Although the Lotte Marines have twice won the Japan Series in the past 16 years, they haven’t led the PL in regular-winning percentage since 1974, and now they’re in a dogfight with a team, Orix, that hasn’t won the league since 1996.
In the Central League, the first-place Hanshin Tigers went head-to-head with the third-place Yomiuri Giants, allowing the second-place Yakult Swallows a chance to gain on one of them.
Marines 4, Fighters 1
At Sapporo Dome, Kazuya Ojima (8-3, 4.20) threw a four-hit shutout to win a southpaw showdown with Takayuki Kato (4-7, 4.07) behind three RBIs from Brandon Laird to keep Lotte 2-1/2 games ahead of Orix in the PL pennant race.
Kato retired the first 11 batters he faced before a single and a walk brought Laird up with two out and two on in the fourth. He singled in one run and Koki Yamaguchi singled in another.
Laird hit his 24th home run in the sixth and singled in a run in the eighth.
Ojima’s shutout came within a hair of evaporating in the bottom of the sixth when the Fighters put two on with one out. With two down, Adeiny Hechavarria robbed Kensuke Kondo of an RBI single by diving for the ball and flipping to second for the third out.
Eagles 4, Hawks 2
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Hiroaki Shimauchi’s two-run seventh-inning home run off Sho Iwasaki (2-4) snapped a 2-2 tie as third-place Rakuten beat fourth-place SoftBank, which fell nine games out of first place and four games out of the PLs final playoff spot.
Rakuten’s Takayuki Kishi allowed two runs over 5-2/3 innings on eight hits and a walk. SoftBank starter Shuta Ishikawa went five, allowing two runs on three hits, two walks and two hit batsmen. Hiroshi Kaino, the second Hawks pitcher, loaded the bases with walks, but the game remained tied until Iwasaki allowed a leadoff single and Shimauchi’s 18th home run with two outs in the seventh.
The Eagles had a relief scare after Nobuhiro Matsuda tied it in the sixth and chasing Kishi with an RBI single. Tomohiro Anraku walked the first batter he faced before getting out of jail with the bases loaded. Sung Chia-hao and Tomohito Sakai each pitched a scoreless inning with Sakai earning his third save.
Shimauchi opened the scoring in the second when he walked and Ishikawa hit a batter with the bases loaded. Kenta Imamiya tied it with a third-inning RBI single, and Ginjiro Sumitani muscled up to put Rakuten back in front in the fifth with his third home run.
Buffaloes 4, Lions 1
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Orix lefty Sachiya Yamasaki (6-9, 3.66) and Seibu rookie Yutaro Watanabe were dead even through four innings, each having allowed a fourth-inning solo homer. Watanabe received an automatic ejection in the bottom of the fifth for grazing the chin of Buffaloes catcher Torai Fushimi, and the game changed.
Rookie reliever Yoshinobu Mizukami (0-1) preserved the tie-score in the inning by leaving three Orix runners on base, but allowed a leadoff double to Yutaro Sugimoto in the sixth, and the runner came home against Katsuhiko Kumon on a Steven Moya sac fly.
Takahiro Okada, whose 12th homer, into the third deck, tied it off Watanabe in the fourth, homered again with a man on in the eighth, off Ryosuke Moriwaki with a shot that hit off the façade above the second deck.
Takeya Nakamura opened the scoring with his 12th home run in the top of the fourth.
Yamasaki allowed three hits but no walks while striking out three over six innings. Five relievers combined to allow one walk and one hit over the remaining three innings with Yoshihisa Hirano earning his 19th save.
Swallows 5, Carp 1
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Yakult jumped on Koya Takahashi (3-6, 5.53) for three first-inning runs, two on Norichika Aoki’s fifth home run and Munetaka Murakami’s 35th. Murakami’s home run made him the youngest player in Japanese pro baseball history with 100, surpassing Kazuhiro Kiyohara’s record of 21 years, 9 months by two months.
Juri Hara (2-1, 2.45) scattered eight hits, a walk and a hit batsman to allow a run over six innings. A night after hitting for the cycle, leadoff man Yasutaka Shiomi had three hits, twice singling in runs.
The win lifted Swallows to within 1-1/2 games of the CL-leading Hanshin Tigers, and kept them a game ahead of the third-place Giants.
BayStars 9, Dragons 1
At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA lefty Shota Imanaga (5-4, 2.77) threw a four-hitter without allowing a walk for his first complete-game victory in two seasons. Masayuki Kuwahara led off the BayStars first against Yariel Rodriguez (0-3, 4.66) with his 11th home run.
A Tyler Austin sac fly made it 2-0, Toshiro Miyazaki singled in a run and Neftali Soto’s RBI single capped the four-run rally. The hosts completed the beatdown against Chunichi’s bullpen in a five-run sixth inning.
Giants 8, Tigers 1
At Koshien Stadium, Tomoyuki Sugano (5-6, 3.52) allowed a run over seven innings for the second straight start, while Joe Gunkel (7-3, 3.40) blew a 1-0 first-inning lead in a seven-run second. Takumi Oshiro singled in two with one out, and leadoff man Naoki Yoshikawa drove in three with his fifth home run, and Hayato Sakamoto capped the rally with a two-run home run, his 17th.
Monday’s starting pitchers
Fighters vs Marines: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Eagles vs Hawks: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
Buffaloes vs Lions: Kyocera Dome (Osaka) 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
Swallows vs Carp: Jingu Stadium 5:30 pm, 4:30 am EDT
BayStars vs Dragons: Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Active roster moves 9/19/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/29