SENDAI – Masahiro Tanaka (24-0) allowed two runs in seven innings on Tuesday to win his 28th consecutive decision as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles came from behind to beat the Orix Buffaloes 7-3.
The right-hander allowed four hits and a walk, while striking out one, to win his 16th consecutive start. The Eagles ace also came out of the bullpen to earn a save on Sept. 26, when Rakuten won to clinch its first Pacific League pennant.
“I wasn’t good in the first and second innings, but after that I pitched well,” Tanaka said. “At that point I was able to fix things.
“Most important, it’s great that I’ve been able to maintain this kind of pitching until the end of the regular season. I was able to focus on each game at a time and concentrate and somehow got this result.”
Tanaka’s 24 wins are the most in Nippon Professional Baseball since Hall of Famer Keishi Suzuki went 25-10 in 1978. Tanaka has not lost since August 2012. The Eagles have two more games remaining on Saturday and Sunday here against Orix.
A crowd crowd of 19,433 came out to see Tanaka attempt to continue his historic run.
“I was so surprised and so happy to see this many people on a Tuesday. Are all you people actually working hard?” he joked during the on-field hero interview.
The Buffaloes got on the scoreboard in the first inning on a leadoff walk, a stolen base, a sacrifice and a throwing error by first baseman Ginji Akaminai, who tied it in the bottom of the inning with a sacrifice fly off Orix right-hander Yuki Nishi.
In the second, the Buffaloes once more took the lead, on a double steal, but Akaminai singled in another run to tie it and Shintaro Masuda’s tie-breaking, two-run double off Alessandro Maestri (7-5) highlighted a six-run third inning.
Lions 10, Marines 2
At Seibu Dome, Seibu seized the right to host the first stage of the PL Climax Series this weekend by winning its eighth straight game, a one-sided whipping of playoff opponent Lotte.
Chiba Lotte ace Yoshihisa Naruse (6-4) took the mound for the first time since June and allowed four runs — two earned — in three innings to take the loss as the Marines finished the regular season in third place, a game back of the Lions.
Giants 4, Swallows 3
At Tokyo Dome, Shuichi Murata’s two-run sayonara single off rookie reliever Taichi Ishiyama (3-3) lifted league champion Yomiuri to victory over Tokyo Yakult in its regular-season finale, costing Swallows rookie Yasuhiro Ogawa his 17th win.
Ogawa pitched into the eighth inning and allowed two runs.
Yakult’s Wladimir Balentien, whose 60 home runs set a single-season record, came out of the game after his first plate appearance and finished second in RBIs and batting average to Yokohama’s Tony Blanco.
BayStars 7, Tigers 5
At Yokohama Stadium, Yokohama hit four home runs, including two by outgoing veteran Masaaki Koike in a win over Hanshin.
Alex Ramirez, who will not return to the team next season, was activated for his final game with the BayStars and delivered a sacrifice fly in his first plate appearance since July 12.