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Blowout by the Bay

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Blowout by the Bay

by Rob Smaal (Jul 21, 2008)

Marine Day came early for Bobby Valentine's club.

A 20-hit offensive outburst and nine innings of shutout pitching by submarine side-armer Shunsuke Watanabe saw Lotte on the right end of a 16-0 scoreline Sunday at Chiba Marine Stadium as the Marines pounded the Pacific League-leading Seibu Lions.

Watanabe (8-4), whose fastball--if you can call it that--hovered just above 120 kph on the radar gun, allowed only three hits over the distance as the Marines snapped a three-game losing run, including the first two of this series to Seibu. The veteran right-hander threw just 88 pitches against one of the best-hitting clubs in the league, striking out six and not walking a batter.

Offensively, the Marines spread it around. In a six-run sixth, the club strung together eight straight hits to lead off the inning. The 20 hits and 16 runs were both team highs for the season and came a day after Seibu put 17 on the board in a 17-10 victory Saturday.

"Our offense has been doing a great job," said Lotte manager Valentine of the win that came the day before Marine Day, a national holiday in Japan. "Today Shunsuke Watanabe picked up his end of the slack. He pitched a great game and made us look like a championship team, but our offense has been in full gear for quite a while now."

Lotte teed off on five Lions pitchers, with starter Fumiya Nishiguchi (4-5) and reliever Tetsuya Iwasaki bearing the brunt of the Marines' attack. Nishiguchi allowed nine runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings, seeing his ERA escalate to 6.35. Iwasaki, whose first pitch in the bottom of the four-run fifth was converted into a two-run, bases-loaded double by designated-hitter Tasuku Hashimoto, gave up six runs (five earned) on seven hits in just two-thirds of an inning. He now has an unsightly 8.18 ERA.

Leading the Chiba hit parade were Shoitsu Omatsu, who smacked a two-run homer--his 17th of the season--off Nishiguchi and a two-run double off Iwasaki. Omatsu also drew a walk and scored three runs.

Other key contributors included Saburo Omura, who went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs; Kazuya Fukuura, who was 4-for-4 with three runs scored and two ribbies; Shunichi Nemoto, who started at shortstop to give regular Tsuyoshi Nishioka a breather on another scorching hot day and hit a single, double and triple and scored three times; Toshiaki Imae, who drove in three runs; and Jose Ortiz, who lined an RBI single to left in the second inning and whacked a solo homer in the fourth.

On the downside--if such a thing exists in a 16-0 win--Nishiguchi struck out Marines catcher Tomoya Satozaki, who was recently named to Japan's Olympic team, three times.

"It was hot out there today and that seemed to help us get hot, too," Watanabe said.

Seibu still leads a tight race in the PL standings with a 48-39-1 record, while the Marines improved to 44-48-0.

The Lions host the Rakuten Eagles today in Saitama while the Marines have a travel day before taking on the Nippon-Ham Fighters Tuesday in Sapporo.

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