The Softbank Hawks defeated the Orix Buffaloes, 3-2, last Wednesday night to take a narrow 1.5-game lead over the Nippon Ham Fighters in their neck-and-neck battle for the lead in Japan’s Pacific League standings. Nobuhiro Matsuda went 3-for-3 with two RBIs for the Hawks, while starter Yoshiaki Fujioka let in one run over 5.2 innings for the win as Softbank raised their record to 41-28-2.
The Fighters are right behind the Hawks at 40-30-1 after dropping a 4-3 decision to the Seibu Lions Wednesday night. Yu Darvish took the loss for Nippon Ham to fall to 10-3 for the season after giving up four runs in seven innings, the most tallies he’s allowed in a start this year. Seibu pinch-hitter Tatsuyuki Uemoto touched Darvish with a two-run homer in the seventh to put the Lions ahead for good. Seibu is third in the PL at 36-35-2.
In the Central League standings, the Yomiuri Giants are 43-24-6 and hold a comfortable lead over the 39-29 Yakult Swallows. The Giants beat the Yokohama BayStars, 3-2, Wednesday night as Hayato Sakamoto hit his second walkoff homer of the year in the ninth inning. The Swallows kept pace with an 11-6 win over the Chunichi Dragons. Norichika Aoki stroked a two-run single in the sixth to break a 6-6 tie as Yakult scored the final five runs of the game. Chunichi is in third place in the CL with a 40-32-1 record.