The second-place Hanshin Tigers, playing in their 129th game, achieved something they hadn’t done since they won their lone Japan Series title in 1985, but it wasn’t enough to secure a sixth straight victory in their loss to the last-place DeNA BayStars.
While that was happening, the Central League-leading Yakult Swallows were no-hit at home through 8-1/3 innings by the third-place Yomiuri Giants, and Seiya Suzuki returned to the Hiroshima Carp lineup with wham and a bam in Nagoya.
The Pacific League race also saw some late-inning theatrics in Chiba, where the second-place Marines and the third-place Rakuten Eagles took a 2-2 tie into the ninth and Lotte put the game in the hands of PL saves leader Naoya Masuda. In Osaka, the league-leading Orix Buffaloes tussled in a see-saw game with the last-place Nippon Ham Fighters, while the SoftBank Hawks went to play the Lions in an attempt to pull out of their nosedive.
As if things couldn’t get worse for SoftBank, setup man Livan Moinelo has left the team to attend to a family emergency in Cuba. Moinelo is in the final year of his contract, and if the Hawks fail to reach the postseason, it is possible that he has thrown his last pitch for SoftBank.
This all sets the stage for some weekend drama, with the Tigers sending red-hot lefty Haruto Takahashi against the Swallows to start a three-game series at Jingu, where Yakult will counter with red-hot right-hander Yasunobu Okugawa.
Eagles 3, Marines 2
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Yoshiaki Watanabe’s two-out, two-strike double barely got past left fielder Takashi Ogino and Tomohiro Anraku worked around Hiromi Oka’s one-out double to record his first career save.
Lotte rookie rocket Roki Sasaki allowed two runs, one earned, while striking out eight over seven innings and touching 158 kph to match his fastest pitch as a pro. Rakuten’s Takahiro Norimoto also allowed two, with one earned, over seven innings, but struck out 11. Sung Chia-hao (2-3) got a break from closer duty with a scoreless eighth to earn the win.
Ogino led off the Marines first for the second straight day with a home run, his 10th, while former Marines captain Daichi Suzuki tied it in the second off Sasaki with his 10th. Brandon Laird led off Lotte’s second with a single, took second on a throwing error, and scored on Oka’s first double. A Hideto Asamura fourth-inning leadoff single, a passed ball, and a Hiroaki Shimauchi double tied it 2-2.
Lions 7, Hawks 0
At MetLife Dome, Seibu’s Wataru Matsumoto (8-8, 3.79) allowed two hits, a double and a triple, along with his customary walks, four, but struck out 10 in a 135-pitch outing for his first career shutout.
Sosuke Genda’s second-inning bases-loaded single scored Takumi Kuriyama, but Wu Nien-ting was out at home trying to make it 2-0. The Lions accomplished that in the third when Wu drew a bases-loaded walk after Kazuki Sugiyama (1-2, 3.98) retired the first two hitters in the inning. Yuki Matsumoto retired Hotaka Yamakawa to leave the bases jammed but surrendered two of his own in the fourth.
Seiji Kawagoe and Genda singled to open the inning, and the Lions made it 4-0 on a sacrifice bunt, a Tomoya Mori sac fly, and Takeya Nakamura double. The Lions added on three in the seventh on Wu’s 10th home run, off the Hawks’ fourth pitcher, Seigi Tanaka, a pair of one-out singles, a Genda sac fly, and an RBI triple from rookie Junichiro Kishi.
Buffaloes 4, Fighters 3
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Yuma Mune singled twice and scored twice and five Orix Buffaloes relievers shut Nippon Ham out over the final 5-1/3 innings after former Fighters closer Hirotoshi Masui started and allowed three runs, two earned. Fighters rookie Hiromi Ito (9-8, 3.02) took the loss.
Mune singled and scored on a two-out error in the Buffaloes’ first, but Kensuke Kondo continued to hit up a storm, tripling to open the Fighters second off his former teammate Masui before coming home on a groundout.
A leadoff walk, a throwing error, and a double play put Nippon Ham up 2-1 in the third only for the Buffaloes to tie it up straight away on Yutaro Sugimoto’s league-leading 30th home run, which Yuki James Nomura matched, leading off the Fighters’ fourth with his fifth homer. Keita Nakagawa tripled to open the Buffaloes’ fourth and scored on a groundout to tie it before Mune put Orix ahead for the second time by scoring on Steven Moya’s second single of the game.
Swallows 1, Giants 0
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Yakult’s Yasutaka Shiomi broke up a no-hit bid with one out in the ninth inning, stole his 21st stolen base and scored from second on a bounced two-out throw from Yomiuri shortstop Hayato Sakamoto on an infield single by Tetsuto Yamada, who still got an RBI on the play.
Their sixth straight win moved the Swallows 8-1/2 games ahead of the third-place Giants and effectively more than three games ahead of the second-place Hanshin Tigers.
Tomoyuki Sugano allowed three base runners over six innings, on an error, a walk, and a hit batsman, the latter both occurring with no outs in the sixth. Sugano was unable to complete his warmup pitches in the seventh due to a cramp in his thumb, but Rubby De La Rosa and Seishu Hatake each worked a perfect inning of relief.
Thyago Vieira (0-2) struck out two but Sakamoto rushed his throw to first on Tetsuto Yamada’s slow two-out hopper and Shiomi barreled around third base to score as first baseman Akihiro Wakabayashi lost control of the ball on the short hop.
BayStars 4, Tigers 3
At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA’s Fernando Romero (4-2, 3.18) allowed three runs over eight innings, got his first lead when Neftali Soto hit a two-run eighth-inning homer and earned the win when Edwin Escobar worked a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save of the season as the BayStars snapped Hanshin’s five-game win streak.
Tigers rookie Masashi Ito allowed two unearned runs over five innings, and the Tigers went up 3-0 in the third. Romero hit leadoff hitter Koji Chikamoto, Jefry Marte doubled him home and scored on Yusuke Oyama’s 20th home run.
The BayStars scored twice in the fourth. Shugo Maki led off with a single and Toshiro Miyazaki reached on a throwing error by Ito. A groundout and reserve catcher Yudai Yamamoto’s weakly-hit infield single made it 3-2.
After two sharp innings from Raul Alcantara, Masaki Oyokawa (2-3) walked Maki to open the BayStars’ seventh and got ahead of Soto 0-2 before he reached the batter’s eye with his 21st home run to make it 4-3.
Friday’s starting pitchers
Fighters vs Marines: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Lions vs Hawks: MetLife Dome 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Swallows vs Tigers: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT
Carp vs Giants: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 10/7/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/17