SENDAI – The Softbank Hawks failed to bid farewell to manager Sadaharu Oh with a victory Tuesday, losing to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1-0 in 12 innings to finish the season in last place for the first time since 1996.
The 68-year-old Oh leaves his post due to health reasons after guiding the Hawks to Pacific League titles in 1999, 2000 and 2003 and JapanSeries titles in 1999 and 2003 during his 14 years at the helm.
“I never had a feeling that this was the end of my career. I just spent the day as usual,” Oh said. “In the very end, I was able to enjoy 12 innings of baseball. I had a very good day, but I wish I could have gone out as a winner.”
In the game to decide fifth and sixth places, the PL’s last regular season game, Daisuke Kusano doubled to left-center leading off the bottom of the 12th and veteran slugger Takeshi Yamasaki followed with a single to left off Takahiro Mahara (0-2) to score pinch runner Akihito Fujii.
Yamasaki’s game-ending hit came after Nobuhiko Matsunaka grounded into an inning-ending double play in the top of the 12th at Kleenex Stadium. Rakuten reliever Kenta Satake (2-0) got two outs for the win.
Earlier in the game, Toshiya Sugiuchi and Masahiro Tanaka were locked in a tense pitching duel, each throwing nine scoreless innings with 11 and 10 strikeouts, respectively.
Sugiuchi increased his strikeout total to 213, passing Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters right-hander Yu Darvish’s 208 for the PL lead.
In July 2006, Oh underwent a successful operation to remove his stomach after being diagnosed with stomach cancer.
Oh holds the all-time Japanese record of 868 homers. He spent all of his 22-year playing career through 1980.
Swallows 17, Dragons 1
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Shingo Kawabata and Kazuki Fukuchi each hit three-run homers and Yoshiyuki Noguchi added a solo blast, helping Yakult in an explosive rout of Chunichi.
Shohei Tateyama (12-3) pitched one-run ball with seven strikeouts and no walks over seven innings. Yakult put the game away with a five-run seventh and a seven-run eighth, featuring Fukuchi’s blast.
Kawabata’s first career homer off Takashi Ogasawara (8-11) gave the Swallows a 4-0 lead in the second and Noguchi’s shot extended the lead in the third.
Chunichi’s sole run came on a Masaaki Koike RBI single in the fourth.
The Hanshin Tigers, who are in a tie for first in the Central League with the Yomiuri Giants, will meet in the final head-to-head clash with their archrival at Tokyo Dome on Wednesday.
Tigers at BayStars — ppd.