The Hokkaido Nippon Fighters nearly broke through against Manabu Mima after a double by Sho Nakata in the sixth inning.
That turned out to be just a dress rehearsal. In the eighth, however, it was “Sho Time.”
Nakata hit a go-ahead two-run double off Mima late in the game to help propel the Fighters to a 2-1 win over the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.
“I felt like it would be good to swing at the first pitch,” Nakata said of his pivotal at-bat. “I’m really happy I could get a hit.”
The victory extended the Fighters’ unbeaten streak to five.
“We’re just taking it one game at a time and will keep doing our best,” Nakata said.
Mima had shut the Fighters out for 7 1/3 innings when pinch hitter Takahiro Imanami stepped to the plate. Imanami, hitting in place of Yuya Taniguchi, who ended the top of the eighth by nailing a runner at the plate from right field, singled into center and was replaced by pinch runner Kenji Sugiya.
Haruki Nishikawa hit a sharp grounder near first base and an error by Jose Fernandez allowed him to advance to second while Sugiya went to third. Nakata then got on top of a slider, and the ball bounced over Shintaro Masuda at third and into the outfield, allowing both runners to score.
“Nishikawa had done his best, so I just wanted to get on base by any means,” Nakata said.
Eiichi Koyano singled into center to drive in an insurance run later in the inning.
Closer Hisashi Takeda retired the side the ninth for his Pacific League-leading 23rd save of the season.
Dustin Molleken (1-1), who joined the team in July, threw one-third of an inning to earn his first career NPB win in relief. Fighters starter Masaru Takeda threw 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball before leaving after twisting his left ankle in the eighth.
Mima (7-7) was charged with the loss, his first in three starts, after allowing three runs — two earned — on eight hits. Mima struck out eight and walked two.
The right-hander got almost no run support from the Eagles, with the team’s lone run coming when Ryo Hijirisawa sent the third pitch of the game into the seats in right.
“It was good I could hit a home run in front of the fans who made the trip,” Hijirisawa said, remarking that he doesn’t hit for power often. The homer was his second of the season and first since July 29 against the Seibu Lions.
Having been stymied for most of the night, the Fighters showed signs of life in the sixth, when Nakata reached down to stroke a low curveball into center field for a one-out double, bringing Atsunori Inaba, who entered the game with a .343 average with runners in scoring position, to the plate with a chance to do damage.
The threat ended as suddenly as it began, as Mima struck out Inaba and the next batter, Koyano, to preserve the Eagles’ slim advantage.
The Rakuten offense nearly paid Mima back in the eighth.
Motohiro Shima led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Reliever Yuya Ishii then entered the game and retired Hijirisawa before walking Ginji Akaminai. Fernandez lined a single into right and the third base coach sent Shima home, but Taniguchi scooped up the ball and made a strong throw to the plate, to nail the runner and end the inning.
Hawks edge Lions
Tokorozawa Saitama Pref. KYODO
Fukuoka Softbank’s Kenji Akashi and Hitoshi Tamura hit back-to-back, two-out RBI singles in the 10th inning to make a winner out of starter Tadashi Settsu (14-5) who allowed three runs in nine innings. The Hawks defeated the Seibu Lions 5-3.
Buffaloes 3, Marines 1
At Kyocera Dome, Orix’s Hiroshi Kisanuki (5-8) allowed a run in his fifth complete game of the season, holding Lotte to a run on four hits and sending Chiba Lotte to its fourth straight loss.
BayStars 2, Swallows 1
At Yokohama Stadium, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo drove in both of Yokohama’s runs as the BayStars came from behind to beat Yakult and snap a three-game losing streak. Ace right-hander Daisuke Miura (9-7) allowed a run in eight innings, while Shun Yamaguchi recorded his 18th save.
Dragons 10, Carp 2
At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi’s Tony Blanco homered twice and drove in five runs, and ace Kazuki Yoshimi (12-4) went the distance as the Dragons beat Hiroshima for the fifth straight time. Yoshimi moved into a tie for the league lead in wins.
Giants 7, Tigers 3
At Koshien Stadium, with the game tied 3-3 in the ninth inning, the Yomiuri bench delivered.
Back-to-back, extra-base hits by Kenji Yano and pinch-hitter Yoshitomo Tani broke the tie and the Central League-leaders went on to beat Hanshin.