• The Associated Press

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Nobuhiko Matsunaka went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs Sunday as the Softbank Hawks wrapped up first place in the Pacific League standings with a 4-2 win over the Seibu Lions.

News photoNobuhiko Matsunaka of the Hawks belts a two-run homer during the fourth inning of Sunday’s
game against the Lions at Invoice Seibu Dome. Fukuoka Softbank beat Seibu 4-2 and secured a
first-place finish in the Pacific League standings.

Softbank’s win means the Lions will play in the first-stage playoffs against the Chiba Lotte Marines starting on Oct. 8. The Hawks will wait to face the winner of that series in the second-stage playoffs, with the winner advancing to the Japan Series to play the Central League champions.

Matsunaka connected for his league-leading 45th homer in the fourth inning with a two-run shot to center off Seibu starter Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Matsunaka also drove in a run in the sixth with a double to right that gave Sadaharu Oh’s team a 3-0 lead.

Softbank starter Kazumi Saito improved to 16-1 on the season after holding the Lions to two runs on five hits over 8 2/3 innings at Invoice Seibu Dome.

Marines 11, Eagles 8

At Fullcast Stadium in Sendai, Matt Franco went 4-for-5 with four RBIs to lead Chiba Lotte to a win over Rakuten.

Following the game, there were reports that the expansion Eagles, who lost their 95th game of the season, were set to release manager Yasushi Tao.

Fighters 6, Buffaloes 2

At Osaka Dome, Hichori Morimoto connected for a three-run homer in the top of the fourth inning to lead Nippon Ham past Orix.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Tigers 6, Carp 4

At Hiroshima Stadium, Makoto Imaoka connected for a three-run homer in the top of the ninth inning as Hanshin downed the Carp to reduce its magic number to clinch the pennant to three.

Dragons 3, Giants 0

At Nagoya Dome, Kosuke Fukudome connected for a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning to power Chunichi over Yomiuri.

BayStars 4, Swallows 1

At Jingu Stadium, Yuji Yoshimi gave up one run on six hits over seven innings and Marc Kroon retired the side in the ninth as Yokohama downed Yakult.

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