Lions hang on in title race


The Seibu Lions kept their slim title chances alive and simultaneously put some added pressure on the first-place Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters with a 4-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes on Sunday afternoon.

With the second-place Lions’ victory over the Buffaloes coupled by the Fighters’ 4-1 loss to the Softbank Hawks later the same night, the Lions moved within three games of the PL-leading Fighters.

Nippon Ham, whose magic number remained at two and will be idle until Wednesday, can still clinch its first PL title in three years at the earliest on Tuesday, if Seibu loses two in a row to the Lotte Marines, or loses once and ties Lotte once.

Shogo Akiyama had a tiebreaking two-run double in the third inning off Tomoyuki Kaida (0-4), and Jose Ortiz hit a solo home run with two outs for insurance in the fifth. Akiyama was happy to help lift his teammates’ spirits after suffering two straight defeats to the Fighters on Friday and Saturday in Sapporo.

“During practice the team was in a foul mood, but once the game begins, we can’t be concerned about that,” said Akiyama, who scored the opening run after reaching on a single in the first before his double with none out in the third.

Aarom Baldiris hit a sacrifice fly to bring Orix within one in the eighth, but it was not enough.

Kazuhisa Makita (13-8) allowed three runs — one unearned — while scattering eight hits in eight innings of work. Hideaki Wakui got the final three outs for his 29th save.

Outfielder Akiyama also made a fine diving catch in right-center to prevent a run from scoring with two outs in the sixth. “Makita-san was struggling since he was pitching on three days’ rest. I had to catch that ball.”

Hawks 4, Fighters 1

At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Softbank captain Hiroki Kokubo put his team in the driver’s seat with a go-ahead two-run homer and added another two-run shot in his next at-bat, helping the Hawks end a two-game losing skid with a win over Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

Tadashi Settsu (17-5) used an effective sinker to throw one-run ball over six innings, becoming the winningest pitcher in Japanese baseball this season.

The Fighters’ Masaru Nakamura (2-2) could not deliver with his curveball and was chased in three innings.


Dragons 13, BayStars 2

At Yokohama Stadium, Kazuhiro Wada hit a three-run homer and Ryosuke Hirata followed with a solo blast to key an 11-run fifth inning against Taiwan’s Wang I-cheng (0-4) as Chunichi walloped Yokohama with a season-high 13 runs.

The Dragons sent 15 batters to the plate and rapped out nine hits to take a 12-2 lead in the big inning. Kenichi Nakata (7-9) limited the damage to two runs and five hits in five innings.

Tigers 2, Carp 1

At Mazda Stadium, Issei Morita had a run-scoring triple and Hayata Ito added an RBI single in the fourth inning, leading Hanshin in a win over Hiroshima.

Tigers outfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto, who will retire at the end of the season, went 1-for-3 with a walk in his final game against the team he played 11 years from his rookie season in 1992.

Giants at Swallows — ppd.