Ayumu Ishikawa struck out six over eight scoreless innings and the Chiba Lotte Marines held on for a 3-2 win over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters on Sunday to move into the Pacific League lead.

The Marines pushed past the Orix Buffaloes on winning percentage, .558 to .556. The Buffaloes are seeking their franchise’s first pennant since 1996, while Lotte’s last PL title came in 2005.

Ishikawa (6-3) allowed four hits but no walks, and left with a 3-0 lead after a Tatsuhiro Tamura RBI double in the fifth, a Hiromi Oka RBI single in the sixth and Brandon Laird’s 28th home run in the eighth.

“I pitched great,” Ishikawa said to the amusement of the fans at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium. “But our defense was even better.”

Closer Naoya Masuda took the mound in the ninth. Nippon Ham, however, scored twice and had the potential go-ahead run on base before Masuda held on for his 38th save.

The Marines have four games remaining and the Buffaloes have one.

Hawks 6 Eagles 2

At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, SoftBank beat the playoff-bound Eagles one day after being eliminated from the postseason chase.


Swallows 6, Giants 4

At Jingu Stadium, Central League-leading Yakult snapped a string of three straight losing decisions, beating third-place Yomiuri behind 5⅓-innings from pitcher Juri Hara (3-1), whose three-run double highlighted a six-run fourth inning. The win cut the Swallows’ magic number to clinch the pennant to two.

Tigers 7, Carp 2

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, second-place Hanshin kept its pennant hopes alive with a win over the Carp after a three-run homer from rookie Teruaki Sato and a solid 5⅔ innings from rookie lefty Masashi Ito (10-7).

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