SENDAI – Seiichi Uchikawa delivered a tiebreaking single in the top of the ninth inning as the Softbank Hawks beat the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles 2-1 on Sunday to become the first team to clinch a playoff berth.
The Hawks also stretched their Pacific League lead to 10½ games over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, who lost to the Orix Buffaloes 4-0 the same day, while cutting their magic number to seven for winning the PL title.
Munenori Kawasaki reached on a fielding error by Rakuten shortstop Kazuo Matsui leading off the ninth and advanced to second on a Yuichi Honda sacrifice bunt before scoring on Uchikawa’s base hit up the middle.
Takahiro Mahara stranded the potential tying run at second in the bottom half to earn his 15th save.
Brian Falkenborg (1-2) won in relief of starter Tadashi Settsu, who pitched seven innings of one-run ball. Hiroshi Katayama (1-3) took the loss.
A Yuya Hasegawa sac fly got Softbank on the board in the second. Luis Garcia hit a game-tying single in the sixth.
“I wanted to come through no matter what in that situation,” said Uchikawa, who leads the league with a .333 batting average. “I couldn’t forgive myself for a defensive miscue yesterday. I can’t make up for it by just playing well today. I’ll just do my best to remain focused.”
In Saturday’s 8-0 loss to Rakuten, Kensuke Uchimura hit an inside-the-park home run in the third inning thanks to left fielder as Uchikawa let the ball down the left-field line get past him.
Lions 4, Marines 1
At QVC Marine Field, Takayuki Kishi pitched a complete game and Takeya Nakamura hit his baseball-leading 42nd home run as Seibu beat Chiba Lotte to extend its unbeaten streak to 10.
Buffaloes 4, Fighters 0
At Sapporo Dome, Alfredo Figaro (8-6) pitched seven shutout innings as Orix completed a three-game sweep of Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Swallows 6, Dragons 1
At Nagoya Dome, Shinya Miyamoto and Yasushi Iihara each hit two-run doubles in the first inning as Yakult avoided a four-game sweep and pushed its CL lead back to 2½ games over Chunichi.
Giants 4, Tigers 2
At Koshien Stadium, Tetsuya Utsumi regained a share of the league lead in wins as Yomiuri topped Hanshin.
Utsumi (15-5) held the Tigers to one unearned run in seven innings. The Giants strung together five hits in the third to take a 3-0 lead against Randy Messenger (11-4).
Carp 10, BayStars 4
At Yokohama Stadium, Hiroshima chased Kentaro Takasaki (5-13) in a five-run fourth inning and pounded out a total of 18 hits to beat Yokohama.
Kenta Kurihara and Brian Barden each went 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Keisuke Imai (1-0) allowed one unearned run over six innings in his first start of the season.