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Marines march into sunset: Japan champ Lotte wraps up season by defeating S. Korean No. 1 Wyverns

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Marines march into sunset: Japan champ Lotte wraps up season by defeating S. Korean No. 1 Wyverns

by Jim Allen (Nov 14, 2010)

Yuki Karakawa applied the icing on the cake for the Chiba Lotte Marines.

The right-hander put an injury-hit season behind him to work five scoreless innings as the Japan Series champs defeated the South Korean champion SK Wyverns 3-0 at Tokyo Dome on Saturday.

The victory capped a remarkable season for the Marines, the first team to qualify for the Japan Series after finishing third during the regular season.

"As representative of [Japan's] 12 teams, we knew we couldn't lose. The team treated this game as seriously as a regular-season game," first-year Marines manager Norifumi Nishimura said.

Karakawa missed nearly three months after injuring two fingers on his pitching hand in May, and then suffered an elbow strain in August. He pitched out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the second and retired the last 10 batters he faced.

"After the season I had, it was an honor to get to start this game," said Karakawa, who was roughed up in his only Japan Series start.

The Wyverns, who had swept the Korean Series in four games to win the Korean Baseball Organization championship for the third time in four seasons, sent right-hander Ken Kadokura to the mound.

The former Yomiuri Giants, pitching at Tokyo Dome for the first time since May 17, 2008, allowed two runs on seven hits in 2-2/2 innings. Kadokura, in his second season with SK, struck out three and walked two.

The right-hander survived a bases-loaded jam in the first, but not in the second. Ikuhiro Kiyota, who was doubled off base to end the Marines' first-inning threat, singled home two runs with two outs.

With one out, Tomoya Satozaki reached when his swinging bunt stayed fare. A two-out shot up the middle by Yoshifumi Okada deflected off Kadokura for an infield single. After a walk, Kiyota bounced one up the middle to plate two.

"My form wasn't bad at all, and I was able to make my pitches," Kadokura said. "I had to come out because it's just one game.

"I wanted to help get the team's offense get untracked by being able to pitch a little bit more--the way I'm capable."

The Marines made it 3-0 in the fifth, when Series MVP Toshiaki MVP led off the inning by driving a pitch into the seats in left.

The game ball is the same one that will be used throughout Nippon Professional Baseball starting next season.

"The one I hit really carried," Imae said. "I didn't think it would go as far, but I never felt it wouldn't get out."

The new ball, which comes off the bat with less energy than balls previously used in Japan, prevented a few homers as the Marines blasted several to the track that were caught for easy outs instead of landing in the first row.

"I felt the ball was a little slicker than the old ones," said Karakawa, who put himself in hot water in the second when he hit two batters with a man on. "A couple of them got away from me early. So I think it was not a positive experience at first.

"But overall, I didn't think there was any big difference."

The Wyverns, with a number of stars currently in China at the Asian Games, managed just two hits, a line single to open the game and a one-out ground single in the second.

After Karakawa hit the No. 9 hitter to load the bases with two outs in the second, the visitors would not get another man on.

After retiring the last 10 he faced, Karakawa stepped down, and the quartet of Yasuhiko Yabuta, Tatsuya Uchi, Yoshihiro Ito and Hiroyuki Kobayashi retired the last 12 SK batters with little difficulty.

The game took on the air of a retirement ceremony in the bottom of the eighth, when shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka came to bat, sparking a shower of camera flashes from the crowd of 32,747.

Nishioka is asking the club to post him to the major leagues despite his being ineligible for free agency until after the 2013 season.

Kobayashi, who filed for free agency during the week and drew even more flashes, got cleanup hitter Park Jung Kwon looking at strike three to put a cork in the season.

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