Rookie Kyota Fujiwara’s three-run home run brought the Lotte Marines from a run down in a 4-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes that put them in pole position to clinch a playoff spot on Sunday.
Kota Futaki (9-3) allowed a run in the first on a Steven Moya RBI single but held the Buffaloes off the board after that at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
Trailing 1-0 in the fourth Fujiwara lined a pitch into the right-field stands with two on to make it 3-1. Frank Herrmann allowed one run in relief and Naoya Masuda another in the ninth. The closer had to sit through a short rain delay with two outs and the tying run on second but came back to earn his 31st save.
The win moves Lotte a half-game ahead of the Seibu Lions before the two teams square off in Chiba on Sunday. A Lotte loss or tie will keep the PL’s postseason picture in the dark until the teams finish their schedule on Monday. A Marines win will send them into the postseason for the first time since 2016.
Nakamura scores hat-trick in Lions comeback
Takeya Nakamura scored three runs as the Seibu Lions overcame a five-run first-inning deficit to earn a 6-6 10-inning tie against the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi on Saturday afternoon.
Seibu starting pitcher Tatsuya Imai surrendered six runs in jus two-thirds of an inning, but seven Seibu relievers combined to work 9-1/3 scoreless innings. Reed Garrett, fireballing rookie Kaima Taira and closer Tatsushi Masuda notched nine of the Lions’ 10 strikeouts in a combined 4-2/3 innings of work.
Shuta Tonosaki singled in a run for the Lions in the first and brought them to within a run when he led off the seventh by homering off D.J. Johnson. Nakamura doubled with one out and scored on Cory Spangenberg’s single to tie it.
Alan Busenitz worked a scoreless eighth for the Eagles, while Yuki Matsui struck out three over two scoreless innings to ensure Rakuten’s final game of the season did not end in defeat.
Akiyama wins it for Tigers
Takumi Akiyama (11-3) worked seven-plus innings, backed by an RBI double from Seiya Kinami and Yusuke Oyama’s 28th home run in the Hanshin Tigers’ 2-0 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Akiyama left after surrendering his third hit of the game to open the eighth. Forty-one-year-old lefty Atsushi Nomi, who is leaving the Tigers after the season for an uncertain future, “retired” 41-year-old catcher Yoshiyuki Ishihara, who is leaving the game at season’s end.
With the day’s sentimental journeys attended to, Jon Edwards entered an induced an inning-ending double play.
Robert Suarez earned his 25th save for the Tigers.
Sakamoto moves within 1 hit of 2,000
Two of the Central League’s biggest sluggers each went deep twice but they were overshadowed by the buzz surrounding Hayato Sakamoto’s pursuit of 2,000 hits in the Yomiuri Giants’ 6-2 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo Dome.
Sakamoto, who turns 32 in December, recorded his 1,999th career hit in the third inning before Kazuma Okamoto extended his lead in the CL home run race with his 30th. Sakamoto is 53rd on Nippon Professional Baseball’s all-time hit list, and his 2,000th will tie him with former Lotte Marine Kazuya Fukuura.
The 24-year-old Okamoto has now hit 30 home runs in three straight seasons. Both Swallows runs came on 20-year-old Munetaka Murakami’s 27th and 28th home runs.
Iwakuma goes out a Giant
Are you kidding me? Hisashi Iwakuma, who ended his pro career in a Yomiuri Giants uniform after throwing two innings in the Eastern League for them in 2019, was given a hero’s sendoff at Tokyo Dome, with his teammates all wearing “Thanks Iwakuma” T-shirts.
Active roster moves 11/6/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/16
Fumihito Haraguchi delivered off the bench for the fourth straight game, his two-out seventh-inning pinch-hit single breaking a 1-1 tie in the Hanshin Tigers’ 2-1 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome on Saturday.
The Giants started the day with a magic number of five to clinch their second straight Central League championship.
Jerry Sands scored the go-ahead run after reaching on a leadoff single to decide a pitchers’ duel between Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano (13-2) and tough Tigers lefty Haruto Takahashi (5-4).
Takahashi allowed a run on four hits and two walks while striking out three over six innings. Jon Edwards, Suguru Iwazaki and Robert Suarez kept the Giants from scoring over the remaining three innings with Suarez getting his CL-leading 23rd save.
Koji Chikamoto became the Tiger’s first base runner by smacking a hanging breaking pitch and beating out a one-out infield single in the fourth despite a good play from Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto.
Chikamoto, the CL stolen base leader, took second on a wild pitch even though catcher Takumi Oshiro was able to keep the ball in front of him, and then scored easily when Kento Itohara’s little fly to shallow right fell in for a single.
Sugano tied it in the sixth by scoring on a sac fly after reaching on a leadoff double. With the Tigers outfield playing him shallow, he flied over Chikamoto’s head for his third double of the season. Naoki Yoshikawa fell behind trying to sacrifice him, before grounding a mistake from Takahashi just past Jefry Marte at first for a single. Takahashi missed down the pipe to Seiya Matsubara, whose liner to right was caught, but allowed Sugano to score.
Sands was tossed in the eighth complaining about a couple of calls by home plate umpire Tetsuya Shimada. Sands took 1-0 pitch away and below the knees for a strike, and was called out on a pitch that the overhead camera showed was well beyond the outside corner. That drew some f-bombs and the ejection.
Morishita goes the distance
Right-hander Masato Morishita (9-3) allowed four hits over the distance and drove in the eventual winning run for the Hiroshima Carp in their 2-1 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
Morishita struck out five in his 135-pitch outing, and went 2-for- at the plate. Ryosuke Kikuchi singled with two outs in the eighth, stole second and scored on the pitcher’s single to break a 1-1- tie. BayStars right-hander Shoichi Ino allowed a run over six innings but left with nothing to show for it.
The loss dropped the fourth-place BayStars three games below .500 although they have outscored opponents 461-422.
Ogawa denies Dragons
Yasuhiro Ogawa (10-6) allowed two runs over six innings as the Yakult Swallows battered Takahiro Matsuba (3-7) and overcame a big night from Nobumasa Fukuda to beat the Chunichi Dragons 9-5 at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Fukuda, who returned to duty on Friday after missing 1-1/2 months, took Ogawa deep in the fourth and doubled in two runs in the Dragons’ three-run seventh.
The highlight of the game, however, belonged to Dragons rookie Kaname Takino, who got perhaps the ultimate celebration of his first pro hit. As the ball was being returned from left field, fireworks erupted beyond the ballpark’s third-base stands and continued for about a minute due to an event going on at Tokyo’s National Stadium down the street that was built as the centerpiece of the 2020 Olympics to be held next year.
Later in the game, play was disrupted following a balloon release from the stadium.
Grand slam king Nakamura halts Hawks
Takeya Nakamura extended his record for career grand slams with his 21st, bringing the Seibu Lions from a run down in the eighth inning in a 4-1 win at Fukuoka’s PayPay dome that snapped the SoftBank Hawks’ 12-game winning streak.
Livan Moinelo (2-3) issued three walks for the first time since he came to Japan in 2017 and got his only out on a sacrifice before turning the ball over to right-hander Sho Iwasaki with the right-handed-hitting Nakamura coming up.
The six-time PL home run champ then launched a high straight 2-1 fastball out to center, spoiling a strong game from Hawks right-hander Nao Higashihama, who threw seven scoreless innings for his second consecutive start.
In the postgame hero interview, Nakamura was asked if the home run was a good present for Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji’s 62nd birthday.
“I wasn’t thinking about that when I batted, but I’m glad it worked out that way,” Nakamura said.
I love Nakamura’s straight-forward answers to some of those questions. Once, when asked what the mood on the bench was when he went to the plate, he answered, “I don’t know. I wasn’t on the bench. I was going to the plate.”
Albers deals Marines their 6th straight loss
Andrew Albers (4-7) allowed two singles and two walks over 6-2/3 innings, three relievers carried it the rest of the way and Takahiro Okada homered for the second straight game as the Orix Buffaloes beat the Lotte Marines 3-0 at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome. Brandon Dickson worked around a two-out single to record his 16th save.
Fighters pen out-scrapes Eagles’
The Nippon Ham Fighters’ bullpen outlasted the Rakuten Eagles’ in a 5-4 win at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, when Sho Nakata homered to tie the game in the eighth inning and hit a two-out fly ball that wasn’t caught and brought home the go-ahead run in the ninth.
Nakata moved into a tie for the Japan home run lead with the Eagles’ Hideto Asamura when he drove a hanging 1-0 breaking ball well back into the stands in left field. Fighters took the lead in the ninth against closer Alan Busenitz (1-3), who allowed a two-out Kensuke Kondo single.
Busenitz missed up high with a 1-2 breaking ball that Nakata got underneath and skied down the left-field line. A pair of rookies converged on it, and shortstop Hiroto Kobukata backed off to let left fielder Yuya Ogo get it. But Ogo took his time, had to sprint to get to the ball and overran it. The ball landed fair, and Kondo beat the throw home. Ogo was harshly charged with the error and Busenitz ended up taking the loss.
Both Kobukata and Ogo singled in the bottom of the ninth before veteran lefty Naoki Miyanishi escaped a two-out bases loaded jam when Steven Romero lined out to short. Kobukata, who appears to be running away with the PL’s rookie of the year award, went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer.
Sixth-inning home runs by Hotaka Yamakawa and Takeya Nakamura lifted the Seibu Lions to a 4-3 win over the Rakuten Eagles on Saturday afternoon.
In a matchup between two pitchers who depend on mixing their pitches and changing speeds, Eagles lefty Takahiro Shiomi (1-3) got away with his early location issues in a 1-2-3 first inning, but Lions starter Wataru Matsumoto (1-2) didn’t.
The Lions’ right-hander surrendered two first-inning home runs, and the Lions trailing 3-0 for the first five innings didn’t catch up until too many pitches in the middle of the strike zone caught up with Shiomi.
Eigoro Mogi got the Pacific League leaders off to a solid start at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
The leadoff man reached the seats on a 2-0 fastball in the heart of the zone. With one out, Jabari Blash singled off a 3-2 cutter that missed up. Matsumoto popped up the toughest hitter in the Eagles lineup, Hideto Asamura, but Hiroaki Shimauchi got a mistake and didn’t miss.
Matsumoto’s first-pitch, an 87 mph fastball in the heart of the zone, was running away from Shimauchi, but the left-handed hitter got all of it and drove it into the right field stands for a 3-0 lead.
Matsumoto got away with another bad miss in the middle of the zone to Stefen Romero, who grounded out to end the inning.
Shiomi who looked to have conquered his poor location at the end of the first, went back to making dangerous mistakes in the second but again got away with murder. With one out and Tomoya Mori on second from a double. The lefty hung a 2-0 curve in the heart of the zone that Takumi Kuriyama watched for a strike before having a word with himself for the missed opportunity. Kuriyama walked but Shiomi threw three good pitches to Cory Spangenberg to keep the Lions off the board.
The Eagles got a beachhead on the bases in the third with a gritty leadoff walk from Daichi Suzuki, but Matsumoto got out of the inning when Hideto Asamura grounded a tough pitch up the middle to second baseman Shuta Tonosaki, who started a nifty double play with a flip to shortstop Sosuke Genda.
The double play combo set the table for the Lions in the sixth with back-to-back groundball singles.
Genda opened by smacking a high first-pitch splitter between first and second for a single. Tonosaki, who’d made two outs seeing nothing but the lefty’s splitters, fouled off two good ones and took one in the dirt to run the count 2-2. Shiomi switched to inside fastballs and eventually throw one down the middle. Tonosaki didn’t put a good swing on it but a good bounce got it through the infield.
With no outs and runners on the corners, Yamakawa got all of a first-pitch fastball and just missed hitting the park’s left field merry-go-round on a hop with his eighth home run.
Nakamura, who missed a high splitter en route to a 3-2 count, didn’t miss the second one he saw up in the zone. A six-time PL home run champ, Nakamura broke the 3-3 tie with his third home run of the season.
With the lead in hand, Katsunori Hirai came out of the bullpen in the bottom of the sixth and worked around a two-out single. Rookie Tetsu Miyagawa surrendered a one-out double to Mogi, but retired the persistent Suzuki for the second out.
With Blash and Asamura waiting in the wings, Lions skipper Hatsuhiko Tsuji turned the ball over to new import Reed Garrett, who has been rock solid in late relief.
Garrett retired Blash to strand Mogi. His 1-2-3 eighth, and that of closer Tatsushi Masuda closed it out, with Masuda earning his seventh save.
Matsumoto, who ended the Eagles fifth with Suzuki on base by retiring Asamura for the third time, allowed three runs on two walks and six hits.
Shiomi left after 5-2/3 having allowed four runs on nine hits and a walk. He struck out two. J. T. Chargois stranded a runner in the sixth and worked around two seventh-inning walks.
Right-hander Tohomhito Sakai worked the eighth for the Eagles, while former Lion and San Diego Padre submariner Kazuhisa Makita worked a scoreless ninth.
Lions accuse Eagles fans of cheating
Seibu Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji on Saturday discovered another problem related to the coronavirus, an opportunity for fans to give the home team an unfair advantage.
Tsuji told umpires during the Lions’ game in Sendai that someone in the stands was giving away where Lions catcher Tomoya Mori was setting up before pitches during the at-bats of the hometown Rakuten Eagles, the Nikkan Sports reported.
In response, home plate umpire Tetsuo Yamaji issued a warning to fans and the Eagles posted extra security behind home plate. With fans forbidden to shout or cheer and only 5,000 fans allowed into games this month on account of the novel coronavirus pandemic, voices can easily be heard in what otherwise would be a constant wall of sound as each team’s cheering sections blast out chants accompanied by horns and drums.
“The batter can hear that, really,” Tsuji said after the game. “This is no different than sign stealing. I think this is going to be a problem no matter what ballpark you’re at.”
Yanagita’s monster blast boosts Hawks
The SoftBank Hawks earned a tight 2-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes on Saturday after Yuki Yanagita opened the scoring with the most impressive home run of Japan’s young season.
With Hawks right-handerShuta Ishikawa (3-0) and Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima locked up in a scoreless pitchers’ duel through five innings, Yanagita broke the tie with two outs in the sixth.
The lefty served up an 86 mph center-cut running fastball that the left-handed hitter leaned into and got all of. The blast hit the light ring where the stadium ceiling meets the roof over the upper deck in right field and dropped to the field.
The Hawks scored an insurance run against Tajima in the seventh before Buffaloes catcher Kenya Wakatsuki homered off submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi in the bottom of the inning.
Orix’s Tyler Higgins worked a scoreless ninth, but Hawks closer Yuito Mori retired the heart of the Buffaloes order 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning to record his fourth save.
Marines overcome lapses to crush Fighters
Right-hander Atsuki Taneichi surrendered two solo home runs, but those proved to be the only two points of light in an otherwise dark day for the Nippon Ham Fighters in a 5-2 loss to the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.
The visitors took a one-run lead in the first. Takashi Ogino reached on a leadoff infield single, went to third on an errant pickoff throw from Fighters lefty Takayuki Kato and scored on a Ikuhiro Kiyota double.
Toshitake Yoko and Ryo Watanabe hit second-inning home runs for the Fighters, and Kato pitched out of a one-out jam in the third, but that proved to be the end of the Nippon Ham highlight reel.
A leadoff single in the third gave the Fighters an opportunity to pad their lead against Taneichi. Instead, their final hit of the game set up the first of three double plays they would ground into.
Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama went to his second pitcher, former Cleveland Indians farm hand Toru Murata (0-1), but the right-hander was ineffective.
A hit batsman, a Shogo Nakamura double and a sac fly from Hisanori Yasuda tied it. After a one-out walk, reserve catcher Tomoya Kakinuma doubled in two runs. Yasuda added a seventh-inning homer to complete the scoring.
Taneichi (2-1) allowed three hits and two walks while striking out three over seven innings. Frank Herrmann worked the eighth for the Marines, while Naoya Masuda earned his eighth save.
Giants’ Sanchez stops BayStars
Angel Sanchez (3-2) spun eight easy scoreless innings before allowing two runs in the ninth in the Yomiuri Giants’ 4-2 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
No-out singles in the second by a rejuvenated Hiroyuki Nakajima and Zelous Wheeler set the table for a three-run inning against BayStars lefty Shota Imanaga (2-2) .
Lefty Kota Nakagawa, who saved 16 games last season as the Giants’ closer before the acquisition of Rubby De La Rosa, worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to record his first save.
Nishi goes distance to slay Dragons
Yuki Nishi (2-1), who since 2017 has had the worst average run support among any Japanese starting pitcher, threw five scoreless innings before suddenly presented with an eight-run lead, promptly allowed three.
The right-hander struck out seven over the distance and drove in a run with a squeeze in the Tigers’ 8-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Koshien Stadium.
Nishi: ‘A player’s got to play’
Pitcher Yuki Nishi was as they say, “as motivated as ever” on Saturday, three days after one of Japan’s scandal-filled weekly magazines published an account of his extramarital indulgences with a Tigers fan in Mie Prefecture while Japan was in a state of emergency, Kyodo News reported in Japanese.
“At this critical time, I became a nuisance,” he said in his postgame hero interview at Koshien Stadium. “I think I need to make it up through my play.”
The Tigers have one of the largest followings in Japanese baseball.
What dreams are made of
One year, former captain Takashi Toritani was punished for inviting a female fan to his room during spring training. The team criticized him for not upholding his responsibility “to give hopes and dreams to the fans.”
Former Tigers coach Tom O’Malley said of the incident, “I was in the next room. He sounded like he was busy giving at least one fan a whole night’s worth of hopes and dreams.”
Ogawa improves to 4-0 with win over Carp
Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa allowed two runs over six innings to earn his Central League-best fourth win as the Yakult Swallows beat the Hiroshima Carp 9-4 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Ogawa (4-0) scattered seven hits, two walks and a hit batsman while striking out four and singled in a run that briefly gave the Swallows a 2-1 lead in the second.
Yakult took the lead for good in the fifth. Tetsuto Yamada, back in the lineup for the first time in four days, doubled with one out in the fifth. Walks by Norichika Aoki and Munetaka Murakami, who scored twice and drove in three, loaded the bases.
Naoki Nishiura and Alcides Escobar followed with back-to-back RBI singles that put Yakult up 5-2.
Kodai Senga, who lobbied the SoftBank Hawks last winter in vain to post him, became the first player who turned pro after signing a developmental contract to throw a no-hitter.
He did it touching 98.8 mph with his fastball and throwing bulls eyes with his breaking pitches, and as the game went on shifting to more splitters, the pitch he ended the game with.
“Before the game I wanted to use more big breaking pitches, and (catcher Takuya) Kai called those really effectively.”
Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi said he instructed his batters to be aggressive on the first pitch, but it was no good.
“He located his breaking pitches well,” the skipper said. “We talked about swinging at the first pitch, but we weren’t able to get good swings against him.”
No hits are not enough
Senga led 2-0 in the ninth, when he walked the first two batters. With one out, he had a runner on third, and couldn’t afford a wild pitch, since even if he won 2-1 and didn’t allow a hit, it wouldn’t enter the record books in Japan, which doesn’t count no-hitters, but only no-hit shutouts.
Excluding Japan’s newest team, the Rakuten Eagles formed in 2005, the Hawks have gone the longest without having a pitcher throw a no-hitter. In fact, Senga’s was the first they’ve had since the Pacific and Central leagues were formed in 1950’s expansion.
The last Hawks pitcher to achieve the feat did so on May 26, 1943 in Kobe, when future Hall of Famer Takehiko Bessho beat Yamato, also by a score of 2-0.
In addition to Senga, who was undrafted in 2010 until taken by the Hawks in the fourth round of the subsequent supplemental draft, catcher Takuya Kai was taken shortly after, in the sixth round.
Can’t touch this
“His fastball and breaking pitches were amazing,” said Lotte slugger Seiya Inoue, who struck out to end the game with the tying runs on base. “It’s always fun facing him.”
“At the end, he was really throwing at his best. He didn’t throw me anything good to hit, so it would have been hard to just wait for him to throw something I could handle.”
Hawks 2, Marines 0
At Yafuoku Dome, SoftBank’s Kodai Senga (12-7) threw the 91st regular season no-hitter in Japan’s elite level pro ranks in a pitchers’ duel with Mike Bolisnger (4-5) thanks to two routine fly balls dropped in center field by Lotte’s Leonys Martin.
Martin let two nearly identical flies hit off the heel of his glove, one in the fifth, that led to the Hawks’ first run, and one in the sixth that scored an insurance run from first with one out.
At Rakuten Seimei Park, Takeya Nakamura was at it again with the bases loaded, hitting his 20th career grand slam as Seibu held on to beat Rakuten 5-4.
In his past three games, Nakamura has had two grand slams and a three-run double. Of his PL-leading 115 RBIs, 49 have come with the bases loaded.
“I was half laughing (when I came up with the bases loaded again), thinking this can’t be happening,” Nakamura said of his fly that just barely cleared the fence in left. “I got jammed a bit, but I did put a good swing on it.”
At Sapporo Dome, Toshihiro Sugiura (3-4) won for the first time since May 23, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out six over six scoreless innings as Nippon Ham beat Orix to snap an eight-game losing streak and drop the Buffaloes into last place.
Taisuke Yamaoka (10-4) allowed five runs on five walks and nine hits over five innings to take the loss.
At Jingu Stadium, Wladimir Balentien reached 30 home runs for the eighth time in his NPB career with a two-run shot in the first inning, and Masanori Ishikawa (7-5) allowed one run over six innings.
The Giants’ only run off the lefty came in the fourth, when the first four batters singled. The win was the 170th of his career.
Carp 6, Tigers 3
At Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima blew the game open in a five-run third against Hanshin’s Haruto Takahashi (3-7) to move within 4-1/2 games of the league-leading Giants.
Dragons 8, BayStars 4
At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi hammered DeNA right-hander Kentaro Taira (5-4) for seven runs over 3-2/3 innings to collect their fourth-straight win. Dayan Viciedo walked and scored in the first, broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run homer in the third and singled in a run in the fourth to lead the Dragons offense.
Chikamoto moving up in rookie ranks
Hanshin rookie Koji Chikamoto’s double and single on Friday against Hiroshima lifted his season hit total to 139, tying him with Shinichi Eto, who went on to win three batting titles, for fourth on the CL rookie hit list. The record is held by Hall of Famer Shigeo Nagashima with 153.
Blister disappoints scouts as Sasaki makes early exit
A flock of scouts who descended on Japan’s WSBC Under-18 World Cup game against South Korea on Friday were disappointed when flame throwing high schooler Roki Sasaki left the game in the first inning after breaking a blister on his pitching hand.
I know it’s not of any importance, but I love Takeya Nakamura’s matter-of-fact hero interviews, which never quite get to the level of the “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” segments I grew up with in Mad Magazine, but are often worthy considering the silly things the interviewers sometimes ask.
In one game a few years ago, Nakamura was asked: “What was the mood on the bench when you came up to the plate with a chance to win the game?” Answer? “I don’t know. I wasn’t on the bench at the time.”
On Wednesday, Nakamura was the star of the Lions’ win over the Nippon Ham Fighters and was summoned to the sidelines for the postgame interview.
Interviewer: “It was a called game, but the Lions won. Can you share your thoughts?
Nakamura: “I’m glad we won.”
I.: “You drove in the game’s first runs with a two-run home run. How did it feel when you hit it.”
N: “It felt good when I hit it. I’m glad it was a home run.”
I: “In the fifth inning, you hit a go-ahead, three-run home run. How did you approach that at-bat?”
N: “The same as always. My plan was to bat as I usually do.”
I: “You handled it (the pitch) well?”
N: “Yes I did.”
I: “You also had a hand in the winning run, didn’t you?”
N: “Yes. (Nakamura is struggling to keep a straight face) I wanted to make contact somehow. Get the bat on the ball. “
I: “With this win, the Lions are now 2-1/2 games back of the first-place Hawks. How is the mood on the team right now?”
N: “The atmosphere is extremely good. Now we’ve come to Hokkaido and won two straight, now we want to go to Obihiro and complete the sweep. We want to keep hitting like this.”
Lions 10, Fighters 8, 8 innings, darkness
At Kushiro Stadium, Seibu won a see-saw game over Nippon Ham that the umpires ended with no outs in the top of the eighth on account of darkness at the game in eastern Hokkaido.
Takeya Nakamura moved within four RBIs of the league lead with a two-homer, five-RBI game, and was involved in seven of the Lions’ runs, his two-out smash off the foot of Fighters pitcher Tsubasa Nabatame (0-1) deflected to third baseman Kensuke Kondo. He had no chance to nail the portly Nakamura at first and his throwing error allowed two runs to score.
“Our inability to hold onto a lead is an issue,” Fighters skipper Hideki Kuriyama said. “It (the decision to call the game) was the umpires, so I can’t do anything about that.”
Under dark skies with intermittent rain, it became hard for the umpires to see the outfielders, and the game was called at 4:21 pm, 1-1/2 hours before sunset.
It was the first game in Japan called on account of darkness since June 20, 1999, when the Orix BlueWave and Kintetsu Buffaloes were also playing in Hokkaido, at Sapporo’s Maruyama Stadium. Game 1 of the 2005 Japan Series was also cut short because the umpires could not see the players–due to fog at Chiba Marine Stadium.
At Rakuten Seimei Park, Takahiro Norimoto (2-4) surrendered four runs over two innings to take the loss against Lotte. With one out and two on in the second, the Rakuten starter hustled after a chopper in the infield, but his throw to first went down the right field line for a two-run error.
The Eagles narrowed the gap to 4-3 on a two-run Jabari blash homer in the fourth, but Taiga Hirasawa squeezed home an insurance run for the Marines in the sixth.
At Tokyo Dome, Tomoyuki Sugano (11-5) surrendered a pair of solo home runs over seven innings, and Hayato Sakamoto homered with a man on in the fifth to give Yomiuri the lead for good against Hiroshima.
At Koshien Stadium, Toshiki Abe homered in the sixth inning, as four Chunichi pitchers combined to shutout Hanshin on six hits.The Tigers have now been shut out 13 times, once by SoftBank and three times by every other CL club except Yakult.
BayStars 7, Swallows 6
At Yokohama Stadium, rookie Yudai Yamamoto’s two-out, two-strike, pinch-hit RBI single lifted DeNA to a sayonara victory over Yakult, preventing their game from ending in a 12-inning tie that would have cost them a half-game in the pennant race.
Wladimir Balentien hit two home runs for the Swallows, giving him 29 for the season and 284 in Japan and moving him out of a tie with Leron Lee for sole possession of fourth-place among foreign hitters.
The BayStars twice came back to tie it. Takayuki Kajitani hit a sixth-inning solo homer and Neftali Soto, who homered in the third, drew his second walk of the game in the eighth inning, allowing pinch-runner Takehiro Ishikawa to score the tying run on Kazuki Kamizato’s single.