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Hammies hold off late-charging Lotte

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Hammies hold off late-charging Lotte

by Rob Smaal (Apr 30, 2008)

Hichori Morimoto drove in a pair of runs, including the game-winner in the ninth inning, as the Nippon-Ham Fighters snapped a three-game losing skid with a 3-2 win over the Lotte Marines on Tuesday afternoon.

Chonso Yo cracked a solo homer for the Fighters and closer Micheal Nakamura picked up the win, despite allowing a game-tying two-run single to Benny Agbayani in the eighth inning.

Morimoto doubled in a run in the third inning for the Fighters and Yo hit his first jack of the season in the top of the seventh to make it 2-0, both off Marines starter Yoshihisa Naruse.

It looked like that lead might stand up but the Marines loaded the bases off Fighters reliever Hisashi Takeda in the bottom of the eighth, prompting Nippon-Ham skipper Masataka Nashida to go to the bullpen and bring in his closer. But with two out and the sacks full, Agbayani hit a bloop single to right off Nakamura that knotted the game at 2-2.

The good times didn't last long, however, for the near-capacity crowd that had filled Chiba Marine Stadium on a bright, sunny national holiday. In the top of the ninth, reliever Brian Sikorski gave up a leadoff single up the middle to Shinya Tsuruoka. While facing the next batter, Sikorski tweaked his hamstring while fielding a bunt attempt and was forced to leave the game. Marines manager Bobby Valentine waved in Yusuke Kawasaki, and he walked the first batter he faced before Morimoto pounded a chopper up the middle just past diving shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka to drive in the deciding run.

"We didn't get timely hits early but we got one late that tied it up," said Valentine. "Kawasaki with that walk, that's not like him. He said he was ready to come in and pitch but maybe he wasn't warm enough."

Emergency starter Brian Sweeney threw six innings of five-hit shutout ball for the Fighters. The American right-hander threw 110 pitches, striking out three and walking three.

Sweeney got the start Tuesday when scheduled starter Masaru Takeda was hit in the hand with a batted ball while running in the outfield prior to the game.

"Sometimes accidents happen," said Sweeney, who volunteered to take Takeda's spot. "That was a terrible accident but we're family, we take care of each other when something like that happens."

Nakamura (1-0) worked a 1-2-3 ninth to nail down the win, striking out pinch-hitter Tomoya Satozaki to end it.

Naruse, a 16-game winner last season for Valentine's club, allowed two runs on five hits over 6 1/3 innings. The left-hander struck out three and walked one batter. Sikorski (1-1) took the loss.

With Tuesday's victory, Nippon-Ham improved to 16-15-1 in the Pacific League standings, just behind the Marines (17-15-0).

(IHT/Asahi: April 30,2008)

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