The Central League’s Yakult Swallows started Saturday with Japan’s lowest magic number, six, to clinch a pennant, while the Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes and Lotte Marines were both on eight.
The other big question is who will win the CL’s final playoff spot. The Hiroshima Carp, magic number 11, were at the Yomiuri Giants, magic number 4, in a big head-to-head clash, with the Giants having lost their previous nine decisions.
Fighters 1, Buffaloes 1
At Sapporo Dome, Orix came from behind in the eighth when Yuma Mune and Yutaro Sugimoto drew two of the Buffaloes’ six walks and Mune scored on Steven Moya’s two-out single to drop the league leaders’ magic number to seven.
Singles by Haruki Nishikawa, Kensuke Kondo and Ronny Rodriguez opened the scoring in the sixth inning against Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who had, for him, a mediocre start: two walks, a hit batsman, four singles and six strikeouts over six innings.
Nippon Ham’s Drew VerHagen allowed three walks and two hits while striking out four over seven innings before the Buffaloes came back against lefty Mizuki Hori.
Eagles 3, Lions 0
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Takayuki Kishi (9-9, 3.27) allowed three hits and three walks over seven innings, Hiroaki Shimauchi hit a two-run first-inning home run, his 21st, and scoreless innings from Tomohito Sakai and Sung Chia-hao completed the shutout. Sung recorded his fifth save.
Seibu starter Shota Hamaya (1-6, 6.63) allowed all three runs over 4-1/3 innings.
Hawks 10, Marines 4
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Yuki Yanagita’s three-run home run, his 28th capped a five-run second-inning rally as SoftBank came back from a 3-0 deficit and held on to beat Lotte, whose magic number to clinch the PL pennant remained at eight.
SoftBank’s Shuta Ishikawa walked leadoff man Takashi Ogino and surrendered back-to-back two-out homers, Brandon Laird’s 27th and Koki Yamaguchi’s ninth.
Lotte’s Kota Futaki (5-7, 4.38) escaped a two-on one-out pickle in the first but couldn’t repeat the feat in the second after allowing a leadoff walk and a one-out Kenta Imamiya double. Taisei Makihara and Ryoya Kurihara delivered two-out singles before Yanagita went deep to the opposite field.
Shogo Nakamura’s ninth home made it a one-run game in the third, but the Hawks came back against rookie lefty Shota Suzuki for two fourth-inning runs. Kurihara led off with his 19th home run, and Yanagita walked and scored on an Alfredo Despaigne single.
Kurihara’s sixth-inning sac fly made it 8-4 in the sixth, and the Hawks added on with Despaigne’s eighth homer and a bases-loaded walk drawn by Kurihara.
Carp 8, Giants 7
At Tokyo Dome, Hiroshima handed Yomiuri its 10th-straight losing decision, and cut its magic number to clinch a playoff berth to nine as Ryosuke Kikuchi drove in three runs.
Rookie Koki Ugusa opened the game with his third home run, and Hiroshima knocked Yuki Takahashi (11-9, 3.42) out in a four-run first inning. One-out singles by Ryoma Nishikawa and Seiya Suzuki set the table, Kikuchi doubled in one with two outs and rookie Kotaro Kobayashi singled in two more.
Reliever Chiaki Tone surrendered Suzuki’s 36th home run in the second, and walked Shogo Sakakura before Kikuchi hit his 16th home run to make it 7-0. Kaito Kozono singled in Tomoki Ishihara in the sixth.
A night after losing a wild slugfest against Yakult, the Giants got off the canvas in a five-run seventh against Masato Morishita (8-7, 3.07). Zelous Wheeler opened with his 14th home run. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases. A groundout plated one, Seiya Matsubara singled in another, and Morishita left after hitting Hayato Sakamoto with a pitch to load the bases. Daisuke Moriura came in and surrendered a two-run Kazuma Okamoto single.
Sotaro Shimauchi stranded a runner in a scoreless eighth, and rookie Ryoji Kuribayashi survived allowing two ninth-inning runs on a Wheeler double before locking down his 34th save.
Dragons 5, Swallows 3
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Chunichi jumped on Yakult lefty Masanori Ishikawa (4-4, 2.60) for four fifth-inning runs and held on to beat the league leaders.
Dragons right-hander Yariel Rodriguez (1-4, 3.65) allowed six base runners over the first four innings, while allowing just one run when Munetaka Murakami walked in the second and scored on a double play.
Ishikawa surrendered a one-out single to reserve catcher Iori Katsura in the fifth, and Rodriguez bunted him over. Akira Neo singled in the tying run, and went to third when Yuki Okabayashi’s sharp grounder skipped past first baseman Jose Osuna into the right field corner for a double. At that point, one borderline call after another went against Ishikawa as Yohei Oshima walked.
He had little better luck getting strikes against Dayan Viciedo, who slapped a 3-2 borderline pitch through the infield for a tie-breaking two-run single. Shuhei Takahashi then stung an 0-2 pitch for an RBI single that made it 4-1.
Domingo Santana homered for the third straight game leading off the Swallows’ fourth. With two outs, another run scored on a Kengo Ota walk and singles from Norichika Aoki and Tetsuto Yamada. Rodriguez walked the bases loaded, but got Osuna to foul out.
The Dragons added on in the eighth against lefty Masanori Taguchi on a Takahashi double and a Shohei Kato single, but four solid innings from the Dragons’ bullpen closed it out with Raidel Martinez earning his 23rd save.
Fighters vs Buffaloes: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Eagles vs Lions: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
Marines vs Hawks: Zozo Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
BayStars vs Swallows: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Tigers vs Carp: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 10/16/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/26