Baseball / Japanese Baseball

First-place Hawks left with only slim lead after loss against Lions

Kyodo

Ernesto Mejia and Hideto Asamura both went deep as the Seibu Lions defeated the stuttering Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 6-3 on Thursday, trimming the Pacific League leaders’ advantage to nearly nothing.

The Hawks, two-time reigning Japan-Series champions, held an 11-½ game lead over the then third-place Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters on June 24 — when Nippon Ham was two games into a franchise-record 15-game winning streak. The Fighters’ winning percentage improved to .620 after a 6-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes, while the Hawks, who have lost eight of their last nine games, are at .621. The two teams begin a three-game series on Friday at Sapporo Dome.

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Asamura drove in two runs in the first with a double off Nao Higashihama (7-6) before the Hawks clawed back 3-2, but Mejia tied the game in the sixth with his 29th homer and rookie Wu Nien-ting’s based-loaded single plated two runs off reliever Yuito Mori as the Lions took the lead for good.

Asamura put the icing on the cake with a solo shot off Yuya Iida in the eighth as Seibu, fifth in the PL, won its third straight game.

“The home run was a fluke,” Asamura said. “I can sense good things (with my batting) and it’s pleasing I’m contributing to the team when we are in a run of games we can’t lose.”

Higashihama allowed five runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out four over 5⅓ innings as he blew the lead his teammates gave him.

Shuhei Fukuda’s RBI single and a delayed double steal tied the game in the second. Singles by Kenta Imamiya and Seiichi Uchikawa allowed the go-ahead run to score in the third off Shinsaburo Tawata (4-5).

The Seibu rookie allowed three runs on eight hits and a walk over six innings, fanning five in a 103-pitch outing.

Fighters 6, Buffaloes 1

At Sapporo Dome, Sho Nakata broke the tie in the third with a double off Orix’s Takahiro Matsuba (4-8) and Brandon Laird hit his 29th homer with a two-run shot in the eighth.

Former closer Hirotoshi Masui (4-3) held the Buffaloes to a run on four hits over 7⅓ innings.

Eagles 3, Marines 1

At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium Miyagi, Japhet Amador went deep twice as he brought Tohoku Rakuten from behind with a fourth inning two-run homer off Chiba Lotte’s Yuki Karakawa (5-5) before hitting a solo shot in the eighth.

Manabu Mima (8-6) allowed a run over 5⅔ innings to earn the win for the Eagles.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Giants 3, Dragons 2

At Nagoya Dome, Shuichi Murata’s RBI double tied it for Yomiuri in the sixth before Hisayoshi Chono plated the go-ahead run in the ninth with a double off Chunichi reliever Katsuki Matayoshi (3-6).

BayStars at Swallows — ppd.