TOKOROZAWA, SAITAMA PREF. – In a game of high drama, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles clinched their first Pacific League pennant on Thursday night in a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Seibu Lions.
Rakuten ace Masahiro Tanaka made his first relief appearance of the season but had to pitch out of a two-on, one-out jam to nail down the save, clinch the pennant and preserve his streak of 26 consecutive winning decisions.
Moments before the final out, second-place Chiba Lotte’s game ended in Sapporo in a 6-5 defeat, meaning everything was on the line at Seibu Dome.
With the winning run on second base, Tanaka struck out Lions captain Takumi Kuriyama looking and struck out PL RBI leader Hideto Asamura swinging to start the party.
“I thought Masahiro would be able to get them out easily, but that didn’t happen,” manager Senichi Hoshino said. “But with the go-ahead run on second, I figured he’d gotten us this far, I was sticking with him.”
Andruw Jones overturned a 3-1 Lions lead with a two-out, bases-loaded double in the seventh, and Jim Heuser (2-1) worked 2⅓ scoreless innings to pick up the win in relief. Heuser left with an injury with one out in the eighth, and former big league All-Star Takashi Saito retired both batters he faced to get out of the eighth.
The Eagles began playing as an expansion franchise in 2005.
Fighters 6, Marines 5
At Sapporo Dome, Nippon Ham overturned a 3-0 deficit to defeat Lotte and knock the Marines out of pennant contention. The Fighters’ Michel Abreu passed injured teammate Sho Nakata for the PL lead in home runs with his 29th.
Buffaloes 8, Hawks 5
At Yafuoku Dome, Aarom Baldiris’ three-run home run highlighted a five-run sixth inning as Orix came from behind to beat Softbank ace Tadashi Settsu (15-8) and complete its first three-game sweep of the Hawks in two years.
Giants 4, Swallows 1
At Jingu Stadium, Tokyo Yakult’s Wladimir Balentien drove in a run in his pursuit of the triple crown but was unable to add to his single-season home run record of 58.
Balentien leads the CL with a .333 batting average and is two RBIs behind league leader Yokohama’s Tony Blanco.
Dragons 5, Carp 1
At Nagoya Dome, Yudai Ono (10-10) allowed eight hits over the distance as Chunichi defeated Carp ace Kenta Maeda (15-6), who entered the game with nine straight winning decisions.
BayStars 6, Tigers 4
At Koshien Stadium, DeNA won its 60th game of the season for the first time since 2007 as Takayuki Kajitani homered twice, and Tony Blanco hit his 38th home run and drove in two runs to maintain the league lead in RBIs.