TOKOROZAWA, SAITAMA PREF. – Takahiro Norimoto allowed a run over six innings and Zelous Wheeler’s home run brought the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles from behind in a crucial 2-1 win over the Seibu Lions on Monday.
The win at MetLife Dome moved the third-place Eagles to within two games of the second-place Lions. Both teams have already clinched a spot in the Pacific League Climax Series first stage, but the team finishing second in the regular season will host the best-of-three series.
The Lions loaded the bases in the first inning but didn’t score until the fourth, when Hotaka Yamakawa doubled and scored on Takeya Nakamura’s two-out single.
In the sixth, No. 3 hitter Carlos Peguero drew a leadoff walk from Lions starter Ken Togame (8-7). On his first pitch to Wheeler, he tried to go inside but left a fastball up high and over the plate. Wheeler put a good swing on it and it sailed over the lef field fence for his 31st home run of the season.
The Eagles then loaded the bases but lefty Shogo Noda retired star Eigoro Mogi for the final out. Togame was charged with two runs on eight hits and two walks. He struck out six in his 5-2/3 innings.
Seibu threatened in the home half of the sixth. After Norimoto struck out the first two batters, a Takumi Kuriyama single and back-to-back walks loaded the bases, but Norimoto notched his 10th and final strikeout of the game to protect the lead.
Norimoto (14-7) allowed five hits, three walks and a hit batsman in a laborious 130-pitch outing.
“I may have pitched too carefully at times, but I limited the damage, so I’m happy with that,” Norimoto said.
Rookie Yuhei Takanashi retired the Linos in the seventh before Frank Herrmann and Hiroyuki Fukuyama closed out the win with one scoreless inning apiece. Fukuyama earned his sixth save.
The teams were scheduled play again at MetLife on Tuesday. The Lions have one more game after that on their schedule, while the Eagles will go on to play six more.