Looks like these Chiba Lotte Marines just might be the real deal after all.
A day after whitewashing the defending Japan Series champion Giants 11-0, the Marines kept their foot on the gas pedal Wednesday night at Chiba Marine Stadium, steamrolling Central League-leading Yomiuri 8-1 in a matchup of league leaders.
The hot-hitting Marines pounded Giants starter Dicky Gonzalez (3-7) for six runs on 10 hits over three-plus innings to improve to 11-5 in interleague play, tops in NPB.
Marines left-hander Yoshihisa Naruse went the distance for Lotte to improve to 7-5 on the year. Naruse allowed just the one run--in the first inning, no less--on five hits. He struck out eight and did not issue a walk in his 133-pitch outing.
While the Marines marketing department put on a fireworks display prior to the sixth inning, the figurative fireworks actually started a little earlier when Lotte strung together five consecutive hits on their way to putting four runs on the board in the fourth to break open a 2-1 ballgame.
The Marines spread the offense around in this one. Six different players drove in runs, with Toshiaki Imae and Tomoya Satozaki leading the charge with two RBIs apiece, as Lotte out-hit the mighty Giants 15-5 on the night.
After the Marines' Tadahito Iguchi tied it 1-1 with an RBI single up the middle in the bottom of the first and Kazuya Fukuura doubled into the gap in left-center to score a run in the second, things really started to unravel for Gonzalez in the fourth.
"I got a fastball on the outer half of the plate and I just went with it," Fukuura said of his RBI double. "We had Saburo (Omura) on first and he can really motor."
After giving up three straight singles to load the bases, Satozaki lined a two-run single to left off Gonzalez, a 15-game winner a year ago. A bloop single by rookie Yoshifumi Okada accounted for another run and spelled the end of the night for Gonzalez.
"I got a fastball I could handle," Satozaki said. "Everyone was hitting at that point and I just wanted to keep it going."
Righty Wirfin Obispo came in for Yomiuri, but the hits--and the runs--just kept coming for the Marines when Imae golfed an RBI single to left.
Marines leadoff-hitter Tsuyoshi Nishioka slammed an RBI triple in the sixth off reliever Norihito Kaneto, one of his three hits on the evening. Nishioka later scored on a sacrifice fly by Imae.
Earlier, Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto stroked the first pitch of the night from Naruse down the third-base line for a double. He moved to third on a passed ball charged to Satozaki, then scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Michihiro Ogasawara.
At that point it looked like the Giants might be out for a little revenge after being embarrassed Tuesday, but that would turn out to be the only run they would score during their brief stop in Chiba.
Lotte rookie outfielder Okada had a day to remember, getting the first professional hit of his career, an RBI single in the fourth inning. Okada, who made his debut a night earlier, also scored his first run in NPB and stole his first two bases.
After going through a traumatic season in 2009--the turmoil a result of management's bizarre offseason decision to basically fire popular manager Bobby Valentine, but let him manage one last season anyway--the 2010 Marines have defied the expectations of most.
With Norifumi Nishimura now at the helm, the club finds itself in first place in the Pacific League with a 34-20-1 record a year after a fifth-place finish.
In other interleague action Wednesday, the Lions edged the Yokohama BayStars 3-2 at Seibu Dome. At Yahoo Dome, the Softbank Hawks defeated the Yakult Swallows 6-1.