TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. — Brian Sikorski offered a loud warning to every Pacific League pitcher: Watch out — Seibu’s Alex Cabrera is red hot.

Cabrera, who has only two homers in the last 10 games, remained at home run No. 54 — one short of the Japanese baseball single-season record — in the Lions’ 2-1 loss to the Chiba Lotte Marines at the Seibu Dome on Monday.

Sikorski, who came into the game in the seventh, smoked a fastball below Cabrera’s knees, but the Venezuelan golfed it up the middle for a single.

“I take my hat off. He just went down and hit a real hard pitch to hit,” Sikorski said. “He’s hot right now. He’s got a chance (to break the record). He’s definitely in the zone right now.”

Cabrera finished with two singles in four at-bats to take a step back in the Triple Crown race, dropping his average to .337, just behind Michihiro Ogasawara (.338) of the Nippon Ham Fighters.

In his first time at the plate, Cabrera popped out to deep center field on a full count and grounded out to short the next time around.

Chiba Lotte brought in Sikorski, who had held Cabrera to five strikeouts this season in nine matchups. But the two hits he allowed were both home runs.

After the base hit off Sikorski, Cabrera also singled to center — a 149-kph fastball by closer Masahide Kobayashi — to lead off the ninth.

“I don’t think any pitcher wants to give up home runs,” Sikorski said when asked if he ever worried about getting labeled as the guy that gave up the record.

“But I mean, the guy’s chasing history right now. If you’re a pitcher, you just have to hope everything works your way, or else.”

The Marines scored the winning run on rookie Toshiaki Imae’s double. The 19-year-old replaced Lotte’s star Kazuya Fukuura, who injured his left knee during pre-game warmups. It was Imae’s first hit and RBI in his career.

Buffaloes 4, Hawks 1

At the Osaka Dome, Tuffy Rhodes hit homers Nos. 45 and 46 and Hironori Fujisaki allowed one run and four hits in five innings for his first pro win as Kintetsu beat Daiei.

Rhodes hit a two-run blast to break a 1-1 tie in the third inning and connected for a solo shot to right to cap the scoring in the seventh.

BlueWave 5, Fighters 3

At the Tokyo Dome, Yoshitomo Tani went 2-for-5 with three RBIs and stole his 41st base as Orix beat Nippon Ham.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.