SENDAI – Kazuo Matsui’s seventh homer of the season could not have come at a more important time as his two-run walk-off shot in the 10th inning gave the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles a 3-1 win against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks on Monday.
With one out and Kazuya Fujita on first, team captain Matsui took fellow former major leaguer Hideki Okajima (0-2) deep into the left-field bleachers for Rakuten’s sixth sayonara win of the year.
“I had a couple of other chances earlier that I couldn’t capitalize on and I was feeling bad about that,” said Matsui, whose only hit of the game in five at-bats turned out to be the home run.
“But I’m glad we came away with the result we wanted in the end — in style, too. I’ve never homered for the right side of the plate (at Kleenex Stadium) so I wasn’t sure where the ball was going when I connected.”
The victory, the Eagles’ third in five games, pulled Rakuten within three games of defending Japan Series champion Softbank for the Pacific League’s third Climax Series spot. Rakuten has eight games remaining.
The Eagles nearly wasted a strong outing from their ace Masahiro Tanaka, who allowed one earned run on seven hits in nine innings, tying a season high with 13 strikeouts. Koji Aoyama (5-4) took the mound in the 10th for the win.
The Hawks, on the other hand, failed to provide run support for their starter Tadashi Settsu, who scattered seven hits and fanned nine over eight innings, allowing just one earned run.
Despite the morale-boosting victory, Matsui, who launched his fourth career walk-off blast, said his team cannot let up down the stretch run of the season.
“We won this one for all, all for one,” Matsui said. “But we have to stay sharp because we just have no margin for error.”
Marines 3, Buffaloes 0
At QVC Marine Field, Seth Greisinger threw his first shutout in three years for Chiba Lotte, pitching a three-hitter against Orix which tied a team worst with its 11th loss in a row and ensured itself of a last-place finish.
Greisinger (11-8) struck out six during a 102-pitch effort. The last shutout he pitched was on April 21, 2009, against the Yakult Swallows as a member of the Yomiuri Giants.