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Baseball: Shimauchi propels Eagles past tenacious Buffaloes

Hiroaki Shimauchi of the Rakuten Eagles hits a home run against the Pacific League-leading Orix Buffaloes at Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi on Aug. 26, 2021. (Kyodo)

SENDAI (Kyodo) -- Hiroaki Shimauchi scored twice, homered and drove in three runs and the Rakuten Eagles held on for a nail-biting 7-6 win over the Pacific League-leading Orix Buffaloes on Thursday.

    The win at Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi pulled Rakuten to within two games of the league leaders, and moved them a full game ahead of the third-place Lotte Marines, who were idle.

    Shimauchi singled and scored in a four-run first, singled in the second and hit his 15th home run, a two-run shot in the fourth as the Eagles made it a 7-1 game.

    "We are still in second place but we aspire to be in first," said Shimauchi, who set a career high in home runs.

    The Eagles scored five runs in two innings off rookie Soichiro Yamazaki (0-1). Rakuten's lead appeared safe in the hands of right-hander Takahiro Norimoto (8-4), but the Buffaloes rallied.

    Japan Olympian Masataka Nashida hit his 20th homer in the top of the fourth to put Orix on the board. Yutaro Sugimoto hit a two-run homer in the sixth, his 21st, and Adam Jones followed him with his fourth home run to cap a three-run sixth.

    Tomohito Sakai, the Eagles' third pitcher, surrendered two runs in the seventh, and only barely survived with the lead intact.

    In the eighth inning, Tomohiro Anraku needed a big defensive play from his center fielder to preserve the Eagles' lead in the eighth.

    In the ninth inning, Taiwan's Sung Chia-hao took the mound instead of regular closer Yuki Matsui and worked a 1-2-3 inning against the heart of the Buffaloes' order to earn his first career save.

    "He threw some really good pitches," manager Kazuhisa Ishii said of Sung. "We're in the thick of things and we're going to have to go through some hairy situations, so that was good experience for him."

    At MetLife Dome, rookie Yutaro Watanabe (2-2) worked five innings, and four relievers completed the Seibu Lions' four-hit 3-0 shutout of the defending Pacific League champion SoftBank Hawks.

    At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Joe Gunkel (7-1), returning to the mound for the first time since July 14, allowed two runs over 6-1/3 innings to pitch the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers to a 9-3 win over the DeNA BayStars. The Tigers moved two games ahead of the Yomiuri Giants.

    At Tokyo Dome, Seiya Suzuki and Shogo Sakakura each homered twice as the Hiroshima Carp clobbered Yomiuri 11-2. Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano (2-5), pitching for the first time since the Carp beat him on July 1, allowed five runs in six innings.

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