NISHINOMIYA, HYOGO PREFECTURE – The Hanshin Tigers moved within one win of the postseason with a 6-3 Central League win over the Chunichi Dragons on Sunday.
If the Tigers beat the Dragons on Monday for a sixth-straight win, they will clinch third place in the league and snatch the CL’s final playoff spot from the Hiroshima Carp. The teams now both have .500 records.
A Hanshin loss or tie on Monday will send the Carp to the postseason for the fourth-straight season. If the Tigers finish the season with a 68-68 record and seven ties, the Carp, who are 70-70-3, will take third place by virtue of having more wins.
Randy Messenger, who has been the Hanshin Tigers’ Opening Day starter for six of his 10 seasons in Japan, opened the game by facing one batter. The 38-year-old right-hander, who has announced he is retiring, registered his 1,475th and final strikeout before walking off the field to a standing ovation at Koshien Stadium.
Naomasa Yokawa opened the scoring in the fifth inning with a pinch-hit home run, and the Tigers added three more runs in the sixth off Dragons starter Yuya Yanagi (6-8).
The Tigers came within one inning of recording their fourth-straight shutout, but closer Kyuji Fujikawa surrendered three runs in the ninth.
After the game, the Tigers played a video tribute to Messenger and held a retirement ceremony, which concluded with the pitcher circling the field and being showered by streamers.
Buffaloes 5, Hawks 1
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, last-place Orix beat playoff-bound second-place SoftBank.