Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Hawks edge Lions, move back into first place

Kyodo

Yurisbel Gracial delivered a solo home run, while Kodai Senga threw eight innings of one-run ball, as the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks held on for a 3-2 win over the Seibu Lions on Thursday.

The result put the reigning Japan Series champions back on top of the Pacific League standings just a day after the Lions had moved into first place with a 4-1 win in the series opener at MetLife Dome.

Hawks closer Yuito Mori battled through a nervous ninth inning for his 31st save, getting the final outs after giving up a homer and allowing the Lions to put the tying run on base.

After seven scoreless innings, Gracial led off the eighth with his 25th homer of the year, sending Seibu reliever Katsunori Hirai’s 1-1 fastball soaring over the wall behind left field.

Hirai (5-3) surrendered another run when Ukyo Shuto, pinch-running for Alfredo Despaigne, came home from third on a Nobuhiro Matsuda groundout.

Seibu starter Ken Togame got through seven scoreless innings without a strikeout, allowing eight hits and a walk, before manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji replaced him with Hirai to start the eighth.

Senga (13-7) gave up his only run after walking Yuji Kaneko with two out in the eighth. When the next batter, Shogo Akiyama, found the gap through right field, the speedy Kaneko rounded the bases from first and beat the throw to home plate.

The SoftBank starter exited after eight innings in which he struck out nine, while allowing four hits and a pair of walks.

“All I thought about was maintaining my concentration out on the mound,” said Senga, who threw a no-hitter last Friday. “I wasn’t able to keep the shutout, but the most important thing is that the team won.”

The Hawks extended the lead in the ninth when Tomoki Takata scored Takuya Kai on a squeeze play with Lions right hander Kaima Taira on the mound.

With Seibu looking to trim the deficit in the final frame, Takeya Nakamura sent Mori’s 2-1 cutter deep to left for his 29th home run. The SoftBank closer then gave up a single to Takumi Kuriyama to put the tying run on base.

But Mori held his nerve, striking out Shuta Tonosaki, then getting Hotaka Yamakawa to fly out, completing the victory that set the Hawks’ magic number at 12.

Fighters 4, Eagles 2

At Tokyo Dome, Hokkaido Nippon Ham defeated Tohoku Rakuten, with Taishi Ota belting a two-run homer in the bottom of the first.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Giants 8, BayStars 5

At Yokohama Stadium, Yoshihiro Maru hit a pair of two-run homers to lead Yomiuri over Yokohama.

Swallows 12, Tigers 2

At Koshien Stadium, Tokyo Yakult racked up 14 hits, including home run No. 32 for Wladimir Balentien, in a rout of Hanshin.

Carp 3, Dragons 2

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Shota Dobayashi drove in Seiya Suzuki in the bottom of the ninth to lead Hiroshima to a sayonara win over Chunichi.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5