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Baseball: Rakuten beats Nippon Ham 3-2 on late Wheeler home run

Zelous Wheeler hits a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Rakuten Eagles come from behind to beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 3-2 in Sendai on April 3, 2019. (Kyodo)

SENDAI (Kyodo) -- Zelous Wheeler belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Rakuten Eagles came from behind to beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 3-2 in the Pacific League on Wednesday.

With two outs and Hiroaki Shimauchi on first, Wheeler sent reliever Hiroshi Urano's 1-1 pitch deep over the left field wall for the winning runs.

The Fighters had taken the lead in the top of the inning at a chilly Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi when Toshitake Yokoo hit a double off reliever Frank Herrmann to score Kensuke Kondo and Sho Nakata.

After five scoreless innings, Wheeler gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth, scoring Hideto Asamura with a double to center off Fighters starter Bryan Rodriguez. Wheeler finished the game with a run, two hits and three RBIs in four plate appearances.

The 4-1 Eagles, who finished last year at the bottom of the PL standings, are firmly focused on putting together a winning season, the American designated hitter said.

"Every day we come out here and play to win. We're doing a great job now, and hats off to everybody," Wheeler said.

The former major leaguer has racked up four home runs just five games into the season.

"I'm not worried about (my) stats," he said. "We win together, we lose together."

The Eagles gave Yuya Fukui his first regular-season start since joining from the Central League's Hiroshima Carp. The right-hander fanned three while giving up four hits and issuing four walks in five scoreless innings.

Rodriguez completed six innings for the Fighters, striking out five and allowing one run on six hits and a pair of walks.

Hermann (1-0) got the win, while closer Yuki Matsui picked up his second save. Urano (1-1) took the loss after surrendering two runs on three hits and a walk.

The Eagles, who opened the series on Tuesday with a 3-1 win, will aim to sweep the Fighters when they face off for a third time on Thursday.

Elsewhere in the Pacific League, Takeya Nakamura drove in four runs on a pair of hits as the Seibu Lions clobbered the Chiba Lotte Marines 9-3 at Seibu Dome.

The SoftBank Hawks and Orix Buffaloes remained scoreless after 12 innings and 3 hours, 47 minutes at Kyocera Dome in Nippon Professional Baseball's first tie of the season.

In the Central League, the Yomiuri Giants made it four wins on the trot with a 6-3 victory over the visiting Hanshin Tigers.

Christopher Mercedes got the win after going eight innings deep for the Giants.

At Jingu Stadium, Yuhei Takai tied the game with a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth as the Yakult Swallows came back to beat the DeNA Baystars 5-4.

The Hiroshima Carp rode a seventh-inning rally to a 3-2 win on the road against the Chunichi Dragons.

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