Baseball: Akito Takabe caps the Marines’ big comeback against the Lions

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Akito Takabe of the Lotte Marines hits a walk-off single in the ninth inning of a Pacific League game against the Seibu Lions at Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba, near Tokyo on July 21, 2022. (kyodo)

CHIBA (Kyodo) — Akito Takabe’s RBI single capped a three-part ninth-inning rally that led the Lotte Marines to a 5-4 win over the Seibu Lions on Thursday.

With the top five teams in the Pacific League close together, Lotte’s victory at Zozo Marine Stadium east of Tokyo held the fourth-placed Marines just 2 1/2 games behind the league-leading SoftBank Hawks.

Hard-throwing right-hander Kaima Taira (1-3) took the mound in ninth for the second-placed Lions. The Marines loaded the bases and pinch-hitter Hiromi Oka connected it with a two-barrel single.

Another walk reloaded the bases and Takabe smashed the first climb he saw in the right direction.

“My teammates set the table and I was up there to finish it. I’m glad I did everything I was worth,” said Takabe.

The Lions overcame an early 2-0 deficit in Hotaka Yamakawa’s 29th home game in the fourth and Takeya Nakamura’s treble in the sixth.

Seiya Dohi (1-0) scored a goalless ninth place finish for the Marines in his season debut to secure the win.

“We held out on lap nine, had great at-bats and put together a good rally,” said Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi.

Elsewhere in the PL, Kodai Senga (8-3) scored eight innings for eight in SoftBank’s 7-0 win over third-place finisher Rakuten. Fifth-placed Orix Buffaloes fell a game behind Lotte with a 4-3 win over bottom-placed Nippon Ham Fighters.

The Central League’s Yomiuri Giants weekend series in Nagoya against the Chunichi Dragons has been postponed after a total of 57 players, coaches and staff within the organization tested positive for the coronavirus over the past three days.

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