SAPPORO – The Seibu Lions clinched their first Pacific League pennant in 10 years on Sunday despite losing 4-1 to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
The Lions, who had won 12-straight games to lower their magic number to one before losing on Saturday, lost their second straight game, but clinched the pennant by virtue of the second-place Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks’ 9-1 loss against the Chiba Lotte Marines in Fukuoka.
“We’ve been looking forward to this day,” said second-year skipper Hatsuhiko Tsuji, who started turning the Lions around with a second-place finish a year ago. “The players made up for the mistakes I made as manager, and that made me so happy. I’m filled with gratitude.
“When I came, I saw a team with lots of talented players, and the first question was how to draw out that talent and realize that potential. This is a team with character. You don’t see players complaining when things go wrong. They just get after it.
“I am thankful to each and every one of them.”
But as they had the last time they were in this position in 1998, the Lions failed to win the pennant-clinching game.
With two on and two outs in the third inning at Sapporo Dome, the hosts took the lead against former Fighter Brian Wolfe (4-4) on a throwing error by third baseman Takeya Nakamura.
The Fighters made it 2-0 in the fourth when a run scored on a double play after three straight singles loaded the bases with no outs. Taishi Ota’s RBI double plated one run in the fifth and another scored when star shortstop Sosuke Genda failed to turn a double play that would have ended the inning.
The Lions got a run in the sixth on a Takumi Kuriyama sacrifice fly when Haruki Nishikawa raced back to make a good catch that prevented a two-run double.
Marines 9, Hawks 1
At Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome, Kota Futaki (4-6) allowed a run on four hits and a walk over the distance, and Shogo Nakamura homered off rookie Kotaro Otake (3-2) to open the scoring as Chiba Lotte beat SoftBank to eliminate the Hawks from pennant contention and hand the PL title to Seibu.
Buffaloes 5, Eagles 2
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Koji Oshiro’s RBI double broke a 2-2 ninth-inning tie and Kenya Wakatsuki’s two-run single produced some insurance as Orix overcame a late deficit to beat Tohoku Rakuten.
Giants 5, Carp 4
At Tokyo Dome, ninth-inning RBI singles by Kazuma Okamoto and Hisayoshi Chono lifted Yomiuri to a walk-off win over Hiroshima, giving the Giants a half-game cushion ahead of fourth-place Yokohama in the battle for the CL’s third and final playoff spot.
Dragons vs. Tigers — ppd
Swallows vs. BayStars — ppd
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5