SENDAI – Ernesto Mejia once more had the last word against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on Monday, his three-run double lifting Seibu to a 5-3 win that lowered the Lions’ magic number to clinch the Pacific League title to two.
The Lions, looking to win back-to-back PL titles for the first time since their 1997 and 1998 championships, have just two games remaining. The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, who have three games left, trail Seibu by one game.
On Friday, Mejia’s pinch-hit home run sank the Eagles at MetLife Dome in a 5-3 Lions win, and on Monday Mejia shattered a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning at the Eagles’ Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Moments after the Eagles tied the game 2-2 in the seventh, Rakuten reliever Alan Busenitz (4-3) loaded the bases with three two-out walks.
The right-hander got ahead of Mejia, but missed over the plate with a 1-2 fastball. The Venezuelan slugger hit a perfectly placed fly to the warning track in right center that fell just beyond the reach of right fielder Ko Shimozuru.
“Every day I do my best to help the team win. That’s my job. I’m glad I could get the lucky hit for the win,” Mejia said.
“It’s a great feeling. I know with two outs everybody is running, and we have a pretty good chance to score the three runs. Every game, every at-bat is important, so I’m glad I’m helping right now.”
The Lions’ Deunte Heath (2-3), who got the final two outs of the seventh inning with the go-ahead runner on base, earned the win. Katsunori Hirai worked a 1-2-3 eighth, while closer Tatsushi Masuda held on for his career-high 30th save.
The Lions opened the scoring against former Seibu ace Takayuki Kishi on Hotaka Yamakawa’s two-run, fourth-inning single. Lions starting pitcher Keisuke Honda breezed through six scoreless innings before trouble struck in the seventh.
The Eagles’ Hideto Asamura, who left Seibu as a free agent last winter, singled with one out and Jabari Blash tied it with his 33rd home run of the season. Asamura belted his 32nd home run in the ninth to close out the scoring.
Hawks 8, Buffaloes 0
At Kyocera Dome in Osaka, the second-place Hawks kept the pressure on the Lions as Alfredo Despaigne drove in four runs and Rei Takahashi (12-5) threw seven innings against the Orix Buffaloes in a shutout win.
Marines 6, Fighters 1
At Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba, the Chiba Lotte Marines moved to within a half-game of the PL’s final playoff spot with a win over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
With the Marines all wearing retiring veteran Kazuya Fukuura’s No. 9, the 43-year-old Chiba product played one final inning at first and made a diving catch of a line drive to record the final out of his farewell game.
Carp 4, Dragons 3
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Tsubasa Aizawa singled in the winning run in the 10th inning, lifting the Hiroshima Carp to a win over the Chunichi Dragons.
Giants 9, Swallows 5
At Jingu Stadium, Kazuma Okamoto homered and drove in four runs as the Yomiuri Giants clobbered the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.