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Baseball: Marines resume march toward pennant behind Ojima shutout

Kazuya Ojima of the Lotte Marines pitches against the Nippon Ham Fighters in their Pacific League game at Sapporo Dome on Sept. 19,2021. (Kyodo)

SAPPORO (Kyodo) -- Kazuya Ojima threw his second straight complete game victory and his first career shutout to pitch the Pacific League-leading Lotte Marines to a 4-0 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters on Saturday.

    The win kept the Marines 2-1/2 games ahead of the Orix Buffaloes, who also won on Sunday. Lotte is aiming to have the PL's best regular-season record for the first time since 1974. Orix's last pennant came in 1996.

    A day after the Fighters shut out the Marines 1-0, Ojima (8-3) responded in kind at Sapporo Dome with a four-hitter. The lefty walked one and struck out six, while former Fighter Brandon Laird drove in three runs with a pair of RBI singles and a solo home run, his 24th.

    "I'm gassed," Ojima said. "I wanted to make each pitch count so the bullpen could get some rest. At the end I was exerting myself so hard that I gave out a shout with every fastball I threw."

    Ojima's only tight spot came in the sixth when a superb play from shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria ended the inning and robbed Japan Olympian Kensuke Kondo of an RBI single.

    Fighters lefty Takuya Kato (4-7) retired the first 11 batters he faced, but with two on and two out in the fourth Laird broke up a scoreless game by singling in the first of Lotte's two runs in the inning.

    His sixth-inning homer made it 3-0. Laird capped the scoring in the eighth with his third hit of the game.

    At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Takahiro Okada homered twice and drove in three runs for Orix in its 4-1 win over the Seibu Lions.

    At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Hiroaki Shimauchi broke a seventh-inning tie with his 18th home run as the third-place Rakuten Eagles beat the fourth-place SoftBank Hawks 4-2.

    At Koshien Stadium, Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano (5-6) allowed a run over seven innings in an 8-1 win over the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers, who now lead the second-place Yakult Swallows by 1-1/2 games, with the Giants a game further back.

    At Jingu Stadium, Yakult's Munetaka Murakami became the youngest player in Japan's pro baseball history to hit 100 home runs at the age of 21 years, 7 months, belting his 35th in the first inning of the Swallows' 5-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp.

    At Yokohama Stadium, Shota Imanaga (5-4) allowed a run on four hits in his first complete game in two seasons as the DeNA BayStars beat the Chunichi Dragons 9-1.

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