SAPPORO – As if on cue, the Pacific League pennant winner Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles came through for right-hander Masahiro Tanaka — and big.
After being held scoreless in three consecutive games since clinching the PL title on Sept. 26, the Eagles erupted with a six-run third inning on Tuesday to give support to their ace in an 11-2 rout of the lowly Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
Tanaka limited the damage to two runs in six innings while scattering seven hits, extended his Japanese baseball record to 23-0 in decisions won since the start of the season. He won his 27th consecutive decision since Aug. 26, 2012 — also a Japan record.
“I was trying to go into this game like I usually do, but I wasn’t able to pitch the way I wanted tonight,” said Tanaka, who made his first start since Sept. 21 after notching the save in the title-clinching game last Thursday.
“I was somehow able to get the support for a win. My pitches really had no movement but I had patience. I really have to give the thanks to my teammates for all the support they give, or I wouldn’t be able to win games for us like this.”
Rakuten, which will appear in the final stage of the Climax Series playoffs in Sendai, scored its first run in 33 innings on Ginji Akaminai’s RBI double to open the scoring in the first before a Michel Abreu run-scoring single tied it in the bottom half.
But Andruw Jones served up a bases-clearing double off Fighters lefty starter Justin Thomas (0-2) before Motohiro Shima locked in for another three-run double, this time off reliever Keisuke Tanimoto, to give the Eagles the lead for good in the big inning at Sapporo Dome.
Rakuten, which won its 80th game of the season, put the contest away with two runs each in the fifth and sixth innings.
Lions 4, Marines 2
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Seibu overturned a 2-1 deficit with a sacrifice fly by Takeya Nakamura and Ryo Sakata’s RBI single in the fourth inning en route to beating Chiba Lotte.
Ryoma Nogami (10-7) picked up the win with 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief.
Hawks 9, Buffaloes 2
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Akira Nakamura went 4-for-5 with a solo homer and two RBIs and Fukuoka Softbank rapped out 20 hits to pound Orix.
The Hawks moved within a half game of second-place Lotte. Kazuyuki Hoashi (8-7) pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings.
Giants 1, Swallows 0
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, lefty Toru Anan (1-0) combined with four relievers in a shutout to record his first career win, Hisayoshi Chono had an RBI single and CL pennant winner Yomiuri downed Tokyo Yakult.
The Swallows will finish in last place for the first time in six years.
Tigers 8, Dragons 4
At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin captain Takashi Toritani hit a tying two-run homer in the third inning off Kentaro Nishikawa (1-6) and the Tigers pulled ahead with two runs in the fourth on the way to winning their 70th game for the first time in three seasons.
Blaine Boyer (3-1) got the win in relief.