Kaneko overcomes hiccup as Buffaloes crush Hawks


Orix ace Chihiro Kaneko overcame a two-run fourth inning in an otherwise masterful effort as the Buffaloes beat the Pacific League-leading Softbank Hawks 10-4 on Wednesday.

Kaneko (14-5), who allowed no base runners through the first three innings, allowed the Hawks to tie it in the fourth on a two-run homer by former teammate Lee Dae Ho. But after three at-bats in which batters made unusually solid contact off him, Kaneko returned to form, retired the next 13 men he faced and took a 10-2 lead into the ninth inning.

The right-hander allowed four runs on six hits and two walks in eight-plus innings. He struck out five. Tatsuya Sato faced the final three batters in the ninth to close it out.

“After allowing them to tie the game, we knew our job was to hang in there,” Orix catcher Hikaru Ito said. “So we got ourselves reset and went back to work.”

The win lifted Orix to within 3-1/2 games of the Hawks and clinched at least third place and the Buffaloes’ first postseason berth since 2008.

The Buffaloes blew the game open in the sixth inning against Softbank ace Tadashi Settsu (10-7). Takahiro Okada opened the inning by drilling a curve to the warning track, that center fielder Yuki Yanagita leaped for but failed to get, for a double. Settsu hit the next man and No. 8 hitter Shunta Goto worked a seven-pitch walk to load the bases for Ito.

Settsu, who pitched out of a one-out, two-on jam in the sixth, hung a 1-1 sinking fastball in the heart of the strike zone, and Ito hammered it into the gap in left center for a two-run single.

“The guys set the table for me, so my only thought was to be aggressive at the plate,” Ito said. “I didn’t get the pitch I expected to see, but he (Settsu) made a mistake with it and I took advantage.”

With two outs, Ryoichi Adachi singled in two more runs giving him three RBIs on the night. Yoshio Itoi, who had misfired with a chance to pick up an RBI in the previous inning, singled in another run to make it a 7-2 game.

Wily Mo Pena hit his 31st home run of the year, a three-run shot in the eighth inning that put the game on ice and tied him for the PL lead in homers with Seibu’s Takeya Nakamura and Ernesto Mejia.

Fighters 5, Lions 0

At Seibu Dome, Hiroshi Kisanuki (1-2) worked 7-2/3 innings and two relievers completed a four-hit shutout, while Yang Dai-kang, Eiichi Koyano and Atsunori Inaba each homered to lift Nippon Ham past Seibu.

Eagles 2, Marines 1

At Kobo Stadium Miyagi, Takahiro Shiomi (7-6) allowed a run in seven innings, and Takero Okajima and Ginji Akaminai each singled in a run in the sixth inning as Rakuten came from behind to beat Lotte, which hit into three double plays.

Central League
Giants 9, Carp 7

At Mazda Stadium, Taishi Ota brought Yomiuri from a run down in the eighth inning with a two-run, pinch-hit homer as the league-leading Giants overcame a four-run, first-inning deficit to knock second-place Hiroshima six games back in the standings.

Tigers 5, Swallows 0

At Jingu Stadium, Hanshin ace Atsushi Nomi (8-13) allowed five hits without a walk in eight innings and captain Takashi Toritani drove in two runs in a win over last-place Yakult.

Dragons 2, BayStars 1

At Yokohama Stadium, Yudai Ono (9-7) allowed a run in seven innings and Shuhei Takahashi broke a 1-1 tie with a sixth-inning sacrifice fly as Chunichi overcame a solo homer by Yulieski Gurriel to defeat DeNA.