On Sunday, Masahiro Tanaka went to the mound to inch the Rakuten Eagles closer to clinching a playoff spot, while the Pacific League-leading Orix Buffaloes faced the Nippon Ham Fighters in Yuki Saito’s retirement game with a chance to trim their magic number to six.
Meanwhile, the Central League-leading Yakult Swallows took their magic number of six to Yokohama, while the second-place Hanshin Tigers took on the red-hot Hiroshima Carp, who have a longshot playoff berth in their sights.
Fighters 4, Buffaloes 3
At Sapporo Dome, Nippon Ham’s Naoyuki Uwasawa (12-6, 2.95) struck out the first five batters he faced and got a 1-0 lead in the home half of the second on a Ronny Rodriguez RBI double. Ryoichi Adachi scored Yutaro Sugimoto with a game-tying fourth-inning single, only for Wang Po-jung to lead off the bottom of the fourth with his ninth home run, off Daichi Takeyasu (3-2, 4.44), who allowed two more in the inning.
Adachi singled in Sugimoto again in the Buffaloes’ two-run sixth. Retiring former high school legend Yuki Saito took the mound to start the seventh inning for the Fighters and walked the leadoff man before receiving an ovation from the crowd at the end of a career that saw him go 15-26 in 89 games over 11 years.
Toshihiro Sugiura, the Fighters’ fifth pitcher, including Saito, worked the ninth to record his 27th save.
Lions 6, Eagles 5
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, a streak nobody but John E. Gibson really talks about came to an end. Everyone knows about Masahiro Tanaka’s 24-0 2013 season, and the 28 straight regular season wins that dated back to Aug. 26, 2012. The week before that, Tanaka was knocked out of a game on five straight no-out sixth-inning hits.
That was the last time Tanaka left a game in the middle of an inning. Or at least it was until Saturday when he got the hook after Takeya Nakamura’s two-run two-out fifth-inning home run made it 5-0 Seibu. That snapped a string of 61 straight regular and postseason games in Japan in which Tanaka (4-8, 3.11) recorded every out of every inning he pitched.
Lions starter Yutaro Watanabe (4-4, 3.44) allowed four hits and walked four over six shutout innings to earn the win. Reed Garrett worked the ninth for Seibu but allowed two runs, one earned, on four walks.
Marines vs Hawks
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, rained out, with Orix’s loss dropping Lotte’s magic number to seven, the same as Orix’s secret magic number.
Swallows 7, BayStars 3
At Yokohama Stadium, Kotaro Yamasaki spelled Yasutaka Shiomi in Yakult’s leadoff spot, and singled, doubled, walked twice and scored three runs, while Tetsuto Yamada drove in Yakult’s last five runs with a fifth-inning tie-breaking sac fly that plated Yamasaki, a seventh-inning double that plated Shiomi after he drew a pinch-hit walk, and a three-run ninth-inning homer, his 34th, that iced it.
Yamasaki manufactured the Swallows’ opening run with a one-out third-inning walk, and went to third on a stolen base and throwing error before scoring on Norichika Aoki’s lineout to left.
Rookie right-hander Yuto Kanakubo (4-1, 2.88) returned to the mound or the first time since June 1 and allowed two runs on six hits without a walk over five innings. Albert Suarez survived a pair of one-out walks when hit machine Toshiro Miyazaki lined into a double play, which sort of spells out the Swallows defensive luck on Saturday, as a couple of bullets became big double plays.
Ryuta Konno allowed a run in the seventh, and setup man Noboru Shimizu set an NPB record in the eighth when he pitched out of a bases-loaded jam to surpass the 47 holds notched by Takuya Asao with the Chunichi Dragons in 2010.
DeNA’s Masaya Kyoyama (2-6, 4.44) allowed four runs, three earned in six-plus innings. Closer du jour Kazuki Mishima failed to keep the game close in the ninth, surrendering Yamada’s home run.
Carp 4, Tigers 2
At Koshien Stadium, Hiroshima put on a home run show with Seiya Suzuki taking top honors with his 37th and 38th, giving him five in five games, and leaving him one shy of the league leaders, Munetaka Murakami of the Swallows and Kazuma Okabayashi of the Giants.
The Carp win slashed the Swallows’ magic number to four, and dropped the Carp’s magic number to make the playoffs to eight.
Hanshin starter Takumi Akiyama (10-7, 2.75) allowed three runs over five innings on four hits, three home runs, and six strikeouts without a walk. Rookie Kota Hayashi homered with one out to open the scoring in the third, his ninth, and rookie leadoff man Koki Ugusa hit his fourth homer, his second in two days. Suzuki took Akiyaa deep in the fourth.
Shogo Tamamura (4-7, 3.83) allowed two runs on eight hits and a walk over 6-1/3 innings. Mel Rojas Jr. went 2-for-4 with a two-run seventh-inning homer, his eighth.
Ryoji Kuribayashi allowed two on in the ninth with one out, but closed it with his 35th save.
Monday’s starting pitchers
Lions vs Marines: MetLife Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Eagles vs Fighters: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Tigers vs Carp: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 10/17/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/27