Fukuoka – The Pacific League champion Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks moved into the postseason on a high on Monday, wrapping up the regular season with a 6-2 thumping of the Saitama Seibu Lions, winners of the previous two PL pennants.
With nothing to play for, neither team went long with their starting pitchers at PayPay Dome. Matt Moore allowed a run over three innings for the Hawks, turning a 3-1 lead over to Shuta Ishikawa (11-3) who threw three scoreless innings to tie teammate Kodai Senga and Hideaki Wakui of the Rakuten Eagles for the PL lead in wins.
Kona Takahashi, the Lions’ best pitcher down the stretch, worked two scoreless innings, but the Hawks went to town against rookie lefty Hiromasa Saito (0-1) in the second and third.
Nobuhiro Matsuda tied it in the second with his 13th home run, and MVP candidate Yuki Yanagita put the hosts in front with a two-run home run, his 29th. Ukyo Shuto stole one base, becoming the first Hawks player in nine years to reach 50 steals.
The Hawks will host the Chiba Lotte Marines in the best-of-five PL Climax Series starting on Saturday. The winner will take on the CL champion Yomiuri Giants in the Japan Series starting on Nov. 21. The Hawks have won the last three Japan Series and have six Japan championships since 2011.
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Nippon Ham catcher Yushi Shimizu hit a two-run home run and an RBI single to lead the fightback in a 7-4 come-from-behind win over the playoff-bound Marines.
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