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Nakamura homer carries Hawks past Eagles as playoff series heats up

Kyodo

Akira Nakamura’s two-run homer broke an eighth-inning tie in the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks’ 7-5 win over the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on Friday, evening the Pacific League Climax Series Final Stage at two wins apiece.

Eagles starter Takahiro Norimoto pitched seven innings, outlasting Hawks southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada. Both men allowed five runs.

The SoftBank bullpen took over in the sixth and threw three straight scoreless innings.

The Hawks jumped on the first man out of Rakuten’s bullpen, Hiroyuki Fukuyama, for two runs.

With one out in the eighth, Shuhei Fukuda singled and was still on first when Nakamura pulled a 1-0 pitch into the stands in right for his third career postseason homer. Nakamura entered the at-bat 2-for-11 and had failed to lay down a sacrifice the night before.

And though he hasn’t hit for average in the postseason so far in his career (14-for-71), Nakamura has a sayonara home run from the 2014 Japan Series on his resume.

“It really was my fault that we lost (those games),” Nakamura said with tongue planted firmly in cheek. “I did, however, want to do something to contribute to a win in front of our wonderful fans. So this was a huge relief.”

Dennis Sarfate, whose 54 saves established a NPB record this season, retired the Eagles in order in the ninth. As league champions, the Hawks entered the Climax Series’ six-game final stage with a one-win advantage, but squandered that by losing the first two games at Yafuoku Dome.

Japhet Amador’s two-run fifth-inning home run tied up an early slugfest 5-5. Rakuten could easily have taken the lead in the inning had center fielder Ryoma Kidokoro not made a sliding grab on the warning track to rob Zelous Wheeler of a leadoff double.

Kidokoro, a hustling career minor leaguer, was activated before the game and went 2-for-3 with a sacrifice, a run scored and two doubles.

Sho Iwasaki, the fourth reliever out of manager Kimiyasu Kubo’s bullpen, earned the win after retiring the Eagles in order in the eighth. The right-hander was throwing in his third straight game, having produced scoreless innings in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss and in Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat.

“We’ve given our fans a few too many scares in this series so far, but our bullpen has been the real thing, and hasn’t allowed a run,” Kudo said.

Norimoto allowed seven hits and walked two, while striking out 11.

Wada surrendered nine hits and issued two walks in five innings.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

BayStars 1, Carp 0

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Shoichi Ino worked 5-1/3 scoreless innings and drove in the game’s only run as Yokohama won its second straight game to tie the CL Climax Series’ final stage at two wins apiece (including Hiroshima’s automatic one-win advantage for capturing the CL pennant).

Ino’s RBI single came in the first inning against Kris Johnson, who surrendered three-straight two-out singles.

Ino kept the Carp in check until he allowed back-to-back, one-out singles in the sixth. Manager Alex Ramirez’s fourth pitcher of the inning, Kota Suda retired slugger Brad Eldred on one pitch to leave the bases loaded and preserve the BayStars’ lead.

Lefty Edwin Escobar, right-hander Spencer Patton and closer Yasuaki Yamasaki kept the CL’s most powerful lineup off the board the rest of the way to close it out.