Baseball: Hotaka Yamakawa goes 4 for 5 with 3 RBI as Lions hit Buffaloes

Hotaka Yamakawa of the Seibu Lions hits a single in the sixth inning of a Pacific League game against the Orix Buffaloes at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka on August 28, 2022. (Kyodo)

OSAKA (Kyodo) — Hotaka Yamakawa went 4-for-5 with three RBIs as the Seibu Lions overpowered the Orix Buffaloes 10-4 on 16 hits on Sunday to stay a half game behind the League-leading SoftBank Hawks of the Pacific.

The slugger hit three singles and a two-run homer, his league-leading 37th, as every batter in the Lions starting lineup had at least one hit to help them win the series at Kyocera Dome Osaka.

“We’re in this position this year because of the efforts of our pitchers. The position players will do the job for the remaining games,” Yamakawa said after the franchise’s 5,000th win at Nippon Professional Baseball.

“I didn’t know about this stage until I was told, but I’m happy to be a part of it…I will continue to focus on every pitch, blast the circuits, and we will win the league.”

The Lions had struck out five in the first three innings against emergency starter Orix Soichiro Yamazaki, pitching for the first time since April after rookie Ren Mukunoki suffered an ankle injury.

But trailing by one run, the five-run fourth inning swung the game in favor of the Lions when they started with six straight hits from new pitcher Sachiya Yamasaki (4-7).

Sosuke Genda started the rally outright and scoring with a ferocious brace through Tomoya Mori’s cross. Two field singles loaded the bases and Wu Nien-ting fired a right single to tackle the go-ahead.

Shohei Suzuki singled out the first pitch for a 3-1 lead before a run scored on a double play. Aito Takeda, whose first-inning error led to a run, singled in a run against Ryota Muranishi who was blamed on Yamasaki.

Suzuki’s sacrificial volley in the fifth and Yamakawa’s RBI single in the sixth made it 7-1.

Lions starter Dietrich Enns (9-6) left after giving up Keita Nakagawa’s three-run homer in the sixth. But a Takeda RBI brace in the seventh and Yamakawa’s two-run homer in the eighth inning put victory on ice.

A day after being hitless by the Nippon Ham Fighters, SoftBank bounced back with a 6-0 win after six innings from ace Kodai Senga (9-4), who struck out nine without issuing a walk.

The Chunichi Dragons beat the Hanshin Tigers 4-1 in the Central League, with 19-year-old Daichi Moriki (0-1) allowing three runs in six innings on his professional debut.

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