Sunday was once more Shingo Ono's preserve at Chiba Marine Stadium.
Although it has been years since the Chiba Lotte Marines' right-hander earned the nickname "Sunday Shingo Ono" for his successes in the rotation, he came out of the bullpen and punched out five Fighters in 1-2/2 innings en route to a 5-1 win over Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Designated hitter Kazuya Fukuura singled in a run in the first off Fighters rookie Hirotoshi Masui (3-4), and Tsuyoshi Nishioka doubled in two more in the second. Cleanup hitter Kim Tae Kyun and No. 8 hitter Naoki Matoba each scored a run and delivered a sacrifice fly for the Marines.
With a four-run lead in the seventh, Ono inherited a one-out, bases-loaded jam and struck out slugging infielders Tomohiro Nioka and Sho Nakata to end the threat.
The losing pitcher in Saturday's 1-0 defeat here in 12-innings, Ono dominated the defending Pacific League champs as the Marines avoided being swept in the three-game set.
"I'm not the kind of pitcher who is going to get a lot of strikeouts," Ono said. "I was aiming to get them to hit the ball on the ground.
"Yesterday left a bitter taste in my mouth, hitting a couple of batters in such an important game. Today was crucial, so I just tried to stay focused on my job. I wasn't thinking about the runners or double plays, I just wanted groundballs.
"They were the ones who did the striking out, not me."
Bryan Corey (3-3) allowed a run on six hits in five innings to earn the win as the third-place Marines pushed the Fighters 3-1/2 games behind them in the standings.
Corey, pitching for the first time since an Aug. 27 Eastern League start, had a nightmare start, hitting two of the first three batters he faced.
He caught a break when cleanup man Eiichi Koyano struck out on four pitches out of the zone for the second out. Corey walked the next batter but a shallow fly stranded all three runners when left fielder Shoitsu Omatsu made a good running catch.
" I just tried to pitch smart in that inning [after hitting two batters]," Corey said. "I knew this was a big game. Every game from now on is a big game. I just tried to focus and put up zeros."
Corey allowed his lone run in the fourth, when Nakata led off with a flare single and a couple of balls just missed Marines gloves. Corey, however, avoided further trouble with a double play.
"I tried to throw him a fastball inside and it didn't get inside," Corey said. "The pitch to Nakata was a good one, but he cued it up and got a single. That's baseball."
Masui, looking for his first win since May 27, allowed four runs on five hits and four walks in 2-1/3 innings. Right-hander Kazumasa Kikuchi inherited a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the third and surrendered a sacrifice fly to Matoba.
Kikuchi gave up a run in the fourth, when Nishioka doubled for the second time and scored on Kim's sacrifice fly. Including Kim, the last 14 Marines went down in order, but Lotte's relievers managed to keep the Fighters from mounting a successful counterattack.
Yasuhiko Yabuta pitched a perfect sixth after Corey left the game. The Fighters chased lefty Takuya Furuya in the seventh with three singles. But Ono came on and saved the day.
"Ono did excellent work today," Marines manager Toshifumi Nishimura said. "I was prepared to use everyone today, knowing they would all do their best.
"We couldn't permit them to come in and sweep us."
Closer Hiroyuki Kobayashi worked a 1-2-3 ninth to seal the victory.
It was the second straight day in which the heat at the stadium played a factor.
"You just have to battle through it and go as long as you can," Corey said. "Just deal with it [the heat], suck it up, go to the clubhouse and get in the A/C, stay hydrated."
In Sendai, Takeya Nakamura homered for the third straight game, breaking a ninth-inning tie with a solo shot as the Saitama Seibu Lions defeated the feisty Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 6-5.
The Eagles, who overturned a five-run, ninth-inning deficit to win the day before, fought back from a three-run deficit tie it in the sixth. Nakamura, however, spoiled another happy ending, and Brian Sikorski retired the Eagles in order in the ninth for his 32nd save.
In Kobe, Hiroki Kokubo's two-run, 10th-inning double lifted the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to a 4-2 victory over the Orix Buffaloes. The win kept the Hawks tied for second place with the Marines, 1-1/2 games back of the Lions.
In Central League action, Chunichi's Kenichi Nakata allowed a run in eight innings as the Dragons beat the Yomiuri Giants 3-1 in Nagoya to run their win streak to six straight. The loss pushed the third-place Giants 2-1/2 games back of the Dragons, who started the day a half-game back of the league-leading Hanshin Tigers.
The Tigers won 11-5 in Hiroshima, snapping a three-game losing streak against the Carp as Takashi Toritani had three RBIs and four of the Tigers' 20 hits.