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Takehara shines as Marines end interleague by toppling Giants

by Jim Allen (Jun 22, 2009)

In the starting lineup because he hits lefties, Naotaka Takehara did that and more, driving in three runs in the Marines' interleague finale on Sunday at Tokyo Dome.

Takehara hit a tie-breaking solo homer off southpaw starter Tetsuya Utsumi and singled in two more with a timely bloop single in a 9-4 win over the Yomiuri Giants.

"In my first trip to the plate, I thought he could trouble me with that fastball," said Takehara, who lined one into the seats in left to break a 1-1 tie in the sixth. "That's what I was looking for and he came with it. It was a tough location but my body reacted well," said Takehara, who helped Lotte snap a seven-game slide to Yomiuri that dates back to 2007.

Naoyuki Shimizu (3-3) allowed a run in seven innings in his third straight impressive start. The 33-year-old right-hander gave up six hits and a walk, while striking out four. He also singled and scored a run.

"He had good control in the strike zone with three of his pitches," Marines skipper Bobby Valentine said of his ace. "He might have gotten a little tired running the bases."

Leading by a run in the top of the seventh, Shimizu singled against Utsumi with two outs to put two on and end the lefty's afternoon. A walk to Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who started his first game since May 30 with a homer, loaded the bases for Takehara.

The 29-year-old hit a looper in front of drawn-in center fielder Takahiro Suzuki. The ball kicked off Suzuki's glove, allowing Shimizu to hustle home from second.

"In the context of the game, it was a big hit. It's what we needed," said Takehara. "I've seen enough right-handers this year, so it wasn't an issue."

The slugger raised his average to .301, finally finding some consistency at this level after dominating the Eastern League in 2005 and 2006.

"If I continue to hit the way I am now, I'll be happy with that this season. But I have a lot of room for improvement," he said.

Utsumi (2-5) lost at Tokyo Dome for the first time since May 9, 2008. The lefty gave up four runs in 6-2/3 innings on six hits and a walk.

Lotte cleanup man Tadahito Iguchi reached the seats to lead off the eighth against Shun Tono, who issued a two-out walk before Toshiaki Imae belted his fourth homer to make it 7-1 Marines.

With Shimizu on the bench after seven, the Giants laid into Yoshihiro Ito. The right-hander, who had allowed just one home run this season in his previous 31-2/3 innings, gave up a two-out, two-run blast to Yoshiyuki Kamei and a pinch-hit homer to Giants captain Shinnosuke Abe.

Iguchi doubled in two runs in the top of the ninth after Giants lefty Satoshi Fukada took the mound with a 1-2 count on Shoitsu Omatsu and hit him with his only pitch. Fukada exited to a chorus of boos from Lotte's left-field followers, and Iguchi doubled off right-hander Takahiko Nomaguchi.

Giants fans got a consolation in the bottom of the inning, when 19-year-old Taishi Ota made his first-team debut. Yomiuri's first pick in last autumn's draft, Ota swung and missed three straight fastballs to end the game.


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