Takahiro Norimoto took the mound against the Orix Buffaloes on Wednesday with a chance to move the Rakuten Eagles within one game of clinching the Pacific League’s final playoff spot in a game that also impacted the pennant race.
In the Central League, the main event was at Koshien Stadium in the season’s final meeting between the Hanshin Tigers and the Yakult Swallows, while the Giants’ had another shot at snapping a winless streak that reached 13 on Tuesday.
Eagles 5, Buffaloes 2
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Takahiro Norimoto (11-5, 3.18) allowed two runs over eight innings on six hit but no walks and seven strikeouts, and Rakuten came from a run down in the seventh against reliever Ryoga Tomiyama (2-1) in a four-run seventh. Sung Chia-hao worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his sixth save.
The Eagles broke the ice in the second as Ginji Akaminai hustled around the bases on a two-out double before scoring on an Eigoro Mogi single. Norimoto, who struck out Steven Moya to strand two in the first, retired 11 straight before Ryo Adachi singled with one out in the fifth and scored on Torai Fushimi’s fourth homer.
Buffaloes starter Sachiya Yamasaki allowed three hits, a walk and a hit batsman but just one run, because Ryo Yoshida bailed him out of a two-out bases-loaded jam in the sixth by striking out Daichi Suzuki.
Tomiyama took the mound in the seventh and surrendered a one-out jam-shot single to Mogi and a smoked line single to Yoshiaki Watanabe. Both runners advanced when Tomiyama took a smash off the leg that was turned into an out at first. After two minutes of treatment, he returned and Tsuyoshi Yamasaki fought off a 1-2 fastball that jammed in and looped it over third for a two-run single.
A Takero Okajima single and an error plated Yamasaki from first, and Hideto Asamura doubled the runner home from second off Motoki Higa.
Lions 7, Fighters 5
At MetLife Dome, Seibu came from a run down against Nippon Ham to escape the PL cellar.
Kensuke Kondo, back in the middle of the order after batting leadoff in Daisuke Matsuzaka’s retirement game, opened the Fighters’ second with his 10th home run, off Wataru Matsumoto (10-8, 3.79), but Seibu answered with five in the home half off Robbie Erlin (2-3, 3.32).
Hotaka Yamakawa got the Lions’ first hit off Erlin, a leadoff single. Two outs and two singles later, Haruka Yamada cleared them with a double. Shuta Tonosaki walked and Takumi Kuriyama doubled in two more. Yamakawa led off the Lions’ third with his23rd homer to make it 6-1, but the Fighters did what they’ve done the entire second half, come back.
Yuto Takahama singled in a run in the fourth, and Yuki James Nomura followed two-out singles by Daiki Asama and Haruki Nishikawa with his seventh homer, making it a 6-5 game, but the Lions got an insurance run in the home half, and the bullpen held on to the two-run lead with Ichiro Tamura earning his first career save.
Tigers 0, Swallows 0
At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin’s Joe Gunkel and Yakult lefty Keiji Takahashi locked up in a riveting pitchers’ duel with Gunkel leaving with a runner on after 7-2/3 after striking out nine, while Takahashi went seven and struck out eight.
Both starters were artful. Gunkel had phenomenal command, rarely missing in dangerous spots as his pitches sunk just below the strike zone and he painted both edges. Takahashi was bolder, he established his explosive fastball as he attacked the zone and froze batters with his breaking pitches.
Suguru Iwazaki got the final out in the eighth for the Tigers, while Noboru Shimizu worked a 1-2-3 eighth to boost his Japan holds record to 49. Robert Suarez worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth, retiring Tetsuto Yamada on a pair of 161-kph (100 mph) pitches to eliminate the possibility of a Yakult win.
Scott McGough faced a runner on second with one out after a leadoff single and a sacrifice but he, too, weathered the difficulties.
Giants 3, BayStars 2
At Yokohama Stadium, Zelous Wheeler hit a game-tying two-run home run, his 15th, in the second off Taiga Kamichatani and Yoshihiro Maru broke the tie in the seventh Shinichi Onuki (6-7) with his 21st homer.
Giants starter Shun Yamaguchi retired the first two batters he faced but gave up two runs on a Keita Sano double, a Shugo Maki RBI single and a Toshiro Miyazaki double.
Kazuma Okamoto rifled a leadoff single in the second past Kamichatani, and Zelous Wheeler his next pitch for his 15th home run. Kamichatani walked five and hit a batter in his five innings.
The Giants loaded the bases against Shinichi Onuki in the sixth with one out but failed to score, but Maru took him deep in the seventh. The Giants’ bullpen was solid with Rubby De La Rosa working the eighth and Thyago Vieira the ninth for his 19th save.
Magic number summary
- Orix: 4 for PL pennant
- Lotte: 5 for PL pennant
- Rakuten: 1 for final PL playoff spot
- SoftBank: 8 for final PL playoff spot
- Yakult: 3 for CL pennant
- Hanshin: 9 for CL pennant
- Yomiuri: 1 for final CL playoff spot
- Hiroshima: 8 for final CL playoff spot
Thursday’s starting pitchers
Buffaloes vs Lions: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Hawks vs Fighters: PayPay Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Swallows vs Carp: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Tigers vs Dragons: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 10/20/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/30