TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. – Hisashi Iwakuma pitched seven innings of one-run ball to earn his 20th win of the season, leading the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to a 6-1 victory over the Seibu Lions on Monday.
Seibu’s magic number to win the Pacific League title remained at two, but the Lions can clinch it Tuesday with a win over Rakuten coupled with a loss by the second-place Orix Buffaloes to the Chiba Lotte Marines.
Iwakuma (20-3) won his eighth consecutive decision after allowing six hits, walking none and striking out four.
The Rakuten right-hander became the first 20-game winner in Japan since 2003 when former Hanshin Tigers left-hander Kei Igawa posted a 20-5 record and Daiei Hawks right-hander Kazuki Saito went 20-3.
Fernando Seguignol opened the scoring with a solo homer in the top of the second inning before a Craig Brazell RBI single tied the score for Seibu in the bottom half.
The Eagles went ahead 3-1 in the sixth on a Yosuke Takasu go-ahead single and a Toshiya Nakashima RBI groundout. Takeshi Yamasaki added a two-run single an inning later.
Seguignol and Yamasaki each had three hits. Kazuhisa Ishii (11-10) gave up five runs, three earned, on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Buffaloes 5, Marines 1
At Kyocera Dome, Mitsutaka Goto hit a grand slam and Satoshi Komatsu threw his second complete game of the season, leading Orix past Chiba Lotte.
Goto’s shot to right off rookie right-hander Yuki Karakawa (5-4) turned a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 lead in the fourth inning. Alex Cabrera picked up his 100th RBI of the season with a fifth-inning triple.
Komatsu (14-3) limited Lotte to three hits, walking two and striking out seven. Tomoya Satozaki homered for the Marines in the top of the first.
Fighters 9, Hawks 0
Dragons 7, Swallows 0
At Nagoya Dome, Taiwanese left-hander Chen Wei-yin pitched a four-hitter for his first career shutout and Tomas De La Rosa hit a two-run homer as Chunichi ended Yakult’s three-game winning streak.
The Dragons grabbed a share of third place with Hiroshima in the race for a probable third and final playoff spot. Chen (6-5) struck out 10, walked none and hit a batsman in a 109-pitch outing.
De La Rosa gave Chunichi a 2-0 lead in the second inning with a shot off Dicky Gonzalez (1-4). Masahiro Araki and Masahiko Morino added back-to-back RBI singles in a three-run third that made it 5-0.
Giants 9, Carp 1
Tigers 3, BayStars 2
Tazawa gets blessing
Japan’s three amateur baseball governing bodies agreed Monday to respect highly touted right-hander Junichi Tazawa’s decision to try to pursue a major league career by dodging the upcoming domestic draft.
“We discussed the issue with lawyers. His decision is not against rules, so we respect his wish,” said Yoshinobu Suzuki, vice chairman of the Japan Amateur Baseball Association.
Nippon Oil ace Tazawa, who has drawn the interest of the Boston Red Sox and a handful of other major league clubs, said on Sept. 11 that he will test the open market in North America by bypassing the Oct. 30 Japanese draft, which had been expected to revolve around the 22-year-old top-pick candidate.
His decision has sent ripples among Japanese baseball officials who fear further outflows of promising talent from the country.
Players raised in Japan’s professional leagues normally need to become free agents or use the posting system for opportunities to play in the major leagues.
Japanese amateurs, however, can sign with any major league club through free competition without having to enter the amateur draft on either side of the Pacific Ocean.
Only two players, Kazuhito Tadano and Mac Suzuki, have made their major league debuts without having had professional careers in Japan. But neither case has had as much impact on Japanese baseball as that of Tazawa.
In the day’s talks between the Japan Amateur Baseball Association (for corporate baseball), the All Japan University Baseball Federation and the Japan High School Baseball Federation, it was reported that Tazawa will not sign with a major league club prior to the Oct. 30 draft.
Tazawa throws a fastball at over 150 kph and also has a forkball and slider in his arsenal.