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Rearguard action: Marines outlast Lions in opening game of PL Climax Series

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Rearguard action: Marines outlast Lions in opening game of PL Climax Series

by Jim Allen (Oct 10, 2010)

Kazuya Fukuura had the last word on a wild day at Seibu Dome on Saturday.

The Chiba Lotte veteran homered in the 11th inning of the Pacific League postseason opener as the Marines beat the Saitama Seibu Lions 6-5 before 33,918.

In a pitchers' duel that went south in the final innings, the Marines overcame a four-run, ninth-inning deficit, and Fukuura homered off Yoshihiro Doi to leadoff the 11th. Marines right-hander Hiroyuki Kobayashi held off the Lions for the last two innings to earn the win in Game 1 of the best-of-three Climax Series first stage.

"I was leading off so I was just trying to get on base," the 34-year-old Fukuura said.

With the score 1-1 after 7-1/2 innings, Lions pinch-hitter Hiroyuki Oshima's single drove in two runs, and two errors contributed to the mayhem as the Lions scored four times in the span of a few seconds.

The Marines, however, rallied in the ninth against PL saves leader Brian Sikorski. A staple of Lotte's bullpen for years, Sikorski joined Seibu this season after not being offered a contract and led the league with 33 saves, four against the Marines.

Tadahito Iguchi led off with a single. After a strikeout, Fukuura bounced a ball up the middle with double play potential, but it skipped under the glove of shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima into center for a single.

"When I saw that, I thought, 'Man am I lucky,'" Fukuura said.

It was a sentiment Sikorski shared.

"A bad hop single," he said. "Get that and we're out of the inning. They weren't hitting them that hard, just where our fielders weren't.

"I'll be ready tomorrow."

Toshiaki Imae then smashed one through the infield to load the bases, and Kim Tae Kyun did the same to drive in two. Sikorski walked the bases loaded, and Chikara Onodera surrendered a two-run single to Tomoya Satozaki.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka, whose solo homer off Lions starter Hideaki Wakui tied the game in the eighth, lined out to left. Pinch-runner Yoshifumi Okada was slow tagging up and was gunned down at the plate 7-6-2 to preserve the tie.

"The key, I'd have to say, is that we didn't quit," Marines manager Norifumi Nishimura said. "We were down 5-1 on the road, but [if we lose the series] this is the end of the road.

"That [near] sacrifice fly hurt, so it's not like we have everything down. There's lots of room for improvement."

That showed in the bottom of the inning, when one play appeared to turn the game around and wreck what had been a superb duel between Marines lefty Yoshihisa Naruse and Lions ace Hideaki Wakui.

The Lions had taken the lead in the second on a solo homer by Takeya Nakamura off Naruse.

The lefty, who struck out eight, allowed two runs on seven hits and four walks, twice escaping jams by retiring Lions No. 3 hitter Nakajima with runners on the corners.

Wakui struck out nine and had allowed just five runners through seven innings. But with two outs in the eighth, Nishioka hit a line shot over the center-field fence to tie it.

Naruse allowed a lucky single to Jose Fernandez leading off the bottom of the eighth and was yanked.

Righty Tatsuya Uchi took the mound. He walked Nakamura and an attempted bunt forced Fernandez at third. Pinch-hitter Yoshihito Ishii walked to load the bases. Tomoaki Sato hit a smash toward the left side but within easy grasp of third baseman Toshiaki Imae.

With a double play on the menu, Imae's rushed throw forced catcher Naoki Matoba to fully extend himself on the ground to hang on to the ball and still get the force at home.

Oshima then lined a 1-0 pitch into right and things got out of hand in a hurry. The throw from right fielder Saburo Omura sailed, and Sato to score from first.

An throw to get Sato rolled away from Matoba, who was charged with an error. Oshima went to third and scored on a single by Takumi Kuriyama. Another single and runners were on the corners, but Marines right-hander Yoshihiro Ito, struck out Nakajima on three pitches, to boost the visitors' slim hopes.

With the score tied in the ninth, Fernandez again reached on a leadoff single, but Ito fanned three more in the inning, stranding two runners and sending the game to extra innings.

With the left-handed-hitting Fukuura leading off the 11th, the Lions sent journeyman southpaw Doi to the mound. Although Fukuura, doesn't hit lefties well, he stayed in to hit.

"I never thought of pulling him," Nishimura said. "He battles. I thought he could hit a lefty."

What no one expected was a homer.

"The manager told me he'd use a pinch-runner if I get on base," Fukuura said. "When I came back, he said 'You spoiled my strategy.'"

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