FUKUOKA – Hideto Asamura homered twice and had an RBI single for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, who maintained their Game 1 mastery of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks with a 5-3 win to open the Pacific League Climax Series’ first stage on Saturday.
Asamura may be new to the Eagles after joining them over the winter as a free agent, but the result was all too familiar for the Hawks, who fell to 0-3 in postseason series openers against Rakuten.
The Eagles now need one win over the next two days at Yafuoku Dome to advance to the final stage against the PL champion Seibu Lions. The Eagles previously played the Hawks in the 2009 first stage and won both games in Sendai. Rakuten then won the first two games of the 2017 best-of-seven final stage in Fukuoka before falling 4-2.
Asamura opened the scoring with a first-inning home run off Kodai Senga, and tied it 3-3 in the fifth with another.
“I’m relieved,” Asamura said afterward. “We were facing a superb pitcher, and I wanted to be even more assertive than usual in the batter’s box.
“It’s important to score first in a short knockout series, although I didn’t expect I would hit a home run in my first at-bat. So I’m glad it worked out like that.”
After a near flawless start to the game, Senga hung a 1-2 splitter up and away and the right-handed-hitting Asamura drove it into the dome’s home-run terrace seats in right.
SoftBank tied it in the bottom of the inning in identical fashion. Takahiro Norimoto hung a 1-1 slider up and away to Kenta Imamiya, and the Hawks shortstop hit a fly off the end of the bat that landed for another opposite-field home run terrace shot.
In the third inning, Seiichi Uchikawa smashed a splitter from Norimoto out to left with a man on to give SoftBank a 3-1 lead.
The Eagles, however, came back and took the lead on three solo homers, by Luis Okoye in the third, Asamura in the fifth and Eigoro Mogi in the seventh.
Norimoto gave up three runs on five hits. He hit a batter and struck out nine without issuing a walk in his six innings. Senga allowed four runs over seven innings.
Sung Chia-hao worked a 1-2-3 seventh for the visitors, while Kohei Morihara escaped a two-out, two-on jam in the eighth before Rauten got some insurance in the ninth.
After six home runs, Hiroaki Shimauchi walked and scored on a two-out Asamura infield single after a wild pitch and a throwing error put him on third.
PL saves leader Yuki Matsui worked a 1-2-3 ninth to close it out.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5