Lions clinch playoff berth


A day after their pennant aspirations were crushed, the Seibu Lions clinched a spot in the Pacific League playoffs on Wednesday with a 4-2 win over the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Rookie right-hander Ken Togame (6-0) made his starting debut after 39 relief appearances and allowed two runs on seven hits in six-plus innings in a game that saw the Lions turn five double plays.

Takeya Nakamura homered for the Lions in the second off 18-year-old rookie Yoshinao Kamata (7-4). Togame, the Lions’ first draft pick last autumn, got out of a two-one, one-out jam in the home half of the second, when he started an inning-ending double play on a comebacker.

Jose Ortiz opened up the tight pitchers’ duel in the sixth with a two-run double, and Ginjiro Sumitani singled in another run in the inning.

“The fielders turning all those double plays was big,” said Togame, who struck out one without walking a batter. “I’m very grateful for their defensive support.

“I figured if I could shut them down for the first two innings, I could settle down. I’m really happy I could keep them off the board for six innings.”

Hawks 10, Fighters 1

At Sapporo Dome, Hokkaido Nippon Ham got hammered the day after clinching the PL pennant as teenage Fukuoka Softbank rookie Shota Takeda (8-1) allowed a run in 8⅔ innings.

The Hawks, who still have a shot at finishing second in the PL and playing the Climax Series’ first stage at home, got on the board in the second through an RBI double from Kenta Imamiya and a run-scoring single from catcher Toru Hosokawa. Hiroki Kokubo, who will retire at the end of the season, chipped in a two-run double in the third.

Buffaloes 2, Marines 1 (10)

At Kyocera Dome, Orix’s Keiji Obiki hit a game-tying homer in the seventh inning, and Aarom Baldiris won it for the Buffaloes with an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th as Chiba Lotte was eliminated from playoff contention.

Yuki Miyazaki set up the winning score with a leadoff double off Marines closer Yasuhiko Yabuta (1-5) and was sacrificed to third by Obiki. Two straight intentional walks brought Baldiris to the plate, and the Venezuelan singled to center to win it.


Dragons 4, Tigers 1

At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi’s Masahiro Araki drove in a run in each of his first two at-bats and four Dragons pitchers held Hanshin to two hits. Masahiro Yamamoto (3-2) pitched three scoreless innings of long relief to improve on his own record as the Central League’s oldest winning pitcher at 47-years, 1 month.

The Japan record for the oldest winning pitcher belongs to Shinji Hamazaki, who won his final game for the Hankyu Braves at the age of 48 years, 4 months in 1950. The loss left the Tigers 3½ games back of fourth-place Hiroshima, which was idle. The Tigers and Carp are battling for fourth place, and thus the only two CL teams with anything left to play for in the regular season.

BayStars 7, Swallows 4 (7)

At Yokohama Stadium, journeyman Shotaro Ide hit his first homer in two years, a two-run shot, to bring the BayStars from a run down in the fourth inning in a game that was called after the top of the seventh due to rain.

Yokohama’s Alex Ramirez, needing eight hits to reach 2,000 in Japan, was 0-for-1 with two walks on his 38th birthday. The BayStars have five games left to play in the regular season.