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Baseball: Wada, Kai lead Hawks to title-clinching win over Marines

The SoftBank Hawks celebrate after clinching their first Pacific League title in three years with a 5-1 win over the Lotte Marines at PayPay Dome in Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, on Oct. 27, 2020. (Kyodo)

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) -- Tsuyoshi Wada threw six innings of three-hit ball and catcher Takuya Kai blasted a two-run homer to help the SoftBank Hawks capture the Pacific League pennant Tuesday with a 5-1 victory over the Lotte Marines.

    Starting the day with their magic number at two, the reigning Japan Series champions needed a win against the second-place Marines at PayPay Dome to secure their first PL title since 2017 and 19th overall.

    Veteran lefty Wada (8-1) put them in the driver's seat with a dominant start, striking out eight and surrendering a solitary walk in an 82-pitch outing.

    Hawks infielder Ukyo Shuto set a club record with 10 consecutive games with a stolen base when he stole second in the bottom of the third inning.

    Kimiyasu Kudo's men took the lead in the fifth inning when Hikaru Kawase scored on an Akira Nakamura sacrifice fly.

    Leading off the inning, Kawase sent Marines ace Ayumu Ishikawa (7-5) deep to right but had to settle for a double after just failing to clear the wall. He advanced to third on Shuto's sacrifice bunt.

    The Hawks extended the lead with two out in the sixth when Kai locked in on Ishikawa's 3-2 fastball, going high over the left field wall and scoring Kenji Akashi.

    Kai drove in another run in the eighth, scoring Taisei Makihara with a double to left off his first pitch from right-hander Fumiya Ono. After reaching third on Kawase's groundout, Kai put the Hawks up 5-0 when he stole home on a wild pitch from Ono.

    The Marines got on the board in the ninth inning when Ikuhiro Kiyota found the gap through center for an RBI double. They loaded the bases with two out before closer Yuito Mori got Shuhei Fukuda to ground out.

    "I feel everyone was really nervous today but Wada showed what he is made of with his pitches," Hawks manager Kudo said.

    "I think it gave all the players a lift as they made their trips to the plate."

    The Hawks will contest the PL Climax Series -- reduced to a single stage this year due to the coronavirus pandemic -- as they continue their bid for a fourth straight Japan Series title and sixth since 2014.

    At MetLife Dome, Tomoya Mori hit a three-run homer in the fifth as the Seibu Lions came from behind to beat the Rakuten Eagles 4-3.

    At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Ryo Watanabe broke the tie with a sixth-inning RBI in the Nippon Ham Fighters' 5-3 win against the Orix Buffaloes.

    In the Central League, the first-place Yomiuri Giants lost 9-2 to the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium but saw their magic number shrink to three after the second-place Chunichi Dragons were 4-1 losers against the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.

    At Mazda Stadium, Allen Kuri struck out 10 over 7-2/3 innings as the Hiroshima Carp beat the last-place Yakult Swallows 2-0.

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