Marines cling to Pacific League lead by narrowest of margins

The Chiba Lotte Marines maintained their slim Pacific League lead after Takashi Ogino hit a ninth-inning home run and closer Naoya Masuda pitched out of a tight spot to secure a 2-2 tie with the second-place Orix Buffaloes on Thursday.

The teams split the three-game series at Hotto Motto Field Kobe, leaving the Buffaloes trailing the league leaders on winning percentage, .551 to .548.

Trailing by a run in the ninth after a superb eight innings from Buffaloes lefty Daiki Tajima, Ogino took Orix closer and former major leaguer Yoshihisa Hirano deep to open the ninth and even the score.

Orix, which had been in first place for much of the summer, had the potential winning run on second with one out but failed to score.

Adam Jones’ pinch-hit double against PL saves leader Masuda opened the door for a ninth-inning rally. The Buffaloes nearly pulled off a walk-off win, but third baseman Ryo Miki speared a line drive off the bat of rookie Kotaro Kurebayashi for the final out that kept the Marines in first place.

Lotte right-hander Ayumu Ishikawa, making his first start since having shoulder cleaning surgery in June, matched zeroes with Tajima for four innings before the Buffaloes opened the scoring on a Shuhei Fukuda RBI single.

Yutaro Sugimoto’s 24th home run, off Ishikawa, made it 2-0 in the sixth, only for the Marines to get on the board in the seventh.

Tetsuya Kokubo, cut last winter by the Hiroshima Carp and unable to find a team until Lotte signed him last week, led off the seventh with his first home run in two seasons.

Tajima allowed three hits and two walks while striking out 10, only to see his chance to earn the win evaporate in the ninth on Ogino’s ninth homer of the year.

Eagles 4, Fighters 0

At Sapporo Dome, the third-place Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles moved to within two games of Orix behind an 11-strikeout three-hitter by Takahiro Norimoto (9-5).

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Carp 12, Dragons 5

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Carp outfielder Seiya Suzuki homered for the sixth consecutive game, one shy of Japan’s record of seven straight set by Hall of Famer Sadaharu Oh in 1972 and equaled by Randy Bass in 1986.

Suzuki, who hit his 26th and 27th of the year, scored three runs and drove in three.

Swallows 13, Tigers 3

At Nishinomiya’s Koshien Stadium, Jose Osuna and Domingo Santana each drove in three runs to lift third-place Yakult to a win over first-place Hanshin, a team the Swallows now trail by 2½ games.

BayStars 5, Giants 5

At Yokohama Stadium, Yoshihiro Maru capped a three-run ninth-inning rally with an RBI single as second-place Yomiuri earned a tie against DeNA.

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Source : Baseball – The Japan Times

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