SENDAI – Right-hander Takahiro Norimoto kept the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles’ slim Pacific League playoff hopes going on Friday with a 1-0 shutout victory over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
A day after manager Senichi Hoshino announced he would leave the team due to poor results, Norimoto (13-9) allowed three hits in his Japan-best seventh shutout of the season.
The win was the fourth-place Eagles’ fourth straight and moved them to within 7-1/2 games of the third-place Fighters, who currently occupy the PL’s final playoff spot. The Eagles have 15 games left to play.
“We don’t have many games left with our manager, and I want to show him what I’ve learned when I go to the mound,” said Norimoto, whose seven shutouts are a record for the 10th-year franchise.
“I wanted to go as long as I could be effective, and just try to stay patient and get outs.”
Fighters right-hander Luis Mendoza (6-13) scattered seven hits and two walks over 7-2/3 innings as he allowed a single run in the eighth inning.
Eagles catcher Motohiro Shima reached on a leadoff single but was doubled off in a botched sacrifice bunt attempt. Akihiro Shimauchi tripled off the top of the fence in right field to revive Rakuten’s inning and Kazuya Fujita’s two-strike line single to right broke the scoreless deadlock.
The Fighters couldn’t get a runner on until Yuya Taniguchi doubled to open the sixth inning. With two outs and the potential go-ahead run on third, Norimoto got out of the inning with a strikeout. Another strikeout saw him out of danger in the eighth after Taniguchi’s one-out single sparked a scoring chance.
“My fastball and forkball were particularly good tonight,” Norimoto said. “Shima recognized that and called a great game to take advantage of it.”
Lions 6, Hawks 3
At Seibu Dome, rookie Tomoya Mori’s three-run homer helped put the game on ice and Ernesto Mejia hit his league-leading 32nd as Seibu handed PL-leading Fukuoka Softbank its third straight loss.
Marines 4, Buffaloes 2
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, ace lefty Yoshihisa Naruse (9-10) allowed two runs in eight innings and Daichi Suzuki’s RBI triple keyed a two-run first inning as Chiba Lotte beat Orix.
Giants 6, Swallows 3
At Tokyo Dome, ace lefty Tetsuya Utsumi (6-8) allowed two runs in 7-2/3 innings and Yomiuri broke the ice with two runs in the fourth on an RBI single by Ken Kato and a squeeze bunt by Utsumi.
The win lifted the CL leaders seven games clear of second-place Hiroshima.
BayStars 8, Carp 5
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Takayuki Kajitani tripled, homered and drove in five runs, and Guillermo Moscoso (9-8) allowed two runs in seven innings as Yokohama dealt Hiroshima its third straight loss and moved into fourth place.
Tigers 9, Dragons 3
At Koshien Stadium, Shintaro Fujinami (10-8) allowed three runs in seven innings, becoming the first NPB pitcher to have 10-plus wins in each of his first two years out of high school since Daisuke Matsuzaka managed it in 1999 and 2000.
Kosuke Fukudome went 3-for-4 with a home run and Mauro Gomez broke a 3-3 tie with a second-inning RBI single.