CHIBA – The Chiba Lotte Marines sewed up the final Pacific League playoff spot on Sunday with a 5-3 win over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
With 29,693 fans packing QVC Marine Field, Saburo Omura’s two-run single overturned a 3-2, third-inning deficit and a five-man relief tag-team kept the Fighters off the board over the final six innings.
The Fighters opened the scoring with two runs in the second off starter Ayumu Ishikawa, who allowed three runs on six hits and a walk in 2⅔ innings. One-out singles by the veteran tandem of Kazuya Fukuura and Omura set the table for a sac fly from Shogo Nakamura in the home half of the second.
But the visitors, who will host the Marines in the best-of-three Climax Series first stage at Sapporo Dome on Saturday, restored the two-run lead in the third. Kensuke Tanaka reached on a leadoff single and scored on Kensuke Kondo’s double. Ishikawa got slugger Brandon Laird on a foul fly before giving way to Takahiro Fujioka (2-2). The lefty prevented Kondo from scoring and surrendered just one hit in his 2⅓ inning stint.
“This is great,” said Fujioka. “I was just fired up. I can’t tell you what was good (about my pitching) today.
“I’m happy to be in the Climax Series, and I think the fans are happy as well, but we don’t want to be satisfied with just getting there.”
The Marines won the Japan Series in 2005 after finishing second in the regular season before the current Climax Series system was established in 2007. In 2010, they became the only third-place team to reach the Japan Series, which they won.
Omura, who played on both of those Series championship teams, was playing in just his 35th game of the season for the Marines.
“It was a rare game for me, and I’m so happy both for the team and for myself,” he said. “I came into today’s game doing the same as I have the past 21 years, and perhaps my experience had something to do with the results.
“I haven’t produced this year, but it sure feels great to get the job done at the end.”
Hawks 5, Eagles 4
At Kobo Miyagi Stadium, Fukuoka Softbank beat last-place Tohoku Rakuten to snap a six-game losing streak and win its 90th game, the most by the franchise since the Nankai Hawks won 91-plus games a year from 1954-1956. Dennis Sarfate earned the save to set a PL record with his 41st.
Carp 6, Tigers 0
At Koshien Stadium, some big defensive plays helped Hiroki Kuroda (11-8) work 8⅓ innings to beat Hanshin and prolong Hiroshima’s bid for a postseason berth. Ryuhei Matsuyama broke a scoreless deadlock with a two-run homer off Shintaro Fujinami (14-7).
The Carp will clinch third place and a spot in the playoffs if they beat the Chunichi Dragons in their regular-season finale on Wednesday. Should Hiroshima tie or lose that game, the Tigers will make the playoffs.
Giants 10, Swallows 2
At Tokyo Dome, Yakult’s CL MVP candidate Tetsuto Yamada hit his 38th home run in a one-sided loss to Yomiuri in the regular-season finale between the league’s top two teams. Giants ace Tetsuya Utsumi (2-1) worked five scoreless innings to earn his first win in over a month.
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