TOKOROZAWA, SAITAMA PREF. - Yuhei Takai’s two-out RBI single off Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda lifted the Tokyo Yakult Swallows to a 6-4 come-from-behind win over Seibu on Thursday.
A loss to the Lions would have trimmed the Swallows’ interleague lead to a game, and that possibility was looming until Yakult came back to tie the game in the eighth.
Norichika Aoki opened the ninth off Masuda (0-4) with a ringing single. After a sacrifice and a flyout, pinch hitter Kazuhiro Hatakeyama singled to keep the inning alive. Takai fouled off a pair of 1-2 pitches before singling to right.
“I so wanted to drive in the go-ahead run,” Takai said. “I thought if he throws me anything inside I’m going for it, even if he jams me, I’m going to get a hit.”
A large number of Swallows fans made the trip to MetLife Dome, and Takai got a huge round of applause from the visiting fans.
“That was the greatest,” the 33-year-old said. “Even when we’re behind, guys are animated in the dugout, and the feeling is we can’t be beaten.”
With the game tied 2-2 in the fourth, Yuji Kaneko singled, stole second and scored on Shingo Akiyama’s two-out single. A sixth-inning Shuta Tonosaki homer gave the Pacific League leaders a two-run cushion, but the Swallows erased that in the eighth.
Star second baseman Tetsuto Yamada, unable to start due to a rib injury, pinch-ran after Tomotaka Sakaguchi drew a leadoff walk from Lions starter Ken Togame. Wladimir Balentien doubled Yamada home and drove Togame from the game.
Neil Wagner surrendered singles to Takai and Shingo Kawabata, whose knock brought home pinch-runner Tsuyoshi Ueda with the tying run.
The Swallows opened the game with a gift run, when center fielder Akiyama lost Norichika Aoki’s routine fly. He tumbled over backward and was unable to chase the ball as the Swallows veteran circled the bases and was credited with an inside-the-park homer. Yakult broke a 1-1 tie in the third when Masayoshi Miwa, starting in place of Yamada, singled in a run.
But both times the Swallows were able to score, the Lions answered back to tie it through Sosuke Genda and Hideto Asamura. Genda doubled and scored on an Asamura single in the first. In the third, Genda singled and scored on Asamura’s double.
Huff was pulled after Tonosaki’s leadoff homer in the sixth, having allowed four runs on nine hits in five-plus innings. Juri Hara, who has struggled as a starter this season, pitched two solid innings in relief, and Kazuki Kondo (1-2) threw a scoreless eighth.
Taichi Ishiyama retired the Lions in order in the ninth to earn his 11th save.
Togame was charged with four runs on seven hits and four walks.
Giants 6, Hawks 4
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Hayato Sakamoto’s sixth-inning home run snapped a 3-3 tie and Yomiuri went on to beat defending Pacific League champ Fukuoka SoftBank.
Kazuma Okamoto hit a two-run, fourth-inning homer that briefly gave the Giants the lead and drove in three runs.
Buffaloes 8, Carp 2
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Orix ace Chihiro Kaneko (3-5) allowed two runs in six innings, while Hiroyuki Nakajima and Kengo Takeda each drove in two runs in the win against the Central League-leading Carp.
Eagles 4, Dragons 0
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Takayuki Kishi (6-1) struck out nine over eight innings, and O’Koyea Dickson broke the ice with a first-inning RBI single as the PL’s last-place club, Tohoku Rakuten, beat CL cellar dweller Chunichi.
Fighters 11, Tigers 3
At Sapporo Dome, Nick Martinez (7-4) threw seven scoreless innings, and Shon Nakata homered and drove in five runs as Hokkaido Nippon Ham clobbered Hanshin.
BayStars 4, Marines 1 (11)
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Yamato Maeda broke a 1-1, 11th-inning tie with an RBI single and rookie Kazuki Kamizato added a two-run triple as Yokohama topped Chiba Lotte.