27th November 2020

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Hawks rally past Marines, advance to Japan Series

Akira Nakamura swatted a pair of two-run homers to help lift the SoftBank Hawks to a 6-4 come-from-behind win over the Lotte Marines in Game 2 of the Pacific League Climax Series on Sunday.

The Pacific League champions clinched their fourth straight Japan Series berth with the win, which followed their 4-3 comeback victory in Game 1 on Saturday. As pennant holders, they started the best-of-five Climax Series with a one-game advantage.

The Hawks were outhit by the Marines but the visitors were held down by SoftBank’s bullpen and unable to capitalize on numerous scoring opportunities, including a nerve-wracking bases-loaded chance in the final frame.

“Nakamura’s two home runs were really wonderful,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said. “Our relievers pitched like they wanted to win no matter what and not allow a hit, and that led to our victory.”

“I want us to do our best and win our fourth straight (Japan Series) championship.”

A shaky start from Hawks starter Nao Higashihama allowed the Marines to jump out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning before Nakamura cut the deficit to one with a two-run shot off Marines lefty Chen Wei-yin (0-1) in the second.

Nakamura went deep again in the fourth after a double from Alfredo Despaigne, crushing the go-ahead blast over the right-field wall. Nobuhiro Matsuda chased the former major leaguer with a solo homer on the very next pitch.

The Marines had chances in the fourth and fifth innings but Higashihama pitched out of the jams with the help of catcher Takuya Kai throwing out a runner trying to steal second. Higashihama scattered seven hits and struck out four over four innings.

Hisanori Yasuda put the Marines on the board with a two-run double in the first and scored on a grounder from Shuhei Fukuda in Lotte’s early rally.

An RBI groundout from Lotte second baseman Shogo Nakamura in the seventh was answered by a run-scoring triple from his SoftBank counterpart Ukyo Shuto in the bottom of the inning to keep the Hawks’ two-run buffer.

Hawks closer Yuito Mori loaded the bases on two hits and a walk with one out in the ninth, but struck out Nakamura and coaxed a series-ending flyout from pinch hitter Toshiya Sato for the save.

The win went to Livan Moinelo (2-0), who got the final out in the seventh and retired the side in the eighth.

SoftBank, aiming to win the Japan Series for the fourth year in a row, will face the Central League-winning Yomiuri Giants in a rematch of last season starting on Saturday at Kyocera Dome Osaka.

Due to this season’s delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the PL trimmed its Climax Series to a single leg between its top-two teams, while the CL abandoned its playoffs entirely.

PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)


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