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Baseball: Eagles' Mima polishes off Hawks with pitching gem

Manabu Mima carries a perfect game into the ninth as the Rakuten Eagles beat the SoftBank Hawks 5-1. (Kyodo)

SENDAI (Kyodo) -- Manabu Mima carried a perfect game into the ninth as the Rakuten Eagles beat the SoftBank Hawks 5-1 on Friday, handing the Pacific League leaders their fifth-straight loss.

    Mima (6-3) allowed two hits and a walk, while striking out six in a 117-pitch effort. It was his first win since June 9 and the Eagles' first complete game victory of the season.

    With good command of his fastball, slider and changeup, the 32-year-old right-hander used a varied attack that left the Hawks hitters guessing wrong most of the time. Until the Hawks broke through in the ninth, the few times they did hit a ball hard, it went straight to an Eagles fielder.

    "I wanted it (a perfect game)," Mima said. "I thought I could get it, but I guess the pressure got to me in the ninth inning."

    Hawks starter Kodai Senga (9-3) survived a bases-loaded jam in the second, but he struggled to get the final out in the fifth inning when he surrendered the lead and four runs. The right-hander gave up six hits and walked four, while striking out eight.

    "To get four runs against a pitcher like Senga is really big," Mima said. "The way I was pitching tonight, I thought I definitely could hold that lead."

    Eigoro Mogi homered with one out to break the scoreless deadlock in the fifth inning. With two out and none on, Hiroaki Shimauchi tripled and scored on a wild pitch. A walk, a single and a two-run Ginji Akaminai double dealt a crushing blow and capped the four-run inning.

    In the seventh inning, Mima got a huge boost from the introduction of little-used reserve infielder Itsuki Murabayashi at third base. The 21-year-old made a diving catch of a foul ball to end Seiji Uebayashi's 10-pitch at-bat to open the inning. Murabayashi ended the Hawks' eighth when he speared a liner off the bat of Seiichi Uchikawa for the third out.

    The hopes of fans at Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, however, did not survive the start of the ninth inning. Mima walked leadoff man Kenji Akashi before surrendering a flare single to left off the bat of rookie Ryoya Kurihara.

    After a meeting with pitching coach Tomohito Ito, Mima stayed in and got a double-play grounder. With two outs and a runner on third, however, right fielder Jabari Blash was unable to haul in a drive by Uebayashi to the wall that went for an RBI triple.

    "Mima was near perfect tonight," Eagles manager Yosuke Hirabayashi said. "He had his best pitches, good balance, everything."

    "I really wanted him to finish tonight. The atmosphere he created in the ballpark was just electric. That was all Mima's doing."

    The Hawks' five-game losing streak is their first since 2016. The loss trimmed their lead ahead of the second-place Nippon Ham Fighters to three games.

    At Sapporo Dome, Takayuki Kato (5-4) worked five scoreless innings as the Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Lotte Marines 5-3.

    At MetLife Dome, Takeya Nakamura became the 20th player to hit 400 career home runs in Japan, reaching the milestone with an 11th-inning walk-off shot as the Seibu Lions beat the Orix Buffaloes 5-4 after the Lions tied it in a three-run ninth.

    In the Central League, the Hiroshima Carp overcame a 5-0 deficit, coming from behind in the eighth inning on Tsubasa Aizawa's two-run homer and beating the Yomiuri Giants 7-6 at Mazda Stadium.

    At Yokohama Stadium, Kentaro Taira (2-2) threw six scoreless innings, and the DeNA BayStars made Jose Lopez's three-run first-inning home run stand up in a 3-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons.

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