CHIBA, Japan (Kyodo) – Adeiny Hechavarria’s home run in the eighth inning tied it off, and Toshiya Sato’s RBI double in the ninth inning brought the Lotte Marines to a 5-4 win over the Rakuten Eagles in Game 1 of the Pacific League First Leg of Climax Series on Saturday.
The win at Zozo Marine Stadium means that with another win or a tie in the best-of-three series in their home park, the Marines can move into the final stages against league champions Orix Buffaloes.
Rookie Roki Sasaki started for Lotte, allowing an undeserved run over six innings while hitting 10. He took a 3-1 lead before the Eagles came back against the Marines Bullpen.
With a failure in the ninth inning and speedster Hiromi Oka, who represented the potential winning run in second place, Sato slashed the Taiwanese right-hander Sung Chia-hao a pitch through the infield.
“I was just looking for a place to hit,” said Sato.
Rakuten starter Takahiro Norimoto tumbled out of a two-on-one out jam in the first, but invited the bases in with an out in the third when Brandon Laird hit a booming two-run base-loaded single and Shogo Nakamura followed suit Home climbed to score a sacrificial fly.
That lead lasted until Sasaki left the hill and Yuki Kuniyoshi took three steps and made a mistake before PL RBI leader Hiroaki Shimauchi cleared the bases with a two-out double.
Former Marine Tomohito Sakai worked a 1-2-3 seventh for the Eagles to set the stage for left-handed Yuki Matsui. The closer Rakuten, pitching for the first time since August, got two quick outs before Hechavarria stayed on a good high fastball.
“I wasn’t thinking of anything special, just focused on getting a good swing. I could hit it pretty hard and I’m glad I could help,” said Hechavarria.
Marines closer Naoya Masuda worked a 1-2-3 ninth and won the win after Lotte rallied in ninth.
At Koshien Stadium, right-handed ace Tomoyuki Sugano worked seven sharp innings to claim victory as the Yomiuri Giants, who finished third in the Central League, took the first stage of the CL with a 4-0 win over runner-up Hanshin Tigers opened.
Zelous Wheeler has been involved in all four Giants runs with a victim in the fifth inning, a double in the sixth inning with two runs, and an RBI single in the eighth inning.
The Tigers loaded the bases with two outs against Giants, closer to Thyago Vieira in ninth place, but reached the final to end it.
The Giants now need a win or two draws to advance to the finals of the CL against league champions Yakult Swallows.