TOKOROZAWA, SAITAMA PREF. – Hideto Asamura, the Pacific League’s player of the month for July, saved some magic for August, belting a three-run sayonara home run as the Seibu Lions pulled out a 7-6 victory over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters on Wednesday.
Trailing by two runs with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, Asamura took Fighters closer Hisashi Takeda (2-2) deep for his 20th home run of the season.
“What matters is that we won, it wouldn’t do to lose games back to back,” said the Lions’ 22-year-old cleanup hitter. “But I expect to hit more home runs. I have higher goals than this.”
Esteban German doubled with one out against Takeda and Naoto Watanabe drew a walk to set the table for Asamura, who drove in the last four runs for the Lions, who had been whipped 13-1 the night before.
The Fighters appeared headed for victory after Keiji Obiki untied the game with a two-run, eighth-inning double off lefty Randy Williams.
Lions ace Hideaki Wakui (5-5) worked a scoreless ninth to earn the win in relief.
The Fighters opened the scoring in the first inning following a hustling leadoff double from Daikan Yoh. After a sacrifice bunt, Sho Nakata plated the run with a sharp single to right.
The Lions tied it in the home half, when lefty Justin Thomas walked Ryan Spilborghs with the bases loaded.
Fighters’ designated hitter Michel Abreu doubled in two runs in the top of the third, but the Lions managed to tie it again in the bottom of the inning. After two, one-out singles and another walk to load the bases, Spilborghs delivered a sacrifice fly and then the fun began. With two outs and runners on the corners, Asamura scored from third on a perfectly perpetrated double steal.
Shogo Akiyama lit off early for second then Thomas threw behind him to first. With the Fighters infielders attentive to the runner at third, Akiyama kept the farce between first and second up for some time. When it appeared a tag was imminent between first and second, Asamura sped home. First baseman Atsunori Inaba’s throw beat the runner home, but backup catcher Kensuke Kato failed to handle the tricky throw and the tying run scored.
That was enough of Thomas for the Fighters. He allowed three runs on three hits, three walks and a hit batsman in three innings, while striking out one. Keisuke Tanimoto worked two solid innings of relief. Hirotoshi Masui survived an error that allowed the leadoff man on to work a scoreless sixth, and the visitors took the lead with a run in the top of the seventh.
Ken Togame was pulled after surviving a bases-loaded jam in the fifth. He gave up three runs on seven hits, a walk and a hit batsman, while striking out five. Veteran lefty Kazuhisa Ishii worked a 1-2-3 sixth, but righty Tatsushi Masuda gave up the lead in the seventh on a hit batsman, a single and back-to-back walks to Abreu and Nakata, who collected his second RBI of the night.
But the Lions proved once more they could respond in kind. German, who leads the PL in on-base percentage, reached on a leadoff infield single against lefty Yuya Ishii. A sacrifice and a grounder put him at third, from where he scored on a single by Asamura, who leads the league with 73 RBIs.
Buffaloes 2, Eagles 1
At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Orix right-hander Chihiro Kaneko (9-6) worked seven scoreless innings and a controversial fair call on a Ryoichi Adachi RBI double broke a scoreless tie as league-leading Tohoku Rakuten lost for the first time since July 25.
Eagles starter Manabu Mima matched Kaneko with seven scoreless innings, but Koji Aoyama (2-4) allowed a run on three hits. The back breaker was Adachi’s double that was called fair by third base umpire Norihiro Akimura, who had fallen down and had his back to the ball.
Marines 2, Hawks 1
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Craig Brazell’s pinch-hit RBI single tied the game 1-1 in the top of the eighth inning, and Takashi Ogino plated the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth as Chiba Lotte came back late to defeat Fukuoka Softbank.
Hawks right-hander Vicente Padilla (3-6) entered a 1-0 game in the eighth and allowed both of the Marines’ runs. Lotte lefty Takuya Furuta allowed a run in seven innings but the win went to Tatsuya Uchi (1-0), who allowed a hit and a walk in a scoreless eighth. Naoya Masuda earned his PL-best 25th save.
Giants 12, BayStars 6
At Yokohama Stadium, Hisayoshi Chono’s 13th home run, a two-run, eighth-inning blast, broke a 5-5 tie and league-leading Yomiuri routed the BayStars in a five-run ninth inning.
Itaru Hashimoto and Shuichi Murata, who won two CL home run crowns with the BayStars, also homered for the Giants. The BayStars lost their seventh straight.
Tigers 7, Carp 1
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, lefty Minoru Iwata (2-4) allowed a run in seven innings despite giving up four hits, four walks and hitting a batter, and Hanshin took the lead for good on a first-inning Matt Murton RBI single in a win over Hiroshima.
Carp right-hander Kan Otake (5-7) gave up five runs, four earned, in five innings to take the loss. Ryota Arai hit his 11th homer for the Tigers, a two-run shot.
Swallows 4, Dragons 3
At Nagoya Dome, lefty Taiyo Fujita put out a fire in the ninth inning, retiring both batters he faced after coming on with the bases loaded and earning his first save since 2009 as Yakult beat Chunichi for the fourth straight time.
Fujita protected a one-run lead by getting CL batting leader Hector Luna to fly out. Swallows third baseman Shingo Kawabata then made a good catch in foul territory to retire slugger Kazuhiro Wada to end the game.