As the season winds up this week, we have makeup games on Monday, with two 2-1 games involving pennant contenders. In one of those games, the closest catch you’ll see that wasn’t a trap turned the tide.
Marines 2, Lions 1
At MetLife Dome, Lotte’s Brandon Laird singled in Shogo Nakamura to score a seventh-inning tie-breaking run and Manabu Mima (6-6, 4.99) allowed a run on four hits over seven innings while striking out nine as the Marines moved into first place and trimmed their magic number to clinch to six. The second-place Orix Buffaloes also have a magic number of six to clinch.
Seibu starter Kaito Yoza hit the first batter he faced, Takashi Ogino, who stole second and scored on Leonys Martin’s one-out double. Brandon Taiga Tysinger doubled with one out in the home half off Mima and scored on a Takeya Nakamura single.
The Lions wasted a leadoff double in the second by bunting into a double play, the first of 16 straight batters Mima would retire. With the score still tied 1-1 in the seventh, Seibu’s second pitcher, Ryosuke Moriwaki (3-1) got two outs before Nakamura singled, Martin walked and Laird’s single untied the game.
Chihaya Sasaki worked the eighth for the Marines, and closer Naoya Masuda the ninth, to earn his 37th save.
Fighters 5, Eagles 0
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Nippon Ham lefty Takayuki Kato (5-7, 3.54) held Rakuten to three hits and no walks while striking out eight over the distance for the spoilers. The Eagles have six games to play and need to win two of those to reach the postseason and eliminate the four-time defending Japan Series champion SoftBank Hawks.
The Fighters scored twice in the first inning. Go Matsumoto walked to open the game, Daiki Asama singled, and the two came home on a Yuki James Nomura single and Yuto Takahama double.
Rakuten starter Hayato Yuge (1-0, 7.82) got the hook after the first inning and reliever Naoto Nishiguchi stabilized the Eagles by striking out four over four scoreless innings.
Yuya Fukui took the mound in the sixth for Rakuten and allowed one-out singles to Nomura and Takahama before Chusei Mannami blasted his fourth home run.
Tigers 2, Carp 1
At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin rookie Masashi Ito (8-7, 2.47) allowed four hits and struck out five over seven scoreless innings and reserve outfielder Yutaro Itayama saved the day with a catch in a crucial game for both teams. Allen Kuri (12-8, 3.87) allowed two runs, one earned, over 6-2/3 innings.
The Tigers have a magic number to clinch the pennant of 11, but pretty much need to sweep the first-place Yakult Swallows on Tuesday and Wednesday at home to stay in the race. The Carp’s remained with a magic number of eight to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
Teruaki Sato doubled to open the Tigers’ third with the game’s first hit, went to third when right fielder Seiya Suzuki dropped the ball at the wall and scored on Ryutaro Umeno’s fly to center. Kuri struck out three in the fourth after Takumu Nakano singled and went to third on Jefry Marte’s no-out double. The right-hander got into another jam in the seventh on singles by Kento Itohara, Mel Rojas Jr., and Seishiro Sakamoto, but this time paid the price as pinch-hitter Yoshio Itoi’s sac fly made it 2-0.
Tigers setup man Suguru Iwazaki had trouble locating and the Carp put some good swings together to score a run but were denied a big inning on a huge play from Itayama, who just barely got to a sinking liner in left for the first out and turned it into a double play that erased Hiroshima’s runner from first.
Shota Dobayashi, who came a few inches short of putting the Carp ahead with a drive to deep center with two on in the fifth, doubled to open the eighth. Hisayoshi Chono put a good swing on a low slider to bring him home with a single. With the tying run on first, pinch-hitter Tsubasa Aizawa’s liner to left looked like it would fall and bring the top of the lineup up with no outs and two on, but Itayama rewrote the script.
Robert Suarez worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his 42nd save, the second-most in club history after Kyuji Fujikawa’s 46 in 2007. That 46 tied the then NPB record, and Fujikawa would have set a record that year if it weren’t for me.
Tuesday’s starting pitchers
Lions vs Fighters: MetLife Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Buffaloes vs Eagles: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Hawks vs Marines: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
BayStars vs Giants: Yokohama Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Tigers vs Swallows: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 10/18/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/28