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While the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and Orix Buffaloes vie for position at the top of the Pacific League standings, it’s the four teams behind them who may hold the real key to winning the Pa League pennant.

Softbank’s Toru Hosokawa, Kenji Akashi and Kenta Imamiya all had RBI singles in the second inning of a 3-2 win over Orix on Sunday that gave the Hawks a 1½-game lead at the top of the standings. The Hawks and Buffaloes have been easily the best two teams in the league all year and are threatening to separate themselves from the pack — the third-place Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters are already 7½ games behind the second-place Buffaloes.

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