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Opening with a roar: Big hits help Lions' Wakui outduel Marines' Naruse to start PL season on winnin

by Jim Allen (Mar 21, 2010)

Two big hits were enough for Lions ace Hideaki Wakui to get the win on Opening Day Saturday.

Before a packed crowd at Seibu Dome, Wakui went eight innings in Saitama Seibu's 2-1 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines as the Pacific League kicked off its regular season.

Trailing Marines lefty Yoshihisa Naruse by a run, Hiroyuki Nakajima opened the seventh inning with a homer. One out later, Dee Brown put the Lions in front for good with his first hit in Japan, a homer over the right-field fence.

"Naruse had been no-hitting us and I was not that sharp," Wakui said. "But you know, having some runs on the board made the difference and I was able to pick it up.

"My form was neither good nor bad, but my arm action was good."

Wakui allowed seven hits and three walks and hit a batter, while striking out 11.

"He's our ace," manager Hisanobu Watanabe said. "His way of going after hitters was not ideal, but we won. He pitched like a man."

After eight innings and 145 pitches, however, Watanabe called on the bullpen and former Marine Brian Sikorski.

The right-hander fell behind 3-1 to the first man he faced, but Tomoya Satozaki chased a high pitch and Sikorski got three flies to record his first Seibu save.

Sikorski said there was no agenda or subtext to his stint on the mound.

"It doesn't matter [who it's against], a save is a save," he said. "I have a lot of friends over there."

The Lions didn't have a hit until Hisashi Takayama singled to center with two outs in the sixth.

Naruse then issued a two-out walk but was bailed out thanks to a sharp play by first baseman Kim Tae Kyun, whose Japan debut was otherwise forgettable with four strikeouts in four at-bats.

Nakajima, who hit 22 homers last season, got a 2-1 fastball and drilled it over the center field fence to tie the game.

The blast saw the debut of his home run celebration with Brown, who gave an encore a few minutes later when he sat on a 3-0 fastball and knocked it into the seats.

"I knew he was nibbling, I knew he'd want to come with a strike," Brown said. "I've had 15 years of playing ball, but my heart was racing. It was really emotional."

Naruse, who struck out eight and walked two, said he just goofed up.

"I thought there was no way he was going to go after it with a 3-0 count. I wasn't nearly cautious enough," Naruse said. "You can say that I only allowed three hits, but when two of them are home runs, no one's going to accept that, not even me."

The defeat marred the managing debut of new Lotte skipper Norifumi Nishimura, who was promoted after serving as former manager Bobby Valentine's head coach.

In other Pacific League games:

Hawks 5, Fighters 3: SoftBank got two unearned second-inning runs against Yu Darvish and went on to beat Nippon Ham in Sapporo.

Southpaw Toshiya Sugiuchi allowed three runs in six innings to get the win after the bullpen allowed three hits in three scoreless innings.

After back-to-back hits by Hiroki Kokubo and Hitoshi Tamura and a sacrifice by South Korean slugger Lee Bum Ho, an error by first baseman Shinji Takahashi allowed the first Hawks run to score and the second came home on a groundout.

The Fighters second-year prospect Sho Nakata started in left and went 1-for-2 with a walk and two RBIs.

Buffaloes 1, Eagles 0: Chihiro Kaneko outdueled Hisashi Iwakuma as Orix beat Rakuten in a 2-hour 17-minute battle at Kyocera Dome Osaka between two skippers with new teams.

Both pitchers went the distance without allowing a walk, but Orix got to Iwakuma in the third inning when Shinji Shimoyama doubled and scored from third on Keiji Obiki's single.

Akinobu Okada, who managed the Hanshin Tigers from 2004 to 2008, got his first PL win, while former Hiroshima Carp skipper Marty Brown will have to wait for his.

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Giants tee off on Miura

In the Central League, which opens its season Friday, the Yomiuri Giants teed off on Yokohama starter Daisuke Miura for eight home runs over four innings in a 15-2 rout of the BayStars in a preseason game at Tokyo Dome.

Hayato Sakamoto, Yoshinobu Takahashi and Michihiro Ogasawara all homered twice to provide more than enough support for starter Dicky Gonzalez, who tossed three perfect innings to pick up his second win of the spring.

Shinnosuke Abe went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs for the Giants.

In Fukuoka, Kenta Maeda and Giancarlo Alvarado combined on a five-hit shutout as Hiroshima beat host Hanshin 7-0. Maeda allowed two hits over five innings.

At Nagoya Dome, Yoshinori Sato allowed a run in seven innings as Tokyo Yakult beat Chunichi 3-1.


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