HIROSHIMA – The Hiroshima Carp will have to wait another day to clinch their second straight Central League pennant after blowing a three-run lead in a 5-4 loss to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on Saturday afternoon.
The Carp, the NPB’s best pinch-hitting team this season, got a taste of their own medicine in the seventh inning, when Shoitsu Omatsu came off the bench to deliver a two-out, two-run, game-tying single before 32,336 fans at Mazda Stadium.
The hit marked the end for Carp starter Kazuki Yabuta, who allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks, while striking out three in 6-2/3 innings.
Takeru Imamura (2-5), who had spent most of the season as Hiroshima’s closer, entered in the eighth but allowed a one-out single and issued back-to-back walks to load the bases.
Nobuyuki Okumura, who entered in the fifth inning as a pinch-hitter, put the Swallows ahead with a sacrifice fly.
“We wanted to hold onto that lead and clinch,” Carp skipper Koichi Ogata said. “It’s really regrettable. It’s frustrating.”
Swallows setup man Ryo Akiyoshi retired the Carp in the order, and Josh Lueke struck out two batters in the ninth with the tying run on third to earn his sixth save.
Yakult manager Mitsuru Manaka said the packed crowd that transforms the Carp’s park into a red-colored cauldron of noise was a non-factor.
“Mazda’s always feels like this,” he said. “The players don’t pay it any mind.”
Hiroshima needs only a win or a Hanshin Tigers loss or tie to clinch back-to-back league titles for the first time since they managed that feat in 1980. The Tigers’ game on Saturday was rained out.
BayStars 1, Giants 0
At Tokyo Dome, Shoichi Ino (6-9) pitched out of a couple of tight spots to work six scoreless innings, and Yokohama’s Takayuki Kajitani homered off Yomiuri’s Miles Mikolas (13-7), who suffered a tough loss that left the two teams tied for third place.
Dragons at Tigers — ppd.
Fighters 6, Buffaloes 3
At Sapporo Dome, Shohei Otani’s third-inning RBI single tied it at 3-3 before rookie catcher Yushi Shimizu’s two-run, sixth-inning double helped lift Hokkaido Nippon Ham over Orix.
Eagles 13, Marines 5
At Sendai’s Kobo Park, Japhet Amador and Zelous Wheeler each hit three-run, second-inning home runs off Hideaki Wakui (5-11) as Tohoku Rakuten hammered Chiba Lotte.
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