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Baseball: Marines counterattack wins day as Lotte eyes pennant

Takashi Ogino of the Lotte Marines watches as his ninth-inning single gets through the infield to score the winning run in a 4-3 victory over the Nippon Ham Fighters at Chiba's Zozo Marine Stadium on Oct. 23, 2021. (Kyodo)

CHIBA (Kyodo) -- Takashi Ogino singled in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, lifting the pennant-chasing Lotte Marines to a 4-3 walk-off win over the Nippon Ham Fighters on Saturday afternoon.

    The win at Zozo Marine Stadium reduced the second-place Marines' magic number to clinch their first Pacific League pennant in 16 years to four. They trail the Orix Buffaloes by a half-game but have five games remaining compared to Orix's one.

    With no outs and the bases loaded against Fighters closer Toshihiro Sugiura (2-3), Ogino smashed a ball through the infield to end it and was drenched with water in celebration by his teammates.

    "I don't have much experience to win it on a walk-off. It's cold enough today, so right now I'm chilled to the bone," Ogino said. "This thing isn't over. We have some tough fights ahead of us."

    Third-inning RBI doubles by Shogo Nakamura and Leonys Martin gave the hosts a 3-0 lead. Marines rookie Roki Sasaki allowed two runs over six innings while striking out 11. He gave up four hits and walked one.

    After a scoreless inning from reliever Yuki Kuniyoshi, the Fighters tied it in the eighth against reliever Chihaya Sasaki.

    Right fielder Hiromi Oka robbed the Fighters of a leadoff double in the corner but just barely missed another circus catch on a Wang Po-jung drive that went for a one-out double. The wind played havoc with a two-out pop fly and first baseman Brandon Laird was charged with an error when it fell and the tying run scored.

    PL saves leader Naoya Masuda (3-6) worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the win after Ogino's heroics.

    At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, the third-place Rakuten Eagles locked up the PL's final playoff spot with an 8-1 win over the fourth-place SoftBank Hawks, eliminating the four-time defending Japan Series champions from the postseason.

    At Tokyo Dome, Yoshihiro Maru homered twice, doubled twice, walked, scored three runs and drove in four as the Yomiuri Giants secured a third-place finish in the Central League in an 11-1 win over the CL-leading Yakult Swallows.

    At Mazda Stadium, Masato Morishita's only walk of the game, on a borderline 3-2 pitch with two outs in the eighth inning, helped the second-place Hanshin Tigers earn a 1-1 tie, preventing Yakult from lowering its magic number to clinch the pennant to two.

    At Yokohama Stadium, Katsuki Azuma (1-2) allowed one hit over eight innings as the DeNA BayStars beat the Chunichi Dragons for the second straight day, 5-0, in a battle between the CL's worst two teams.

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