Lions stay in hunt for playoff spot


Staff Writer

The surging Seibu Lions didn’t lose, but they didn’t get the result they were searching for either.

Hiroyuki Nakajima and Hideto Asamura each drove in a run to tie the score in the top of the ninth inning and rookie reliever Kazuhisa Makita kept the Chiba Lotte Marines off the scoreboard in the bottom half as the two Pacific League squads played out a 5-5 nine-inning tie on Saturday at QVC Marine Field.

“We’re disappointed that we didn’t get the result that we wanted,” designated hitter Jose Fernandez said. “That’s part of the game. “We’re not going to win every single game. We came from behind and at least we tied it in the ninth inning against the closer. We’ll continue to take it one game at a time and see what happens.”

The Lions are in a three-way fight with the Orix Buffaloes and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles for the third and final spot in the PL Climax Series. The fourth-place Lions trail the third-place Buffaloes by 4½ games.

Seibu began the month in last place and seemingly out of the race, but has gone 15-3-2 in September and is currently on a nine-game unbeaten streak.

“We have a good team and finally we’re putting things together,” Fernandez said. “We gotta play game by game. You can’t think about streaks, you can’t think about yesterday, you can’t think about what happened one month ago.”

On Saturday, all the Lions were thinking about was not letting it come to an end against the Marines.

Lotte struck first, taking a 1-0 lead in the second inning on an RBI single from Katsuya Kakunaka. The Marines added another run in the frame on an RBI groundout by Naoki Matoba.

“I just wanted to do something positive since I haven’t had too many chances lately,” Kakunaka said.

Takumi Kuriyama’s sacrifice fly put a run on the board for the Lions in the fifth inning. They loaded the bases with none out in the next inning, eventually taking the lead on a two-run single by Yasuyuki Kataoka.

“I felt like I would get something to hit,” Kuriyama said. “I was able to hit it well enough to get the job done.”

The Marines began the eighth with a single from Shunichi Nemoto, who went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Toshiaki Imae. Tadahito Iguchi drove in Nemoto with a single to center. Kakunaka then singled and Fukuura added a pinch-hit two-run double to give the Marines a 5-3 advantage.

Kuriyama led off the ninth with a single off closer Yasuhiko Yabuta, and the next batter, Takuya Hara, walked. Nakajima then pulled the Lions within a run with a single up the middle. Home run leader Takeya Nakamura was retired on a flyball to center, but a walk to Yutaro Osaki loaded the bases. Asamura then tied the game with a sacrifice fly to center.

Makita hit the first batter he faced in the bottom of the ninth before retiring the next three to end the game.

The two squads meet again on Sunday in Chiba, with Hayden Penn taking the mound for the Marines against the Lions’ Takayuki Kishi.

Tanaka tosses shutout


Masahiro Tanaka pitched his fourth shutout of the season as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles trounced the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 8-0 on Saturday.

Tanaka (16-5) tied Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters ace Yu Darvish for the Japanese baseball lead with his career-high 16th win after scattering eight hits and striking out seven without a walk at Kleenex Stadium.

The 22-year-old right-hander also lowered his baseball-best ERA to 1.35. Rakuten snapped a five-game losing streak.

The Pacific League-leading Hawks remain one win away from clinching a Climax Series playoff berth.

Buffaloes 5, Fighters 0

At Sapporo Dome, Chihiro Kaneko (9-3) struck out 11 in a two-hit shutout of Hokkaido Nippon Ham as surging Orix won for the seventh time in eight games.

Shogo Akada opened the scoring with a two-out RBI single in the fourth and added a two-run triple in the eighth. Rookie Yuki Saito (5-6) gave up one run and nine hits in 6⅓ innings for Nippon Ham, which has gone seven games without a win.


Dragons 3, Swallows 2

At Nagoya Dome, Motonobu Tanishige delivered a walk-off single in the ninth inning off Lim Chang Yong (3-2) as Chunichi rallied to beat Tokyo Yakult for its fifth straight win.

Second-place Chunichi has won the first three games of the four-game series to move within 1½ games of the Swallows.

Kazuhiro Hatakeyama hit a two-run homer to give Yakult a 2-0 lead in the first. Yohei Oshima had an RBI double in the second before a Ryosuke Hirata leadoff homer tied the game in the seventh.

Tigers 9, Giants 4

At Koshien Stadium, Kohei Shibata and Craig Brazell drove in three runs apiece, leading Hanshin over Yomiuri.

Ryo Watanabe (5-1) won in relief. Shun Tono (7-11) was roughed up for five runs in two innings.

Carp 2, BayStars 1

At Yokohama Stadium, Brian Barden drew a bases-loaded walk to plate the go-ahead run with two outs in the top of the ninth inning as Hiroshima edged Yokohama.