TOKOROZAWA, SAITAMA PREF. – The Seibu Lions moved to within half a game of the Pacific League lead on Saturday, when they came from behind for the second straight day to defeat the front-running Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters at Seibu Dome.
Trailing 4-0 after the top of the second inning, the Lions completed the comeback in the eighth inning when veteran shortstop Makoto Kaneko dropped a potential double play grounder that allowed the go-ahead run to score in a 5-4 victory.
With the visitors leading 4-3 in the eighth, Hiroyuki Nakajima singled, and Yuji Onizaki laid down a two-strike sacrifice bunt that put two runners in scoring position. Esteban German then tied it with a single off right-hander Hirotoshi Masui (5-5).
With runners on the corners, pinch hitter Chris Carter hit a tailor-made double play ball to short, but Kaneko, for years the linchpin of the Fighters’ stellar defense, fumbled it and could only get one out.
“I thought that eventually, I would get a chance to contribute,” said Onizaki, who has not had a hit for Seibu since being acquired in a 2011 trade. “I can’t say there was no pressure. I did, however, believe I was going to get the bunt down.”
Hideaki Wakui came on in the ninth to collect his 26th save.
The Fighters jumped on 39-year-old Kazuhisa Ishii for three runs in the first inning starting with the lefty’s second pitch, which Yang Dai-kang drove out the opposite way at the right-field foul pole. Back-to-back, two-out RBI singles from Eiichi Koyano and Micah Hoffpauir made it 3-0.
Rookie Ken Togame was called on to get the final out in the first inning and surrendered a run in the top of the second before the Lions began to get into the game against Brian Wolfe.
Ginjiro Sumitani singled in Seibu’s first run in the bottom of the second. Three straight singles in the third produced a run but Shogo Akiyama made an out on the bases and that was all the hosts could muster.
Wolfe allowed two runs in 4 1/3 innings, and Yuya Ishii kept the lid on the Lions through the sixth. Seibu, however, scratched out a run in the seventh with the help of an error. Masato Kumashiro opened with a pinch-hit single, was bunted to second and took third on an errant pickoff throw from lefty Naoki Miyanishi.
“We didn’t give up when we were down 4-0,” said Lions second baseman Hideto Asamura who went 3-for-4 and singled in the seventh-inning run. “We may lose, but we’re not going to give up.”
Hawks 4, Eagles 2
At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Fukuoka Softbank’s Yuichi Honda singled in two runs with two outs in the top of the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie after an error by Tohoku Rakuten third baseman Ginji Akaminai gave the visitors an extra out.
Masahiko Morifuku (2-5), the second of four Hawks relievers after starter Yang Yao-hsun allowed two runs in five innings, got the win. The five Softbank hurlers combined to hold their hosts to just three hits.
Marines 8, Buffaloes 3
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Chiba Lotte rookie Takahiro Fujioka (6-6) went eight innings to win his second straight start, and Toshiaki Imae delivered the knockout blow with a fifth-inning grand slam as the Marines sent Orix to its first 10-game losing streak in five years.
Ikuhiro Kiyota opened the scoring with one out in the first with a solo homer off Orix rookie Tomoyuki Kaida (0-3), while Josh Whitesell and Katsuya Kakunaka each singled in a run in the third. Kiyota did the same in the fourth to make it 4-0.
Swallows 9, Giants 3
At Tokyo Dome, Tokyo Yakult sent 13 batters to the plate in an eight-run third inning to hammer Yomiuri after the Giants celebrated winning the Central League pennant the night before.
Toshiya Sugiuchi (12-3) allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings to take the loss, while Swallows ace Masanori Ishikawa (7-11) gave up 11 hits but just one run over seven innings. The win lifted third-place Yakult seven games ahead of fourth-place Hiroshima in the race for the CL’s final playoff spot.
BayStars 7, Carp 4
At Yokohama Stadium, Yokohama won consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 21 as Takayuki Kajitani belted a three-run, fifth-inning homer off rookie Yusuke Nomura (9-10). Hiroshima lost a season-high seventh straight game and guaranteed a sub .500 finish for the 11th straight season.
The BayStars’ Yoshitomo Tsutsugo had three hits, while Alex Ramirez drove in two runs, going 0-for-3 and not reaching base. Closer Shun Yamaguchi worked the ninth to reach 20 saves for the third straight season.
Dragons 2, Tigers 0
At Koshien Stadium, Chunichi’s Junki Ito (1-0) worked 6-2/3 innings in his belated season debut and three relievers completed the four-hit shutout against Hanshin.
Yohei Oshima singled in a run in the second, while Hirokazu Ibata and Masahiko Morino had back-to-back hits in the eighth to set up the visitors’ second run.
Tigers starter Atsushi Nomi (9-10) allowed two runs in eight innings to take the tough loss as the Tigers fell 20 games under .500 for the first time in 11 years.
Okada won’t return
The Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes announced Saturday that manager Akinobu Okada will not be offered a new contract when his current three-year deal expires at the end of the season.
The 54-year-old Okada came to Orix in 2010 after managing the Hanshin Tigers from 2004 to 2008. Hanshin won the Central League pennant in 2005 but was swept out of the Japan Series in four games. The Tigers reached the CL Climax Series in 2007 and 2008, but Okada stepped down after the team fell for the second straight season in the first stage.
The Buffaloes finished fifth in his first year at the helm and fourth last season, but have crashed into last this season. On Sept. 18, the team was eliminated from playoff contention.
A slugging second baseman, Okada starred at Waseda University and was a key member of the Tigers’ only Japan Series championship team in 1985. The Osaka native finished his playing career with the Orix BlueWave.