CHIBA — Tuffy Rhodes remained tied with Sadaharu Oh for the Japan pro baseball single-season home run record at 55 after the Kintetsu Buffaloes downed the Chiba Lotte Marines 9-7 in dramatic fashion on Saturday at Chiba Marine Stadium.
Koichi Isobe cracked two home runs, including the decisive two-out, three-run blast in the top of the ninth inning, to power the new Pacific League champion Buffaloes to their eighth consecutive victory and third straight in their final at-bat.
Rhodes went 0-for-2 with a sacrifice fly, was hit by a pitch and walked in five plate appearances.
In his first at-bat of the afternoon, Rhodes hit a comebacker to Lotte starter Shunsuke Watanabe, who throws in a submarine style, on a 1-0 pitch in the top of the first inning.
His second time up, Rhodes took two called strikes and then a ball, before fouling out to third base in the third inning.
In his third trip to the plate, Rhodes was hit in the middle of the back by a pitch from Watanabe in the fifth inning.
In his fourth at-bat, Rhodes delivered a sacrifice fly to center in the seventh inning off Watanabe to give the Buffaloes a 6-4 lead.
In his final at-bat, Rhodes walked on a full count against reliever Naoyuki Shimizu.
Rhodes had no problem with the quality of pitches he saw, saying, “I saw a lot of fastballs today, some real good stuff. I missed a few pitches I could have hit.”
Rhodes, who hit a grand total of 13 home runs in his six-year major-league career, tied Oh’s mark during Monday’s victory over the Seibu Lions at the Osaka Dome, when he homered off a changeup from Seibu ace Daisuke Matsuzaka.
The Marines scored four runs off Kintetsu starter Jeremy Powell in the bottom of the first on a three-run double by Yukihiko Sato and an RBI triple by Takuto Nobuhara.
Powell was coming off two impressive starts (against the Marines and Nippon Ham Fighters) in which he had hurled 15 scoreless innings and been the winning pitcher in both games.
The Buffaloes tied the game 4-4 in the fifth inning on a solo homer by Isobe, RBI single by Hirotoshi Kitagawa, who was the hero in Wednesday’s pennant-clinching victory over the Orix BlueWave, a throwing error by Lotte right-fielder Saburo Omura and Masahiro Abe’s infield single.
Kenshi Kawaguchi cracked a solo blast to right-center field in the sixth off Watanabe to give the Buffs a 5-4 lead.
Powell batted for the designated hitter in the seventh and ended up with a bunt single after attempting to sacrifice. Powell popped a short bunt just between the pitcher’s mound and first base and Marines first baseman Kiyoshi Hatsushiba was unable to snare the ball with a diving attempt.
Akira Otsuka propelled the Marines back into a 7-6 lead in the seventh, when he smashed a three-run blast off Powell to right field.
When asked about the possibility of batting Rhodes leadoff for the remaining three games of the regular season, Kintetsu manager Masataka Nashida didn’t rule out the idea, saying, “It’s not impossible. It may happen. I’ll have to consult with Rhodes and talk about it.”
Rhodes was amenable to the idea, saying, “It’s his (Nashida’s) decision. It may get me a few more at-bats and a few more chances to hit the ball out of the park.”
The Buffs play again today against the Daiei Hawks at the Fukuoka Dome, then close out the season with games against Orix at the Osaka Dome on Oct. 2 and at Kobe on Oct. 5.
BlueWave 8, Lions 2
Ryota Aikawa drove home six runs on four hits — including two home runs — as Orix beat Seibu at Green Stadium Kobe.
Up 1-0 in the second, Aikawa drilled a three-run homer. He then connected for a solo home run in the fourth — both off Seibu starter Hsu Ming-chieh (11-6) — and hit a two-run double in the fifth.
BlueWave starter Koo Dae Sung scattered three hits over eight innings and picked up his seventh win.
Hawks 5, Fighters 4
At the Tokyo Dome, Pedro Valdez hit an infield single to bring home Arihito Muramatsu from second for the go-ahead run with two out in the top of the ninth as Nippon Ham lost its final game at home this year to Daiei.
Reliever Shinji Kurano got two out for the win while closer Rodney Pedraza worked two-thirds of an inning for his 34th save.
Tigers 4, Dragons 1
Rookie hurler Masashi Date combined with three relievers on a seven hitter — giving up one run on four hits over 62/3 innings — and picked up his fourth win as Hanshin beat Chunichi in Nagoya.
Carp 6, BayStars 5
Takahiro Arai doubled home three runs in the fifth inning and Hiroshima held on as it edged the BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.
More veterans to go
Veteran Yomiuri Giants hurler Masaki Saito and catcher Shinichi Murata are both set to retire at the end of this season and are expected to officially announce their retirement on Sunday together with Giants pitcher Hiromi Makihara, who also said on Friday he will be retiring.