CHIBA — After the Chiba Lotte Marines’ Game 1 Pacific League Climax Series victory Lotte manager Bobby Valentine said that nobody had bigger guts than Saburo Omura. Fittingly in the series clincher, nobody had a bigger hit.
Fukuoka Softbank Hawks on Wednesday at Chiba Marine Stadium in Game 3 of the first stage of the Pacific
League Climax Series. The Marines won the series 2-1 to advance to the second stage against the Hokkaido
Nippon Ham Fighters.
Omura, who was named series MVP, hit a three-run triple and starter Yoshihisa Naruse pitched a complete-game shutout as the Marines advanced to the second stage of the series with a 4-0 win over the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks on Wednesday night at Chiba Marine Stadium.
“For the first time, Saburo came up to me before the game and said, ‘Let’s have some fun tonight’ . . . and nobody had more fun than Saburo. I thought we played great ball all year,” Valentine said.
“We deserved to do this. Congratulations to the Hawks. They’re a great team but obviously only one team could win.” The Marines will now travel to Sapporo to take on the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters to determine the PL representative in the Japan Series.
“I heard we’re the team that Hillman-kantoku wanted to play so he’s getting his wish,” Valentine said, referring to Fighters skipper Trey Hillman.
“I wanted to go up there and play, so we’re both getting what we want.”
Locked in a scoreless pitcher’s duel, the Marines punched their ticket to Hokkaido with a two-hit, four-run rally in the sixth.
Hawks starter Jason Standridge walked three consecutive batters to load the bases, then gave up Omura’s go-ahead triple. Tomoya Satozaki drove in a fourth run on a squeeze bunt and Shoitsu Omatsu singled to record the only other hit of the inning.
“I was determined to get a hit in that at-bat no matter what,” Omura said.
“There’s no way we can lose here. Naruse was pitching great, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by.”
Naruse went the distance, giving up five hits and striking out eight, to stay unbeaten in 12 decisions against Pacific League teams this year.
“I was thinking that if I pitched as usual, I knew I would get a positive outcome,” Naruse said.
“I’m pleased that I could help the team win.”
The left-hander went 16-1 in the regular season and bounced back from a shaky performance in his last game against the Hawks.
“One of the times he faced the Hawks he had a hurt finger and another time he was pitching on short rest,” Valentine said. “They saw the real Naruse tonight.”
Standridge, 7-1 with a 3.00 ERA this season, went 5 1/3 and gave up all four runs on three hits. He pitched two-hit ball through the first five innings before a disastrous sixth frame.
Standridge retired Toshiaki Imae to start the inning before Tsuyoshi Nishioka drew a five-pitch walk. With Daisuke Hayakawa at the plate, Nishioka stole second to put a runner in scoring position.
Hayakawa and Kazuya Fukuura each followed with walks before Omura’s heroics.
“That set up the inning,” Valentine said of the walks. “No doubt about that. That really made the inning. But we wouldn’t be talking about it if Saburo didn’t come up with the clutch hit like he has all year long.
“If anybody has more clutch hits this year, he’s probably MVP.”
The Marines split the season series with the Fighters, going 11-11-2 against the defending Japan Series champions. However, Lotte was just 3-6 at the Sapporo Dome, where all of the second stage’s games will be played.
The Fighters will likely hand the ball to Yu Darvish, their 21-year-old ace, as they begin their quest for back-to-back PL titles.
Darvish went 15-5 this season and was 2-1 in four games against the Marines. Game 1 of the best-of-five second stage of the PL Climax Series will begin on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Sapporo Dome.