Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Lions rally past Hawks, move closer to Pacific League pennant

Kyodo

Shogo Akiyama provided the late-game heroics, blasting a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, as the Seibu Lions came from behind to beat the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 7-5 and move another step closer to the Pacific League pennant.

The win over the second-place Hawks cut the Lions’ magic number to clinch the pennant from five to three.

In a see-sawing contest, Takuya Kai gave the Hawks a 5-4 lead in the top of the sixth with a 3-RBI double off Lions reliever Katsunori Hirai, who had loaded the bases after replacing Ryuya Ogawa on the mound.

SoftBank righty Ren Kajiya retired the first two batters in the eighth before walking Ernesto Mejia. He then surrendered a groundball single to Yuji Kaneko, bringing Akiyama to the plate.

With the count at 1-1, Akiyama timed Kajiya’s next pitch perfectly, sending it deep to the foot of the scoreboard behind center field.

Lions closer Deunte Heath gave up a hit and a walk in the ninth before retiring the side in front of a jubilant crowd at MetLife Dome.

Seibu jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second when SoftBank starter Rick van den Hurk surrendered a home run on his first pitch to Tomoya Mori after issuing walks to Takumi Kuriyama and Takeya Nakamura.

Akira Nakamura put the Hawks on the board with a solo effort in the fourth. With the count at 2-1, the lefty put away Lions starter Kuo Chun-lin’s high fastball deep to right.

SoftBank cut the lead to one the following inning when Kenji Akashi scored Seiji Uebayashi from second with a fly single to left off Kuo. The Lions starter had retired the first two batters before allowing Uebayashi to reach second on a fly to left.

Seibu skipper Hatsuhiko Tsuji replaced Kuo with lefty Ryuya Ogawa with an out remaining in the top of the fifth.

The Lions pushed the lead back to two in the bottom of the inning when NPB home run leader hit Yamakawa hit his 45th of the season, going long to left after van den Hurk threw his fastball high in the zone.

Kyle Martin got the win after a 1-2-3 eight inning with one strikeout. Heath picked up a save while Kajiya was tagged with loss.

Fighters 2, Buffaloes 1

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Hokkaido Nippon Ham starter Kenta Uehara got the win against Orix in just his seventh game of the season.

In five scoreless innings, Uehara struck out four, giving up five hits and two walks. Naoya Ishikawa picked up his 15th save.

Eagles 9, Marines 0

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Yasuhito Uchida belted a three-run homer in the second and Zelous Wheeler went long with a two-run effort in the third as Tohoku Rakuten ran riot over Chiba Lotte.

Yuki Matsui got the win after striking out seven in five innings before Wataru Karashima completed the three-hit shutout.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Swallows 9, Carp 3

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima was outhit 15-6 by Tokyo Yakult a day after clinching a third straight CL pennant.

Swallows starter Tomoya Hoshi took an early shower after giving up three runs in 3-1/3 innings, but Yakult’s bullpen allowed just two hits the rest of the way.

BayStars 4, Tigers 3

At Koshien Stadium, Neftali Soto scored the winning run with an eighth inning solo homer as Yokohama rallied to beat Hanshin.

The long shot was the second of the game and the 37th of the season for the Puerto Rican infielder.