FUKUOKA – The Pacific League-leading Fukuoka Softbank Hawks came from behind twice to beat the Seibu Lions 6-5 on Saturday afternoon.
Down by a run in the seventh before 35,556 at Yafuoku Dome, the Hawks took the lead for good against lefty reliever Tomomi Takahashi (1-3). Demoted to middle relief after 21 saves this season, the former closer surrendered a leadoff infield single, when he tried to barehand a shot off the bat of Kenji Akashi. After a sacrifice, the lefty grooved his first pitch to Yuki Yanagita, who swatted it to left for an opposite-field RBI double.
“Takahashi is a good pitcher, someone you’re not going to get runs off easily, so my goal was just to get good swings,” said Yanagita, who scored the go-ahead run from second with two outs when center fielder Shogo Akiyama dropped a fly ball in shallow center.
Middle reliever Akira Niho (6-1) worked a 1-2-3 seventh to earn the win for the Hawks, while Ryota Igarashi and Dennis Sarfate combined to throw two more perfect innings to close it out, with Sarfate striking out two en route to his 29th save.
“I don’t try to strike guys out, but our catchers do such a great job and pitching in front of these fans, I get a little pumped up,” Sarfate said.
“We’re so good right now. Our bullpen is doing so good. Our starting pitching is doing so good. I’m so excited. I want to pitch every day. Our team is the best in Japan and I’m really happy about it.”
Softbank opened the scoring in the third on a solo homer by No. 9 hitter Kenta Imamiya. Takeya Nakamura’s 33rd home run, a three-run blast, in the top of the fifth put the Lions in front. Lee Dae-ho, however, delivered a three-run double off Seibu starter Ryoma Nogami in the bottom of the inning to give the hosts a 4-3 lead.
Hawks right-hander Shota Takeda was once more unable to hold the lead, however. The Lions loaded the bases in the sixth and tied it on Akiyama’s one-out single. Takeda then walked Ryota Wakiya to put the visitors in front.
Buffaloes 6, Marines 0
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Yuki Nishi (5-4) struck out eight in a three-hit shutout, while Yuya Oda and Ryoichi Adachi each drove in two runs for Orix in a win over Chiba Lotte.
Eagles 5, Fighters 4
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Ryo Hijirisawa drove in three runs, including the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth after Zelous Wheeler’s two-run pinch-hit homer tied it in the eighth as Tohoku Rakuten came from behind to beat Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Dragons 3, Giants 0
At Nagoya Dome, Ryosuke Hirata, Kazuhiro Wada and Anderson Hernandez each drove in a run in the sixth inning as Tatsuro Hamada and three Chunichi relievers held Yomiuri to three hits.
Daisuke Yamai (4-10) threw 1-2/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win as the Dragons snapped a five-game losing streak.
Swallows 9, Tigers 1
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Hanshin squandered its early scoring opportunities against Shohei Tateyama (3-1), who allowed a run on six hits and five walks over five innings, while Tokyo Yakult scored four runs on six hits against Tigers starter Minoru Iwata (6-6) and blew the game open in the eighth.
BayStars 2, Carp 1
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, three straight one-out, ninth-inning singles by Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Jose Lopez and Aarom Baldiris off closer Shota Nakazaki (0-6) saw Yokohama beat Hiroshima after the BayStars’ Kazuki Mishima and Carp ace Kenta Maeda each allowed a run over seven innings.
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