FUKUOKA – Kodai Senga battled through seven innings for the win Saturday as the Pacific League-leading Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks came from behind for an 8-4 victory over the error-prone Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
The Hawks ace improved to 11-4 after striking out 10, while allowing four runs on seven hits and two walks at Yafuoku Dome.
Nippon Ham starter Kohei Arihara (11-6) took the loss after surrendering four earned runs on seven hits and a walk, while striking out six over 6-1/3 innings.
In a game-turning moment, Haruki Nishikawa dropped a catchable fly ball from Takuya Kai in the bottom of the seventh, allowing two Hawks runners to score for a 5-4 lead.
The Fighters had jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the fifth when Ryo Watanabe crushed a three-run homer against Senga.
Kensuke Kondo had put Nippon Ham on the board earlier in the frame when he brought home Takuya Nakashima on a fielder’s choice.
With Kondo and Nishikawa on the corners, Watanabe launched Senga’s 2-2 breaking ball into the stands behind center field.
SoftBank closed the gap to 4-3 in the sixth on RBIs from Kai, Seiichi Uchikawa and Alfredo Despaigne.
The Hawks went ahead the following inning after center fielder Nishikawa made a crucial error on a deep fly ball from Kai.
As he sprinted back, Nishikawa looked set for the catch, but he dropped the ball onto the warning track, allowing Nobuhiro Matsuda and Shuhei Fukuda to score.
That spelled the end of the night for Arihara after 6-1/3 innings, but the Fighters immediately surrendered another run on an error with reliever Naoya Ishikawa on the mound.
First baseman Kotaro Kiyomiya fumbled what should have been a routine groundout of Kenji Akashi, allowing Kai to round the bases from second.
Fukuda drove in two runs against Taisho Tamai in the eighth, bouncing a grounder over the infield to score pinch runners Taisei Makihara and Seiji Uebayashi.
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