Pacific League leader Rakuten soars above Seibu


Daisuke Kusano hit a tiebreaking two-run single and Norihiro Nakamura added a two-run double in the fifth inning, leading the Rakuten Eagles to a 6-3 win over the Seibu Lions on Wednesday.

Surprise Pacific League leader Rakuten has now won four three-game series in a row and holds a two-game lead over the second-place Nippon Ham Fighters, who lost to the Lotte Marines 7-3.

“We took the series two games to one against the defending champions. There are mysterious forces at work,” manager Katsuya Nomura said after Rakuten moved eight games over .500 for the first time in club history.

The four-run fifth inning gave Rakuten a 5-1 lead before Ryuji Miyade added a pinch-hit RBI single in the sixth at Seibu Dome.

Kohei Hasebe (2-2) limited Seibu to one run on six hits over seven-plus innings. Fumiya Nishiguchi (2-1) gave up five runs in five innings.

“To be honest, I was prepared to finish winless here because of our (less experienced) starting pitchers for this three-game set,” Nomura said.

Rookie right-hander Ryohei Isaka won his debut Tuesday with six effective innings. Hasebe had a disastrous 23.63 ERA in three appearances against Seibu last year.

Pacific League

Marines 7, Fighters 3

Tomoya Satozaki hit a go-ahead two-run homer on his way to a four RBI afternoon as Lotte ended Nippon Ham’s winning streak at four games.

Satozaki connected off Brian Sweeney (0-3) to give Lotte the lead for good at 3-2 in the fifth inning before adding run-scoring singles in his next two at-bats at Chiba Marine Stadium.

Shunsuke Watanabe (1-3) allowed two runs and six hits in five-plus innings. Shoitsu Omatsu drove in two runs for Lotte with a home run and a sacrifice fly.

Hawks 5, Buffaloes 1

Softbank pounded out six hits to score four runs in the sixth inning on the way to avoiding a three-game sweep at the hands of Orix.

Hiroki Kokubo had the first of Softbank’s four RBI singles in the sixth for a 2-1 lead at Kyocera Dome. Kenji Otonari (1-2) held Orix to one run in six innings, while Shogo Yamamoto (2-1) allowed four runs in five-plus innings.

Central League

Giants 3, BayStars 2

Hayato Sakamoto hit a walk-off solo home run as Central League leader Yomiuri edged Yokohama for its first win in three games.

Sakamoto homered to left off Hiroki Sanada (0-1) with one out in the ninth inning at Tokyo Dome.

Tetsuya Yamaguchi (4-0) threw two perfect innings in relief of Hisanori Takahashi, who struck out 10 over seven innings while giving up solo homers to Seiichi Uchikawa and Tatsuhiko Kinjo.

Dragons 4, Carp 2

Hirokazu Ibata opened the scoring with a two-run double in a three-run third inning and Takuya Asao (3-3) allowed two runs in eight innings, leading Chunichi over Hiroshima.

Hiroshima pulled within 3-2 in the sixth, but Atsushi Fujii singled in an insurance run for Chunichi in the eighth at Nagoya Dome. Yuki Saito (2-2) took the loss.