The SoftBank Hawks powered past the Nippon Ham Fighters 5-2 on Monday, with five solo home runs from their red-hot batting lineup helping them advance to the final stage of the Pacific League Climax Series.
A day after the Fighters evened the best-of-three first stage at Yafuoku Dome, the Hawks improved to 2-1 and moved into the final stage for the fifth straight year. SoftBank will face the PL champion Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome starting Wednesday.
Alfredo Despaigne led the Hawks offense with back-to-back homers. His home run off right-hander Toshihiro Sugiura (0-1) broke a 1-1 fourth inning tie. Sugiura was pulled out after retiring the next batter, but righty Kazutomo Iguchi yielded another homer to Nobuhiro Matsuda.
Despaigne’s second homer came in the bottom of the sixth against righty Michael Tonkin, and Akira Nakamura went deep over the right field wall to put the Hawks up 5-2.
Kenji Akashi put the Hawks on the scoreboard, blasting a first-inning homer to right stands. Sugiura pitched into a jam after issuing back-to-back walks but retired Despaigne and Nakamura to close the inning without further damage.
“Everyone concentrated at the plate. I think the god of baseball was at our side,” Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said. “The players went into the game motivated to win and advance to the final at any cost. I feel honored to be able to manage such a great team.”
Right-hander Shuta Ishikawa (1-0) picked up the win for limiting the Fighters to a run on three hits and a walk over two-plus innings. He took the mound with runners on first and second base but retired the next three batters.
He surrendered a run in the following inning. He allowed an RBI single to Kensuke Kondo after Haruki Nishikawa reached base on a walk.
Toshitake Yokoo homered for the second straight game to open the scoring for the Fighters. His shot off Hawks starter Nao Higashihama tied the game at 1-1.
Yuito Mori earned his first postseason save for pitching a scoreless ninth inning.
The winners of the final stage of the Central and Pacific League Climax Series will play in the Japan Series. The Yomiuri Giants and the Hiroshima Carp will open the final stage of the CL playoffs at Mazda Stadium on Wednesday.
More Info: japantoday.com