CHIBA, Japan (Kyodo) --
Nick Martinez threw seven scoreless innings in the SoftBank Hawks' 5-0 win over the Lotte Marines on Thursday afternoon for the second straight win over the Pacific League leaders.
The Hawks, who have won the last four Japan Series, are fourth, seven games back of the first-place Marines and two games back of the third-place Rakuten Eagles, who occupy the PL's final playoff spot.
"It's the point of the season where you have to win big games against good teams if you're going to make the playoffs," Martinez said.
Martinez, who won a Tokyo Olympic silver medal pitching for the United States, improved to 8-3. He struck out three while scattering five hits and three walks, ending three innings with two runners on base.
"It was a great job all around for our team," Martinez said. "I was attacking the zone. It (Lotte) is a really good team, so you can't get away with mistakes in the zone."
The Hawks opened the scoring against Seiya Dohi in the second inning. The lefty was called on to start at the last minute after hard-throwing teenager Roki Sasaki was unable to pitch.
Yuki Yanagita led off the second with his 27th home run. The Hawks had five hits in the inning with one run scoring on a Nobuhiro Matsuda sacrifice fly and another on a two-out Masaki Mimori double.
Ryoya Kurihara's 16th home run in the fifth, off rookie Shota Suzuki, made it 4-0. Alfredo Despaigne singled in a seventh-inning insurance run to complete the scoring.
SoftBank reliever Yugo Bando set the Marines down in order in the eighth and ninth to complete the shutout.
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Nippon Ham Fighters closer Toshihiro Sugiura pitched out of a ninth-inning jam to help the team secure a 4-2 win over the second-place Orix Buffaloes, who remain 2-1/2 games off the pace.
At MetLife Dome, Tomoya Mori homered and reached base five times, including a two-out ninth-inning double that set up the Seibu Lions' winning run in their 4-3 walk-off victory over the Rakuten Eagles.
At Yokohama Stadium, Cy Sneed (4-2) allowed a run over seven innings, and Naomichi Nishiura hit a three-run home run for the Central League-leading Yakult Swallows in a 4-2 win over the DeNA BayStars.
At Vantelin Dome Nagoya, Kosuke Fukudome's pinch-hit RBI double tied the game in the ninth inning as the Chunichi Dragons came from two runs down in the final frame to tie the second-place Hanshin Tigers 3-3.
At Mazda Stadium, Sho Nakata, Hayato Sakamoto and Zelous Wheeler each homered for the Yomiuri Giants, who beat the Hiroshima Carp 5-0 to move to within two games of the Tigers.