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Friday, April 29, 2011

Kitagawa guides Buffaloes to win over Marines


Staff writer

CHIBA — After two embarrassing days, the Orix Buffaloes finally got something to go their way against the Chiba Lotte Marines

News photo
In the groove: Buffaloes slugger Hirotoshi Kitagawa hits a go-ahead single in the ninth inning against the Marines on Thursday at QVC Marine Field. Orix beat Chiba Lotte 2-1. KYODO PHOTO

Hirotoshi Kitagawa hit a tie-breaking RBI single in the top of the ninth and the Buffaloes salvaged what had been a horrendous series with a 2-1 win on Thursday at QVC Marine Field.

Kitagawa had the best day offensively of any player, finishing 3-for-4 with an RBI.

"The things I worked on during batting practice really paid off today," Kitagawa said.

His biggest contribution was a softly hit liner in the ninth that landed in front of right fielder Ikuhiro Kiyota and allowed Makoto Moriyama to score the go-ahead run from second.

"I felt like I was going to get something to hit," Kitagawa said. "I thought it would be our last chance to do something."

The lead almost slipped away in the bottom of the ninth, as the Marines put runners on first and second with one out. Yoshifumi Okada then lined a ball into center that was fielded by Tomotaka Sakaguchi as pinch runner Shucihi Nemoto raced home representing the tying run.

Sakaguchi made an impressive throw from center field to nail Nemoto at the plate and preserve the lead.

"He threw a strike," Kitagawa said. "It was an amazing play."

The Buffaloes lost the first two games of the series by a combined score of 18-1, striking out 24 times in the process.

Things looked bleak again in the final game of the series, when Orix starter Alfredo Figaro walked a pair of batters in the first inning, including one with the bases loaded.

He settled down after that, however, and kept the Buffaloes in the game and the Marines off the scoreboard. Figaro struck out seven and allowed four hits over six innings of one-run ball. He didn't factor into the decision.

Neither did Marines starter Shunsuke Watanabe, who tossed six scoreless innings.

Yoshihisa Hirano won in relief with Mamoru Kishida earning his fourth save of the year. Lotte's Yasuhiko Yabuta took the loss.

The win ends the Buffaloes' two-game skid and sends them into a matchup against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on a high note. Friday's contest against the Eagles will be the first in Sendai since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Okada led off the bottom of the first with a single, and Lotte loaded the bases with no outs.

Figaro struck out the next batter, Kazuya Fukuura, but Sabruo Omura drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Marines on the board.

Orix tied the score in the seventh, with an RBI single by Takahiro Okada.

The ninth was shaping up as a lost cause for Orix after a Mitsutaka Goto's flyout and Takahiro Okada's strikeout followed Moriyama's leadoff double.

But Kitagawa's RBI single turned things around.



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