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Baseball: Sugimoto blasts Buffaloes past Fighters

Yutaro Sugimoto of the Orix Buffaloes hits a three-run homer in the fourth inning of a Pacific League game against the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome on Oct. 15, 2021. (Kyodo)

SAPPORO (Kyodo) -- Pacific League home run leader Yutaro Sugimoto hit a three-run homer, powering the league-leading Orix Buffaloes past the Nippon Ham Fighters 3-0 on Friday.

    The Buffaloes remained a half-game ahead of the second-place Lotte Marines, who beat them the previous two nights.

    At Sapporo Dome, rookie Orix right-hander Soichiro Yamazaki (2-2) allowed two hits and a walk over six innings while striking out five.

    Fighters starter Kazuaki Tateno (4-2) issued back-to-back walks to open the top of the fourth, and Sugimoto belted his 32nd home run.

    "We're in a situation where we can't afford a loss, so I'm glad I could get a hit at a good time. Soichiro pitched great, and I wanted to get him the lead. We've come this far to be in a pennant race, and I want to enjoy it without putting extra pressure on myself."

    Ryoga Tomiyama, Tyler Higgins and Yoshihisa Hirano each worked a scoreless inning to wrap up the combined three-hit shutout, with Hirano earning his 27th save.

    At Zozo Marine Stadium, Hiromi Oka's two-run walk-off home run lifted the Marines to a 3-1 win over the fourth-place SoftBank Hawks that kept Lotte from losing ground to Orix as Lotte clinched a spot in the postseason.

    At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Tatsuya Imai (8-7) threw a four-hitter and Hotaka Yamakawa hit a three-run home run in the Seibu Lions' 5-1 win over the third-place Rakuten Eagles.

    At Jingu Stadium, Jose Osuna's three-run seventh-inning home run brought the Central League-leading Yakult Swallows from behind, and they held on to beat the third-place Yomiuri Giants 8-7. The win trimmed Yakult's magic number to clinch the pennant to six.

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