FUKUOKA – Fukuoka SoftBank’s Dennis Sarfate earned his 46th save of the season, matching the NPB record as the Hawks defeated the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 3-1 on Saturday to secure a spot in the Pacific League Climax Series.
Sarfate stepped on the mound in the ninth. He allowed a soft single to Hiroaki Shimauchi but retired the next three batters in order to seal the win for the PL-leading Hawks at Yafuoku Dome.
The 36-year-old American right-hander matched the record shared by the Chunichi Dragons’ Hiroki Iwase (2005) and the Hanshin Tigers’ Kyuji Fujikawa (2007).
“It’s an honor,” said Sarfate, who joined the Hawks in 2014 after playing for the Hiroshima Carp and Seibu Lions.
“I have a lot of respect for Iwase-san and Fujikawa-san. Since I got here, those were the guys I always watch pitch so it’s an absolute honor.”
Due to his wife’s health issues, his family wasn’t with him in April when he broke Marc Kroon’s NPB career record of 177 saves for foreign closers, but this time he had a large contingent in the stands.
“The best part is they’re here,” Sarfate said. “Anytime you can have family with you is the best, and for them to be able to enjoy this with me is a blessing.”
SoftBank’s Kodai Senga (12-3) allowed a run in 7-2/3 innings, earning his 12th win of the season, matching the career best he set last season. He gave up three hits and issued three walks while striking out seven, and the Hawks earned their third consecutive win.
Keizo Kawashima opened the scoring in the bottom of the third with an RBI double off Rakuten starter Wataru Karashima (8-7).
The Eagles’ Louis Okoye singled and scored the tying run in the top of the sixth, but Akira Nakamura broke the tie in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single.
“I was able to concentrate well,” said Nakamura, who also broke a 0-0 tie the previous day against Rakuten. “I want to hit more, but there are times when I can’t so I think I am taking chances so I think I have good balance.”
Seiji Uebayashi singled and scored an eight-inning insurance run on a Kenta Imamiya sac fly.
Karashima allowed two runs on five hits and two walks, while striking out seven over pitching seven innings. However, it was not enough to prevent Rakuten from losing nine straight games for the first time since May 2016.
Buffaloes 4, Lions 2
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Masahiro Nishino deliverd a second-inning double to break a 1-1 tie, and Hikaru Ito singled, homered and scored twice as Orix beat Seibu.
Marines 3, Fighters 0
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Chiba Lotte’s Hideaki Wakui (5-9) threw a five-hitter, his first shutout in six seasons, while Hokkaido Nippon Ham was shut out for a PL-high 16th time.
Carp 3, Swallows 1
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Ryuhei Matsuyama doubled twice and drove in two runs, while Kazuki Yabuta (13-3) threw six shutout innings as first-place Hiroshima topped last-place Tokyo Yakult.
Tigers 9, Dragons 2
At Koshien Stadium, Atsushi Nomi (5-6) yielded two runs in six innings in a rout of Chunichi.
The pitcher also doubled and contributed to a run with a sacrifice, while Hanshin backup catcher Seishiro Sakamoto homered and drove in four runs.
Giants 3, BayStars 1
At Yokohama Stadium, rookie Seishu Hatake (5-1) allowed a run in seven innings en route to winning his fourth straight decision.
Lefty Kenta Ishida (4-6) issued six walks in his 5-1/3 innings, taking the loss that trimmed third-place Yokohama’s lead over the Giants to a half-game.