Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Kishi, Lions postpone Fighters’ pennant hopes

Kyodo

Lions ace Takayuki Kishi prevented the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters from walking over Seibu to the Pacific League pennant in a 3-0 win on Tuesday evening.

Before 27,158 at Seibu Prince Dome in Saitama Prefecture, Kishi (9-7) allowed four hits over seven innings, striking out seven, five looking, while walking one. The right-hander was given a two-run lead to work with after retiring the would-be champs in order in the top of the first.

“I’d watched the Fighters games recently and I didn’t have a clear image of how I would get them out, but things worked out well,” Kishi said.

After the game, Seibu manager Norio Tanabe announced he will step down after the season. The Lions have missed the postseason three straight years under Tanabe.

The Fighters entered the game needing one win or a loss by the second-place Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to clinch their franchise’s seventh PL pennant and their fifth in 11 seasons. Long after the Fighters-Lions’ 2-hour, 29-minute game ended, most fans stuck around as the Chiba Lotte Marines came back from two runs down in the eighth before losing 3-2 to the Hawks.

Mitsuo Yoshikawa (7-6) took the mound having won his last three starts against the Lions, but he hit the first batter he faced and was punished by No. 2 hitter Shuta Tonosaki. It was the third career homer for the .186 hitter and his second off the southpaw.

After a fastball inside for a ball, Tonosaki put a sweet swing on another over the inside part of the plate and drilled it well back into the left-field stands.

Kishi retired the first 11 batters he faced before Nippon Ham’s first runner reached on a fourth-inning error. He faced his first threat in the fifth after a single, a stolen base and a two-out throwing error put a runner on third, but three swinging strikes ended the inning.

Yoshikawa appeared to settle in after the initial shock. A pair of double plays behind him helped keep the Lions from scoring again until the fifth, when Ginjiro Sumitani homered with two outs for a 3-0 Seibu lead.

The Fighters mounted another threat with two singles in the sixth, but Kishi popped out No. 3 hitter Yang Dai-kang and struck out cleanup man Sho Nakata.

Yoshikawa left after five innings, having allowed three runs on four hits, a hit batsman and a walk, while striking out three. Anthony Bass retired the side in order in the sixth and the Fighters threatened again in the seventh as Kishi passed the 100-pitch mark.

A leadoff walk by Kensuke Tanaka and a two-out pinch-hit double by Wednesday’s starting pitcher Shohei Otani gave the visitors a chance, but a borderline called third strike, the fifth of the night for Kishi by home plate umpire Kenjiro Mori provided Seibu the necessary safety net.

Seibu submariner Kazuhisa Makita worked the eighth, and closer Tatsushi Masuda closed it out in the ninth.

Wednesday’s game will see Otani (9-4) take the mound against another graduate of Iwate Prefecture’s Hanamaki Higashi High School, Seibu southpaw Yusei Kikuchi (12-6).

Hawks 3, Marines 2

At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Fukuoka SoftBank starter Kodai Senga cruised until loading the bases in the ninth and issuing back-to-back, two-out bases-loaded walks that tied the game.

The Marines lost it in the ninth, however, when two hit batsmen and two sacrifices produced a run without a hit. Hawks closer Dennis Sarfate struck out all three men he faced to extend his PL record for saves with his 43rd.

Buffaloes 10, Eagles 3

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Takahiro Okada singled, homered and drove in four runs as last-place Orix blasted Tohoku Rakuten.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Giants 5, Dragons 1 (10)

At Tokyo Dome, Shuichi Murata’s 10th-inning grand slam broke a 1-1 tie as Yomiuri handed Chunichi its fifth straight defeat.

Tigers 4, Swallows 3

At Koshien Stadium, Fumiya Araki tied the game with an eighth-inning RBI double and Ryutaro Umeno followed with an RBI single to lift Hanshin to a come-from-behind triumph over Tokyo Yakult.