TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. — Fans hoping to see a piece of baseball history will have to wait at least one more night, after the Seibu Lions blanked the Kintetsu Buffaloes 4-0 on Monday evening at the Seibu Dome and prevented Tuffy Rhodes from cracking his 50th home run of the season.
Rhodes entered the game looking to become only the second foreign-born player ever to hit 50 roundtrippers in a single season in Japanese pro baseball. Only Randy Bass, who hit 54 for the Hanshin Tigers in 1985, has accomplished the feat.
Rhodes hit his 49th of the season on Sunday in a 10-9 victory over the Nippon Ham Fighters at the Tokyo Dome that moved that Buffaloes back into first place in the PL.
Rhodes went 1-4 with a single as the Lions shut down the Buffaloes’ run-scoring machine. He came closest to clearing the fence leading off the ninth inning, driving the ball deep to center field before it ran out of gas just in front of the wall and was caught.
“I hit that one a little bit off the end of the bat,” Rhodes said. “That was the best chance. If I could have gotten a bit more bat on it I probably could have driven it out.” Hsu Ming-Chieh scattered five hits over 71/3 innings and Tsutomu Ito had two RBIs to pace the Lions who also made several fine plays in the field. Despite the loss, Kintetsu remained in first place in the Pacific League after the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks lost to the Chiba Lotte Marines 8-0.
With 20 games remaining in the regular season, Rhodes needs six home runs to tie the all-time Japan home run record of 55 set by Sadaharu Oh in 1964 with the Yomiuri Giants. When Oh set the mark, he broke the record of Katsuya Nomura, who hit 52 for the Nankai Hawks in 1963.
Nomura’s 52 circuit clouts remain the Pacific League standard to this day, having been equalled by Lotte’s Hiromitsu Ochiai in 1986.
Seibu took the lead in the second inning on a single by Kazuhiro Wada off Kintetsu’s southpaw starter Katsuhiko Maekawa (11-9), which scored Alex Cabrera, who had walked and moved to second on a base on balls to Scott McClain.
Ito made it 2-0 for the Lions on a sacrifice fly to center, which brought home McClain, who had advanced to third base on a fly out to right by Tetsuya Kakiuchi.
Maekawa, who amazingly entered the game as Kintetsu’s only pitcher with more than eight wins this season, went six-plus innings and allowed four hits, five walks and struck out two before departing with the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh.
Maekawa filled the sacks by walking McClain, giving up a single to Wada and another walk to Kakiuchi.
Koki Morita took over for Maekawa and promptly walked Ito with the bases loaded to score McClain and give the Lions a 3-0 advantage.
Morita was sent to the showers after facing only Ito and Kazuya Shibata came on and put the fire out, allowing only a sacrifice fly to Masaji Shimizu that scored Wada and boosted Seibu’s lead to 4-0.
In the first inning, Rhodes fouled out to deep left field on a 3-1 pitch. Leading off the fourth, Rhodes grounded out to second base on the first pitch he saw.
“He (Tsu) really dug that forkball in on my second at-bat, so there wasn’t much I could with that one,” Rhodes said.
With one out in the sixth, Eiji Mizuguchi singled up the middle and Rhodes followed with a single to right and it looked like the Buffs might be in business, but then Norihiro Nakamura hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
With one out and one on in the eighth, Hsu was pulled, despite still having a shutout going and allowing the Buffs only five hits. Hsu ended the night with five strikeouts and walked only one batter.
Marines top Hawks
At the Fukuoka Dome, Lotte rookie Shunsuke Watanabe (1-1) went the distance on 150 pitches, holding Daiei scoreless despite giving up nine hits and a walk for his first career victory as the Chiba Lotte Marines blanked the Daiei Hawks 8-0.
Frank Bolick hit a two-run homer and drove in four runs and Yukihiko Sato got the Marines rolling with a three-run clout in the first inning as Lotte posted only its second win in seven games.
Fighters 4, BlueWave 3
At Green Stadium Kobe, Michihiro Ogasawara went 3-for-4 with a run scored and two RBIs and Carlos Mirabal pitched out of a ninth-inning jam to lift Nippon Ham over Orix.
Nippon Ham starter Satoru Kanemura (7-9) allowed only one run on six hits and six walks over 62/3 innings while striking out seven for the win.
The BlueWave, who rallied for two runs on four hits against Mirabal, hurt themselves earlier by leaving 11 runners stranded over the first eight innings.