Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Hawks postpone Lions’ Pacific League pennant celebration

Kyodo

Left-hander Ariel Miranda pitched seven strong innings and Nobuhiro Matsuda blasted two home runs on Saturday as the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks came from behind to beat the Pacific-League leading Seibu Lions 3-1.

The Hawks snapped the Lions’ winning streak at 12 and delayed Seibu’s pennant celebration. The Lions, who started the game with their magic number to clinch the pennant at one, will need to wait to claim their first league pennant in 10 years.

Miranda (5-1), who joined the Hawks from the Seattle Mariners this season, limited the hard-hitting Lions to a run on five hits and three walks, while fanning four.

“I’m glad I contributed to my team’s win,” the Cuban hurler said. “I’m satisfied with my pitches today, and I think I did a decent job.”

With the Hawks trailing by a run in the fourth inning, Matsuda turned the game around with a two-run home run off right-hander Tatsuya Imai (5-5). After Yurisbel Gracial walked, Matsuda slammed his 29th home run of the season into the left-field stands.

The third baseman, hitting in the No. 9 spot, went on to hit a solo homer in the seventh inning to extend the lead.

“If we won today, we didn’t need to see them celebrate after their victory,” Matsuda said. “I just didn’t want to feel frustrated.”

Lions outfielder Yuji Kaneko scored the opening run in the bottom of the third inning. He drew a walk, advanced to third after left fielder Gracial booted a Sosuke Genda single and came home on Hideto Asamura’s grounder.

For the past two seasons, the Lions had watched visiting teams win the pennants at MetLife Dome. The team missed its chance to finish victorious and celebrate with a sell-out crowd at home, since Saturday was the final regular-season game.

“It’s disappointing. I wanted our team to win in front of our fans,” Lions skipper Hatsuhiko Tsuji said.

SoftBank had its chance to score in the third inning after Imai pitched into a bases-loaded jam.

After retiring the first two batters in order, Imai issued a walk to Kenji Akashi and an Akira Nakamura single put runners on first and third, before Yuki Yanagita drew another walk to load the bases. But Imai retired the next batter to close the inning before any harm was done.

Imai, the Lions’ top pick in the 2016 draft and still a rookie, allowed two runs on four hits and four walks over six innings.

The home fans’ excitement reached a peak when former major leaguer Kazuo Matsui, who has announced his retirement at the end of the season, stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the seventh inning. But the 42-year-old struck out swinging and did not reach base in his second appearance in the ninth.

The Lions will face the third-place Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters starting Sunday at Sapporo Dome. Former Fighter Brian Wolfe is slated to pitch for the Lions.

The Hawks and the Fighters have secured spots in the Climax Series.

“What we have to do doesn’t change,” Tsuji said. “I’m certain the players can play like they always do. We just want to win like we do most times.”

Lions shortstop Sosuke Genda, who fielded seven grounders, and took part in a 3-6-3 double play for eight total assists, established an NPB record for assists in a season by a shortstop with 510. He started the day with 502 and tied with Kiyoshi Sugiura, who set the previous record in 1948.

Buffaloes 7, Marines 1

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Taisuke Yamaoka (7-12) allowed a run over eight innings, and batterymate Kenya Wakatsuki went 5-for-5 with two RBIs as Orix crushed Chiba Lotte.

Eagles 2, Fighters 1 (10)At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Tohoku Rakuten rookie Kazuki Tanaka had a pair of two-out singles against Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

Tanaka tied it in the fifth and delivered the game-game hit in the 10th.

Eagles right-hander Takahiro Norimoto allowed just one unearned run over seven innings, but got a no-decision.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Tigers 4, Dragons 0

At Nagoya Dome, Shintaro Fujinami (5-3) struck out seven in a five-hit shutout, his first in three years as Hanshin beat Chunichi to keep the Dragons firmly rooted in last place.

Carp 8, Giants 7

At Tokyo Dome, Ryoma Nishikawa’s ninth-inning RBI single broke a 7-7 tie as Hiroshima overcame a big night from Yomiuri leadoff man Hayato Sakamoto.

The Giants shortstop went 4-for-5 with a double, two home runs, three runs and three RBIs.

BayStars at Swallows — ppd.