The Japan Series opened and just when all the breaks were going the Yakult Swallows’ way and they were headed for a 3-1 win in the ninth, they suddenly weren’t.
On a sub-par night from Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the Swallows’ bullpen allowed seven runners while getting just three outs, and the Orix Buffaloes extended the PL’s home series win streak to 20 games, and the PL’s series win streak to 13.
The Tigers started Sunday with a 1-1/2 game lead, but they now lead the Giants by a half game, with the Swallows a half game further back. Forget about fourth, fifth and sixth — at least as far as the pennant goes — since those guys are done like dinner.
The top four teams in the Pacific League all appeared headed toward ties but that didn’t work out.
Live chat with former NPB star Leon Lee
Monday, Aug. 30, 11 am Japan; Sunday, Aug. 29, 7 pm Pacific Daylight Time.
Lee, who played 1,255 games over 10 years in Japan from 1978 to 1987 for the Lotte Orions, the Taiyo Whales, and Yakult Swallows. In addition to his accomplishments, Lee is a keen observer with a knack for explaining complicated things simply.
Bring your questions and enjoy.
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Buffaloes 6, Hawks 3
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Yuma Mune singled in the go-ahead run in a four-run seventh inning, when three SoftBank relievers combined to give up four straight two-out hits. Cesar Vargas (1-0), who just signed with Orix and made his first-team debut on Saturday, earned the win after a scoreless seventh before allowing a consolation home run to the Hawks, Ryoya Kurihara’s 13th, in the eighth.
Carter Stewart Jr. (0-1) took the loss. He survived an eight-pitch walk to open a scoreless sixth by striking out Adam Jones and getting a double play. With the score tied 2-2 in the seventh, he collided with his catcher on a one-out bunt single. After a sacrifice, Stewart threw a good 1-2 fastball at the bottom of the zone but was foiled by a good swing from Shuhei Fukuda, who ripped a single past first.
Lefty Shinya Kayama came in to face Mune, who – after Fukuda stole second — produced a good swing for his third hit of the game. Kayama missed with an 0-1 slider to Masataka Yoshida, who doubled to make it 5-2, and with the outfield, Sugimoto’s high fly to the center-field wall off Yuki Tsumori went for an RBI triple instead of the third out.
Another new Buffalo, Glenn Sparkman pitched out of a no-out bases-loaded predicament in the second and allowed two runs over five innings. SoftBank southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada returned to duty after being scratched from a start two weeks earlier. He retired the first nine batters he faced before an error gave the Buffaloes a leadoff runner in their two-run fourth.
SoftBank tied it in the fifth on Dariel Alvarez’s first-homer for the Hawks.
Marines 1, Eagles 0
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Lotte catcher Tatsushi Tamura came on as a defensive substitute in a scoreless tie to face Rakuten’s stand-in closer Sung Chia-hao (1-2). Sung got two outs after runners reached second and third. Tamura fouled off four straight 3-2 pitches before knocking a changeup past short to drive in the game’s only run.
Sung issued a leadoff walk to Shogo Nakamura, and a Leonys Martin single and an error put him in serious jeopardy, that he eased by striking out Brandon Laird and popping up Toshiya Sato. Tamura, however, spoiled pitch after pitch until getting one he could handle.
Naoya Masuda worked around a leadoff infield single in the ninth to record his Japan-best 28th save.
Rakuten’s Ryota Ishibashi worked six solid innings in his season debut, while former Dragon Enny Romero struck out five while allowing a walk and two singles over six innings.
Fighters 6, Lions 0
At MetLife Dome 5 pm, Nippon Ham Fighters rookie Hiromi Ito (8-5, 2.54) bounced back from his dreadful first start after the Tokyo Olympics (6 runs, 5 IP) to strikeout nine while allowing four hits and three walks in his first career shutout.
Seibu’s Keisuke Honda (0-2, 3.57) gave up four runs over four innings, all in the fourth, when the first four batters reached. Wang Po-jung did most of the damage with a no-out three-run double.
Swallows 5, BayStars 2
At Tokyo Dome, Yakult’s Juri Hara (1-1, 1.69) outdueled Shota Imanaga (3-4, 3.49), who doubled and was thrown out on the bases in scoreless fifth before Yakult scratched out a run in the home half. Hara worked seven scoreless innings, while Imanaga gave up one run over six.
The Swallows put the game away against Kevin Shackelford in the seventh. The right-hander retired two batters before a single and a walk set the table for Yasutaka Shiomi’s ninth home run. Shackelford allowed four hits and two walks.
The BayStars’ Masayuki Kuwahara hit a two-run homer, his ninth, against former closer Taichi Ishiyama in the ninth.
Giants 5, Dragons 1
At Vantelin Dome Nagoya, Yomiuri’s Yuki Takahashi (10-3, 2.71) threw five scoreless innings and doubled in the Giants’ third run against Chunichi lefty Shinnosuke Ogasawara (6-7, 3.23). The Dragons’ lone run came in the seventh, when Naomichi Donoue singled to reach base for the third time and scored on Shuhei Takahashi’s pinch-hit double.
Carp 5, Tigers 0
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Seiya Suzuki and Shogo Sakakura continued to tear up opposing pitchers. They each went deep in the first off Takumi Akiyama (9-5, 2.70), Suzuki with a two-run shot, his 19th and second in two nights, and Sakakura his eighth.
All three runs in the first, the only ones charged to Akiyama, were unearned after an error charged to Jerry Sands prolonged the inning and put a man on in front of Suzuki. Akiyama allowed seven hits, walked one and hit one over six innings, but the Carp added two more against his relief, Masaki Oyokawa, in the seventh.
With one on and two outs, the Tigers walked Suzuki intentionally so that Sakakura could get two RBIs instead of one on his double.
Carp lefty Hiroki Tokoda (2-2, 3.47) struck out 10 over six innings in which he allowed five hits and a walk.