SAPPORO – Needing a win to stay in first place in the Pacific League, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters got a big day from their reserves on Monday afternoon to edge the Orix Buffaloes 5-4 at Sapporo Dome.
Pinch hitter Kenshi Sugiya broke a 4-4, eighth-inning tie with an RBI single after the Buffaloes had scored twice in the top of the inning. Closer Hisashi Takeda retired the visitors in order in the ninth to record his 27th save.
With one out and a runner on third, Sugiya’s grounder barely got under the glove of diving second baseman Mitsutaka Goto, but it was enough to bring home veteran Makoto Kaneko from third.
“That was awfully close, but it worked out,” said the 21-year-old who is 3-for-6 as a pinch hitter this year. “The ball went in just the right place.”
Playing for the seventh straight day and with two more to go before their next day off, Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama rested his starting pitchers and regular catcher Shinya Tsuruoka against the last-place Buffaloes and got the win he wanted.
Rookie reliever Toshiharu Moriuchi made his starting debut in his 51st game of the season and allowed two runs in three innings. His start allows the Fighters to go with lefty Masaru Takeda on Tuesday.
Nippon Ham, which started the day a half-game ahead of the second-place Seibu Lions, took the lead in a four-run fourth.
Micah Hoffpauir, Kaneko and Yang Dai-kang each had RBI singles while 20-year-old second baseman Haruki Nishikawa capped the rally with an RBI double. Kensuke Kato, a 19-year-old rookie catcher making his first start, kept the rally alive with a two-out single.
“When Haruki and Kondo got their hits, I was wondering what I was going to do,” Sugiya said. “I just sat and waited.”
The Fighters loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh but lefty Shinya Nakayama escaped the jam and Hirotoshi Masui (5-4), the Fighters’ fifth pitcher, allowed two runs on three hits in one inning.
Veteran Taiwanese lefty Hsu Ming-chieh (0-2), however, surrendered a leadoff double to Kaneko. A sacrifice by Taiwan’s Yang forced the Buffaloes to play shallow, allowing Sugiya’s grounder to squeak through.
Marines 11, Eagles 5
At Kleenex Stadium, Chiba Lotte won its fourth straight with a win over Tohoku Rakuten and leapfrogged the Golden Eagles into fourth place. The Marines opened the scoring with a four-run, six-hit first inning off Manabu Mima (7-9) and Seth Greisinger (10-8) worked eight innings.
Greisinger allowed three runs, two earned, in the third, but retired the Eagles in order six times. Ikuhiro Kiyota, who nearly scuttled the Marines’ first by grounding into a double play before a run had scored, redeemed himself by driving in three runs.
Hawks 2, Lions 1
At Yahoo Dome, Fukuoka Softbank’s Tadashi Settsu (16-5) allowed a run in seven innings to win his sixth straight start and his seventh straight decision, beating Seibu to knock the Lions 1½ games behind the first-place Fighters.
Settsu, who leads both leagues in wins, allowed six hits and a walk, while striking out eight. Hitoshi Tamura homered off Takayuki Kishi (10-10) in the second with a man on.
Dragons 2, Giants 0
At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi’s Masahiro Araki unlocked a scoreless tie in the eighth inning as the Dragons defeated Yomiuri and froze the Giants’ magic number to win the CL pennant at five. Araki doubled in two runs off starter Yuki Koyama (2-2) following a pinch-hit double by Kei Nomoto and a single by Yohei Oshima.
Dragons ace Kazuki Inoue left the mound with one out in the fourth inning with discomfort in his right shoulder. Takuya Asao, pitching for the first team for the first time since May 13, and three other relievers completed the shutout.
Swallows 5, Carp 4
At Mazda Stadium, Tokyo Yakult’s Hiroyasu Tanaka singled in two runs off Hiroshima closer Kam Mickolio (3-5) in the ninth inning as the third-place Swallows moved four games clear of the fourth-place Carp.
Swallows closer Tony Barnette, who had pitched the three previous days, was forced into action with two on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. The right-hander retired pinch hitter Tomonori Maeda on two pitches to record his 28th save.
BayStars 4, Tigers 4 (9)
At Koshien Stadium, Yokohama’s Masaaki Koike singled in the tying run with two outs in the top of the ninth, and BayStars closer Shun Yamaguchi retired Hanshin in order in the bottom of the inning to force a tie in the 3-hour, 34-minute game.
The visitors took a first-inning lead on Tatsuya Shimozono’s three-run double off Randy Messenger. The Tigers, however, grabbed a 4-3 lead in the seventh, when Takashi Toritani tripled with the bases loaded off BayStars ace Daisuke Miura.