Roki Sasaki struck out 10 batters and equaled the second-fastest pitch recorded in Japan, but got no decision in his season debut on Sunday, while Domingo Santana continued to perform his version of the Ray Charles classic he calls, “Hit the road jacks.”
It was ace of aces day, although the Rakuten Eagles don’t have anyone they’re going to call an ace, Masahiro Tanaka, the pitcher everyone wants to see in a big game for them, got the start against the guy who replaced him as Japan’s No. 1, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and a superb pitching duel ensued.
In Chiba, Kodai Senga went to the mound for the SoftBank Hawks, who had nothing to lose but could make a minor statement.
On Tuesday, while the Nippon Ham Fighters and Seibu Lions fight to avoid finishing last in the Pacific League, the Yakult Swallows and Hanshin Tigers resume their struggle for dominance, against the DeNA BayStars and Chunichi Dragons, respectively, the CL’s two bottom feeders.
If Hanshin wins that final game, Yakult needs to win two. A Tigers loss or a tie, leaves Yakult needing to win one of its last three games.
Buffaloes 4, Eagles 0
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Yoshinobu Yamamoto (18-5, 1.39) threw a four-hit shutout thanks to a string of superb plays from Orix’s defense, while the Buffaloes scratched out two runs over eight innings against Masahiro Tanaka (4-9, 3.01), who pitched one of his best games of the season but had nothing to show for it.
The win ended the Buffaloes’ regular season, and after the Marines got thumped for only their second loss in two weeks, Orix now has a magic number of one to clinch. Lotte has three games remaining, and need at least two wins and a tie to win the league.
Against Rakuten, the Buffaloes’ runs were more luck than quality, although a bit of artistry scored the final two against Alan Busenitz in the ninth. Orix broke through in the fifth on a one-out Takahiro Okada walk, a ground out and a broken-bat single by rookie Kotaro Kurebayashi, who also put on a fielding clinic at shortstop.
New Buffalo Rangel Ravelo singled to open Orix’s seventh went to third on a two-out error and scored on Kurebayashi’s second single.
Scratch singles by Ravelo and Yutaro Sugimoto put runners on the corners in the ninth with no outs. With the infield in as far as it would go, the runner on second, Shunta Goto got a huge lead and when the throw went to first on Ryoichi Adachi’s suicide squeeze, Goto was already rounding third and scored.
Yamamoto nearly gave up the game’s only extra-base hit in the ninth, but Goto, now in right, robbed Hideto Asamura of a double with a good catch at the wall.
Marines 15, Hawks 7
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Kodai Senga (10-3, 2.66) allowed three runs, starting with Leonys Martin’s solo home run in the first, his 27th, over six innings, and SoftBank stepped on Manabu Mima (6-7, 4.92) after he retired the first four batters.
A one-out second inning error opened the door for the Hawks, and back-to-back singles tied it. Richard Sunagawa’s sac fly put the visitors up for good, and Mima surrendered four more hits before leaving after facing just 12 hitters. Alfredo Despaigne, who led off the inning, singled SoftBank’s seventh run off Daiki Iwashita.
SoftBank led 10-1 before the Marines’ rear guard responded. Brandon Laird hit his 29th homer, while the Hawks’ Ryoya Kurihara hit his 21st.