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Nakamura carries Lions to sixth straight triumph, into PL Climax Series

Slugger delivers game-winning HR in ninth

Kyodo

Takeya Nakamura hit a tiebreaking homer leading off the ninth inning Saturday, lifting the Seibu Lions to a 2-1 win over the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to send his team into the Pacific League Climax Series for the fourth year in a row.

With their sixth consecutive win, the Lions were assured of at least third place to grab the final playoff berth for a meeting against the Chiba Lotte Marines in the first stage of the Climax Series starting Oct. 12. The winner of the best-of-three series will play PL champion Rakuten in the final stage beginning Oct. 17.

Four-time PL home run king Nakamura, who has been limited to just 24 games this season after surgery on his left knee last fall, lofted a 1-1 fastball from Eagles rookie Takahiro Norimoto (14-8) over the wall in left-center for the decisive blow — just his fourth homer this year.

“I was just hoping to make contact and help our team win,” said Nakamura. “I haven’t been hitting all too well, but sometimes I’m able to come through and contribute, so I’m happy about that.”

The Eagles drew first blood on a Tadashi Ishimine sacrifice fly in the second but Seibu got even on Ryo Sakata’s sacrifice fly two innings later at Kleenex Stadium.

Takayuki Kishi (11-5) tossed one-run ball over eight innings en route to winning his ninth consecutive decision and Hideaki Wakui, who has pitched in nine straight games, grabbed his sixth save with a scoreless ninth. PL winner Rakuten lost its third in a row.

Norimoto, who set an Eagles record this season for wins by a rookie, was making just his second relief appearance of the season.

“The team is really on a hot streak and we want to keep up this same momentum as we head into the playoffs,” Nakamura said.

Hawks 3, Fighters 0

At Sapporo Dome, rookie right-hander Nao Higashihama threw his first career shutout, Seiichi Uchikawa homered and Fukuoka Softbank wrapped up its regular season on a winning note by ending a three-game skid.

Higashihama (3-1) allowed four hits, all singles, walked none and struck out 10. But fourth-place Softbank was denied a playoff berth after Seibu defeated Rakuten.

Hiroshi Kisanuki (9-8) took the loss for last-place Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

Marines 9, Buffaloes 4

At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Toshiaki Imae went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs to power Chiba Lotte past Orix.

Takuya Furuya (9-1) labored over five innings, allowing three runs and six hits while walking five and hitting a batter but got the win. Brandon Dickson (8-8) was chased after yielding five runs in two-plus innings.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Tigers 4, Giants 3

At Koshien Stadium, rookie Shintaro Fujinami allowed three runs in five innings, but was bailed out when Hanshin scored four runs in the eighth to beat Yomiuri in the farewell game for veteran outfielder Shinjiro Hiyama.

Hiroki Uemoto hit a three-run homer to tie it, and Giants errors allowed the go-ahead run to score.

BayStars 4, Dragons 3 (11)

At Nagoya Dome, Hitoshi Tamura’s 11th-inning sacrifice fly lifted Yokohama over Chunichi in a game that saw outgoing slugger Takeshi Yamasaki, Japan’s oldest active position player, play first base and bat cleanup for the Dragons.

Keeping with that theme, 48-year-old lefty Masahiro Yamamoto started for the Dragons, while BayStars ace, 39-year-old Daisuke Miura went for the visitors. The 44-year-old Yamasaki went 1-for-5 to finish his career with 1,834 hits and 403 home runs.

Swallows at Carp — ppd.