TOKOROZAWA, SAITAMA PREF. – The Seibu Lions’ hopes of their first Pacific League pennant in four years are now as slim as can be after a 4-0 defeat to the Chiba Lotte Marines on Monday.
The loss left the Lions 3½ games behind the PL-leading Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, who were idle but had their magic number to clinch the pennant reduced to one. The Lions need to win all five of their remaining games to have any chance of winning the pennant.
The Marines’ Katsuya Kakunaka added another highlight to his breakthrough season with a two-run, first-inning triple and a pair of RBI singles. Seth Greisinger (12-8) held the Lions to three hits in seven innings. The right-hander struck out five without allowing a walk.
“We can’t allow ourselves to fall behind, because the way our lineup is at the moment, it’s very hard for us to come from behind,” said Lions manager Hisanobu Watanabe, whose cleanup hitter, Takeya Nakamura, is slumping while big-hitting shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima is not completely healthy.
“If you are playing defensively, you can’t seize the decisive moment. Of course, we understand it’s a critical game, but we failed to get the job done. Handing another team the pennant by losing two straight games is lame.”
Kakunaka’s 3-for-4 night saw him take over the league batting lead with a .314 average.
Lions lefty Yusei Kikuchi (4-3) allowed four runs in 4⅓ innings to take the loss.
Buffaloes 3, Eagles 2
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Orix’s Keiji Obiki drove in two runs, tying the game at 2-2 with an RBI double in the fifth and hitting a tie-breaking solo homer in the eighth as the Buffaloes came from behind to beat Tohoku Rakuten.
Buffaloes starter Yuki Nishi (7-3) allowed two runs in eight innings to win for the first time since July 17. A botched second-inning squeeze by Rakuten resulted in a double play as the visitors managed just two runs in the inning.
Swallows 5, Giants 0
At Jingu Stadium, Tokyo Yakult lefty Ryosuke Yagi (1-0) scattered five hits and four walks over seven scoreless innings to win for the first time in his career two days after his 22nd birthday.
With both teams having locked up their spots in the Central League Climax Series, D.J. Houlton (12-8) started for the Giants and allowed two runs in five innings. Struggling right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura entered in relief of Houlton and allowed three runs in three innings.
Dragons 5, BayStars 2
At Yokohama Stadium, Chunichi’s Ryosuke Hirata hit a tie-breaking three-run homer in the sixth inning in a win over last-place Yokohama. Veteran catcher Motonobu Tanishige opened the scoring with a second-inning homer off southpaw Shugo Fujii (7-7).
DeNA starter Fujii became the 133rd pitcher to strike out 1,000 batters in his career in the first inning, when he fanned Dragons veteran Masahiro Araki.
The BayStars’ Alex Ramirez, who is eight hits shy of 2,000 in his career, did not play after hurting his knee on Sunday.