is swinging a real good bat lately and I really like his progress."

Alex Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly to right field off Shimizu in the bottom of the first to tie it and the score remained 1-1 until the sixth inning, when Takehara got hold of an Utsumi fastball and launched a solo homer an estimated 115 meters into the Marines cheering section in left field.

"After we got that early lead, I really wanted to put us back on top," said Takehara. "I got an inside fastball and was able to turn on it."

In the seventh, Utsumi gave up three singles, including one to Shimizu, and Giants manager Tatsunori Hara decided to bring in Tono. Saburo Omura had been caught stealing, but Tono walked Nishioka to load the bases before Takehara blooped a two-run double that caromed off center fielder Tetsuya Matsumoto's glove as he tried to make a sliding catch.

Iguchi led off the eighth with a solo jack off Tono to make it 5-1 and later in the inning Imae finished off Tono's day with a two-run blast off the 23-year-old right-hander.

The Giants' bats came to life in the bottom of the eighth when Yoshiyuki Kamei took reliever Yoshihiro Ito for a ride as he clubbed a two-run homer and pinch-hitter Shinnosuke Abe tacked on another run with a solo shot. A two-run double to left by former major-leaguer Iguchi off Takahiko Nomaguchi in the ninth would negate those runs, however.

Valentine brought in American right-hander Brian Sikorski to nail down the win in the bottom of the ninth. Sikorski gave up a single to Takahiro Suzuki but then struck out Hayato Sakamoto and pinch-hitter Taisho Ota to end it. Ota, a highly touted 19-year-old rookie, was making his debut with the Giants' top team, but he went down hacking at three straight Sikorski fastballs.

Lefty Utsumi (2-5) took the loss. He allowed four runs on six hits and a walk through 6 2/3 innings while striking out seven. Tono got lit up for three runs on three hits and two walks in one inning of work.

"We've got to turn things around as interleague play ends," said Nishioka, referring to the Marines' fifth-place standing in the Pacific League. "I was happy to contribute tonight, considering it was my first game back as a starter for a while. I was just trying to get things going in the first inning with a base hit, but I'm happy to take the home run."

With the win, the Marines improved to 9-12-3 against Central League opposition. The CL-leading Giants wrapped up their interleague schedule with a 12-9-3 mark.

Regular Central and Pacific League play gets back under way Friday.


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