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Breezing to victory / Naruse fires 4-hit wind-aided shutout as Marines down Lions at QVC

by Jim Allen (Apr 20, 2011)

Neither the wind nor the Lions could daunt Yoshihisa Naruse.

The Marines lefty threw a four-hit shutout on a breezy Tuesday afternoon at QVC Marine Field as Chiba Lotte downed Saitama Seibu 2-0 before a crowd of 8,287.

"I was a little taken back when the wind picked up in the middle of the game, but it worked to my advantage," said Naruse (1-1).

Tadahito Iguchi and Takashi Ogino each drove in a run to make a loser of Lions ace Hideaki Wakui, who allowed two runs on 10 hits over seven innings.

As the wind started to take pop flies on tortuous, uncatchable courses, the Lions squared up a few of Naruse's pitches. But the longest drives were held up by the wind and caught at the track.

"Had the conditions been more typical today, I think two of those would have gone out," Naruse said. "To that extent, I think we were helped by the wind. It is a windy park, and I think it gives us a little home-field advantage.

"[Around home plate] the wind rockets back toward the mound. That gave my fastball some hop and resulted in more fly balls."

Ogino twice set the table for Iguchi, who made good in the sixth inning on his second chance to open the scoring. Ogino led off with a double, and Iguchi looped one to right field to give the Marines the lead.

"I wanted to go to the right side so in the worst case I could advance the runner," Iguchi said. "It just fell in for me."

In the seventh, the Marines loaded the bases with no outs against Wakui (1-1). The right-hander got two outs but Ogino's third hit of the game gave the hosts some breathing room.

"We were en route to throwing away that bases-loaded, no-out chance, but Ogino came through for us," Marines manager Norifumi Nishimura said.

Wakui was kicking himself afterward for loading the bases by hitting a batter and throwing a high slider to Ogino with two outs.

"That second run shouldn't have happened," he said. "Still, they only needed one run to beat us. This is an outdoor park and days like today happen. We lost [not because of the wind, but] because Naruse kept the ball down."

The Lions threatened in the ninth when Naruse issued his first walk. With one on and one out and the heart of the Lions order up, Naruse began thinking dangerous thoughts.

"I kept envisioning [Hiroyuki] Nakajima or [Takeya] Nakamura tying it with a two-run homer," Naruse said.

Nakajima followed with a single, but Nakamura lined out on a nifty play by Ogino.

Back at shortstop for the first time since 2007 when he was a star at the position at Kwansei Gakuin University, Ogino dove to his right to record the second out.

"With each game, I'm getting more used to being there," said Ogino, who was hitting .326 with 25 stolen bases last year when his rookie season was curtailed in May by a knee injury.

"I want to try hard to do better than I did last year."

Naruse, who lost Opening Day here a week before when one of his few mistakes was hit for a three-run homer, ended the game by striking out Jose Fernandez.

"After Opening Day I wanted to get back here and make up for it with a win," he said. "It feels great to do it at the first opportunity."

In Yokohama, a three-run blast by Yoshihiro Maru, his first career homer, lifted the Hiroshima Carp to a 5-3 victory over the BayStars.

The Carp hammered righty Tomokazu Oka (1-1) for five runs in four innings, while reigning Sawamura Award winner Kenta Maeda (1-1) allowed three runs in seven innings for his first win.

At Jingu Stadium, Kazuhiro Hatakeyama had three hits for the second straight game as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows beat the Chunichi Dragons 4-2.

Swallows ace Masanori Ishikawa (1-1) allowed two runs in six innings.

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Tigers look to keep Fujikawa

The Hanshin Tigers may try to negotiate a long-term deal with closer Kyuji Fujikawa this summer, team owner Shinya Sakai said, according to the Hochi Shimbun.

Fujikawa, who will qualify for domestic free agency on Saturday, said in December his goal is pitching in the majors. The 30-year-old will be eligible to file for unrestricted free agency after the 2012 season.


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