OSAKA – Shunta Goto saved a run with his defense and had two big hits on Thursday as the Orix Buffaloes beat the Pacific League-leading Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 3-2 to move within 2-1/2 games of the PL lead.
Goto made the play of the game in the first inning in center field, when he raced back, vaulted well up the center-field wall at Kyocera Dome to make a run-saving catch and then ended the inning by doubling off the Hawks’ lead runner.
Facing Shota Takeda (3-3), who was 2-0 in two starts against the Buffaloes this season, the play turned out to be huge. Orix capitalized on its opportunity with two runs against the right-hander in the second inning.
Esteban German drew a one-out walk from Takeda, who balked German to second. Goto singled sharply to put runners on the corners. A sharp fielding play by Takeda allowed the Hawks to nail German at the plate, but Orix catcher Hikaru Ito put the Buffaloes ahead with a single. Center fielder Yuki Yanagita charged Ito’s looping liner to shallow left center, but got caught in between hops.
The ball bounced high over his head allowing the trailing runner to score. Ito received credit for one RBI, with the second scoring on the error harshly charged to Yanagita.
“Takeda had made us look bad, so I was keen to have good at-bats, and am glad I could open the scoring,” said Ito, who had a tie-breaking two-run single the night before.
The Hawks got a run back in the top of the third when Yuki Yoshimura hit it over the center-field wall for his fourth home run, but Goto doubled home an insurance run in the sixth after walks by Yoshio Itoi and Takahiro Okada.
Orix starter Takahiro Matsuba went four innings with a parade of five relievers working an inning each in relief with Italian Alessandro Maestri (2-0) earning the win as the first man out of the pen.
Closer Yoshihisa Hirano allowed a solo homer to Uchikawa in the ninth but nothing else to finish up and earn his 36th save.
Takeda allowed three runs — two earned — in seven innings on four hits and five walks, while striking out 10.
Eagles 9, Marines 5
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, on the same day Rakuten manager Senichi Hoshino announced he would step down at the end of the season, the Eagles took out some frustration on Chiba Lotte, overcoming four Marines solo homers in a come-from-behind win that completed a three-game sweep.