SENDAI (Kyodo) -- Yuki Matsui struck out 12 over five innings and four relievers finished a seven-hit shutout as the Rakuten Eagles completed a crucial three-game sweep of the Lotte Marines with a 3-0 win on Thursday.
The win at Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi moved the third-place Eagles to within 2-1/2 games of the second-place Marines. Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, only two teams will advance to the postseason from the Pacific League.
The strikeouts allowed Matsui to pitch out of jams in the fourth and fifth innings. He allowed five hits and four walks. After a pair of two-out walks loaded the bases in the fifth, Matsui struck out slugger Seiya Inoue to end his stint.
"I wouldn't call it a nice game," said Matsui (3-3) who is transitioning this season from relief ace to the starting rotation. "I thought going into the game the bare minimum for me would be five shutout innings."
"I never established a rhythm, but my teammates had my back, both scoring runs and picking up the slack on the mound."
Reserve Eagles catcher Takahiro Shimotsuma, playing in his eighth pro season, opened the scoring in the third with his first career home run, off Marines starter Daiki Iwashita (5-6).
"To be honest I'm very happy," Shimotsuma said. "It felt really good coming off the bat. I thought it was going over the fence but when it did, I was still surprised."
Rakuten's No. 4 hitter, Eigoro Mogi, singled in runs in the third and fifth to complete the scoring.
A quartet of Eagles relievers, Kanji Teraoka, D.J. Johnson, Tomohito Sakai and Alan Busenitz allowed two hits, one walk and one hit batsman over the final four innings. Busenitz earned his 15th save.
At Fukuoka's PayPay Dome, Akira Nakamura hit a game-tying two-run fifth-inning home run, allowing the SoftBank Hawks to earn a 3-3, 10-inning tie, preventing them from being swept at home by the last-place Orix Buffaloes.
At MetLife Dome, Kenta Uehara (1-1) allowed two runs, one earned over seven innings while striking out nine as the Nippon Ham Fighters hammered the Seibu Lions 12-2.