KOBE (Kyodo) — Takahiro Norimoto hit 10 and the Rakuten Eagles outfielders threw two runners to the plate in a 4-2 win over defending Pacific League champions Orix Buffaloes on Tuesday.
Victory at Hotto Motto Field Kobe brought the Eagles within a half-game of PL-leading SoftBank Hawks, with third-placed Seibu Lions trailing 2-1/2 games after their 5-2 win over Nippon Ham Fighters.
Norimoto (6-2) missed a baseman only in the fifth inning, batting six straight at once.
Trailing 2-0 in game five, the Buffaloes put the winning runs on base. However, that rally ended with Kenya Wakatsuki’s two-out singles when the leading runner was knocked out by a good margin. The seventh inning ended the same way with a Wakatsuki single to the left.
Norimoto allowed a run in eighth. He gave up nine hits but no walks and went to base with an out and the tie run. Rookie Sora Suzuki finished off two-time hitting champion Masataka Yoshida and Naoto Nishiguchi defeated reigning PL home run champion Yutaro Sugimoto.
“I wanted to finish (the inning) but I gave everything I had. My pitching through the fifth was my best all season,” said Norimoto, who credited his control of the fastball and good action on his forkball.
“I’m also grateful for the work the outfield players have done behind me.”
The Eagles got some breathing room in ninth on solo home runs from Daichi Suzuki and Hideto Asamura. Rakuten closer Yuki Matsui allowed a solo homer against Orix’s Ryoichi Adachi but secured his 18th save.
Hiroya Miyagi (6-4), last year’s PL Rookie of the Year, allowed two runs over 6-2/3 innings to accept the loss.
In the Central League, the first-place Yakult Swallows beat Hiroshima Carp 6-3 on Munetaka Murakami’s 27th home run, while Neftali Soto’s three RBIs propelled the DeNA BayStars 6-2 past the Hanshin Tigers on Yoshihiro Maru’s 16th home Run gave the Yomiuri Giants a 6-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons.
Nippon Professional Baseball has announced that Wednesday’s SoftBank Hawks game at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome against the Lotte Marines has been postponed after two more players and three other players tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday.
Between Saturday and Monday, left winger Tsuyoshi Wada was among the eight team members, including five players, to test positive.
Wednesday’s game is the 10th coronavirus postponement of the season, beating the nine scratched last season.