A wily veteran on the mound and a fresh-faced rookie at the plate got the job done for the Marines as Lotte manhandled the Chunichi Dragons 7-1 in Game 3 of the Japan Series.
After the teams split the opening two games in Nagoya, the Marines' convincing win on home soil at Chiba Marine Stadium on Tuesday night gave them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven championship series.
Shunsuke Watanabe, a soft-tossing 10-year veteran with a submarine delivery, kept the Dragons' hitters off-balance and baffled all night long. Serving up a steady diet of 120-kph sinkers, Watanabe went the distance for Norifumi Nishimura's Marines, limiting the Central League champion Dragons to one run on five hits over the distance. Watanabe threw 97 pitches in his complete game, striking out five and not issuing a walk.
On offense, first-year outfielder Ikuhiro Kiyota came up with the big blow for Lotte with a three-run triple in a four-run fourth.
With the game tied 1-1 in the fourth, Chunichi starter Daisuke Yamai gave up a leadoff double to designated-hitter Kazuya Fukuura and then walked the bases loaded. With two out and the sacks full, Kiyota clobbered a bases-clearing three-run triple to dead center that bounced on the warning track.
"When the count got to 2-0, I thought he would put the next pitch in the strike zone so I was looking for it," said Kiyota. "It might have been a little outside but I was able to make firm contact and I knew it would get over (the outfielder) as soon as I hit it.
"Coming up with a big hit in a base-loaded situation, and in the Japan Series no less, I really couldn't feel any better."
The next batter, veteran infielder Tadahito Iguchi, proceeded to crack an RBI double to the gap in right-center and that was the end of Yamai's night.
The bespectacled Yamai is the pitcher famously replaced by Ochiai in the clinching game of the 2007 Japan Series after he had thrown a perfect game through eight innings. Unlike that magical night three years ago, on Tuesday Yamai did not have his best stuff. The ninth-year right-hander threw 65 pitches over his three-and-two-thirds innings stint, giving up five runs on eight hits and a pair of walks.
Earlier, the Dragons opened the scoring in the top of the third on a Masahiro Araki sacrifice fly to left with two men aboard. The Marines tied it 1-1 in the home half of the third when Saburo Omura flared an RBI single to center.
"I hit a two-seam fastball," said Omura. "I got jammed a bit, but still came up with the best result. It was huge for us that we capitalized on that chance with two out after we gave up the game's first run. We just try to set the table for the guys coming up behind us. That's the way we play, setting the table to score, and that's what we practice.
"And by the way, it feels so good to be back at Chiba Marine Stadium for the first time in a while."
The game marked the first time the Marines had played in front of their home fans since they clinched the third and final Pacific League playoff spot on Oct. 1. Since then, they won two in a row over the Lions at Seibu Dome in the PLCS Stage 1 before traveling down to Fukuoka to dispatch the PL pennant-winning Softbank Hawks in six games.
The best-of-seven series continues Wednesday in Chiba with Games 4 and 5 before moving back to Nagoya for Games 6 and 7, if necessary.
This is the Dragons' fourth appearance in the Japan Series since 2004. They won the championship in 2007, two years after the Marines' last Japan Series title.