NPB games, news of Sept. 18, 2019

6 and 10 for Lions’ Neal

The Seibu Lions, warts and all, suddenly find themselves in the driver’s seat of the Pacific League pennant race after Zach Neal fell three outs shy of a Maddux on Wednesday in a 5-0 win over the Orix Buffaloes.

Neal (11-1) has allowed five runs in winning his last six starts, and became the fifth foreign-registered pitcher in Japan to win 10 straight decisions. He struck out five without issuing a walk for the third game in a row. The 10-straight winning decisions tied a Lions record for a foreign pitcher set by Kuo Tai-yuan, the “Orient Express.”

Afterward he paid tribute to shortstop Sosuke Genda and second baseman Shuta Tonosaki.

“Genda and Tonosaki are out of this world,” he said in Japanese.

“It’s special and so nice to have them behind me. I can pitch my game and be aggressive and not have to worry about much. So I’m thankful to have them.”

Here’s the Lions’ hero interview with Neal and Tonosaki, who scored twice and drove in a run with his 25th home run.

Orix manager Norifumi Nishimura gave more of the credit to his hitters’ inability to adjust.

“It’s not the first time we’ve faced him, but he’s beating us the same way as before,” Nishimura said. “Guys need to think more.”

The game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 6, Hawks 2

At Yafuoku Dome, Manabu Mima (8-5) allowed four of the first five SoftBank hitters to reach base, but allowed just two runs, one earned, over five innings as Rakuten won to pull within a half-game of the PL’s final playoff spot.

Handed a two-run lead in the first inning, Mima pitched out of trouble early and often, and the Eagles took the lead in a three-run sixth inning, when Hawks starter Rei Takahashi (11-5) allowed the first four batters to reach.

The Eagles, who were playing the first of six games in six days, brought in closer Yuki Matsui to pitch the ninth with a four-run lead.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Dragons 3, Giants 1

At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi broke up Yomiuri starter Yuki Takahashi’s no-hit bid in the seventh inning with two hits with no outs ignited a three-run inning. Yohei Oshima delivered the big blow with a two-run homer off lefty Kazuto Taguchi.

Tigers 3, Swallows 2

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin came from behind to beat Yakult as Koji Chikamoto raised his season hit total to 153, tying the record for CL rookies set in 1958 by Hall of Famer Shigeo Nagashima. Thirty-nine-year-old Kyuji Fujikawa stranded a pair of runners in the ninth to record his 13th save in 13 opportunities.

Game highlights are HERE.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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