NPB games, news of Sept. 22, 2019

The Seibu Lions’ pennant express has made an unexpected stop at the magic number three marker on Sunday, as the SoftBank Hawks held on to beat the Orix Buffaloes and the Lions lost for the second straight day in Sendai to the Rakuten Eagles.

The Eagles, who have never reached the postseason in an even-numbered year, remained 1-1/2 games ahead of the Lotte Marines in the race for the PL’s final playoff spot.

Mori gets it done for Hawks

Yuito Mori’s up-and-down season as SoftBank’s closer had one of its high points on Sunday, when he recorded the final four outs and earned his 35th save in the Hawks’ 6-5 win over the Buffaloes at Kyocera Dome.

The Buffaloes made things interesting against the Hawks’ pen in the seventh, when trailing 6-3, Jumpei Takahashi retired one batter before walking the next two.

Livan Moinelo gave up a two-run double to Yuma Mune, but then surrendered an RBI single to Stefen Romero and loaded the bases with two outs for slugger Steven Moya. Moinelo, however, got Moya to chase a 3-2 curve out of the zone to end the inning.

Shota Takeda started the bottom of the eighth for the Hawks, but left with one out and a runner on third and Mune coming to the plate. Mori just needed to cutters up in the zone to get an easy ground out and preserve the lead. In the ninth, Mori fell behind the first three batters he faced. After walking the dangerous Masataka Yoshida, who had tied the game 2-2 in the first with his 27th home run, Mori popped up Stefen Romero on a 2-1 cutter before getting out of the inning on a little liner from Keita Nakgawa.

Yuki Yanagita singled twice and tripled, scored a run and drove in two, while Yurisbel Gracial homered, scored two and walked two.

Game highlights are HERE.

Heroic

Mori’s post-game hero interview was a masterpiece of meaningless answers to dumb questions.

  • Tough game wasn’t it? How did you feel entering the eighth with that runner in scoring position?
  • Mori: “I was determined not to let him score, do a good job so the team would win.”
  • You got out of the eighth, then came the ninth. How was that?
  • Mori: “I’m glad we won.”
  • This is your 35th save. How do you feel going to the mound as the closer?
  • Mori: “I go to the mound only trying to do a good job that helps the team win. My individual numbers are irrelevant.”
  • Today it seemed like the position players and pitchers all worked together to get the win.
  • Mori: “Yes. It’s a good thing we won.”
  • A few days ago your third child was born. This is save is a good present for your new baby, isn’t it?
  • Mori: “Yes. Thank you very much.”
  • Your team can’t afford to lose and with today’s win, you narrowed Seibu’s lead to a game.
  • Mori: “Yes. Now we want to do our jobs well and win all our remaining games. I will pitch with all my strength.”

Eagles 7, Lions 5

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Hideto Asamura and Ginji Akaminai each drove in three runs for Rakuten as Seibu starter Daiki Enokida allowed five runs in five innings. It was the first time a Lions starter had allowed a run in four games.

Seibu being Seibu, the Lions got home runs from Tomoya Mori, his 23rd, Takeya Nakamura, his 30th, and Shuta Tonosaki, his 26th.

Game highlights are HERE.

Marines 4, Fighters 0

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Atsuki Taneichi (8-2) worked eight scoreless innings as Lotte handed Nippon Ham its 14th shut out loss of the season.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Swallows 10, Giants 3

At Jingu Stadium, Yakult smacked around Yomiuri in a meaningless game a night after the Giants clinched the pennant, allowing Swallows starter Masanori Ishikawa (8-6) to collect his 171st career victory.

Tigers 3, BayStars 0

At Koshien Stadium, seven Hanshin pitchers combined on a six-hitter of DeNA, with evergreen 39-year-old Kyuji Fujikawa earning his 15th save.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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