CHIBA (Kyodo) -- Ayumu Ishikawa struck out six over eight scoreless innings and the Lotte Marines held on to a 3-2 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters on Sunday and took over the Pacific League lead.
The Marines pushed past the Orix Buffaloes on winning percentage, .558 to .556. The Buffaloes are seeking their franchise's first pennant since 1996, while Lotte's last PL title came in 2005.
Ishikawa (6-3) allowed four hits but no walks, and left with a 3-0 lead after a Tatsuhiro Tamura RBI double in the fifth, a Hiromi Oka RBI single in the sixth, and Brandon Laird's 28th home run in the eighth.
"I pitched great," Ishikawa said to the amusement of the fans at Chiba's Zozo Marine Stadium. "But our defense was even better."
Closer Naoya Masuda took the mound in the ninth. Nippon Ham, however, scored twice and had the potential go-ahead runs on base but Masuda held on for his 38th save.
The Marines have four games remaining and the Buffaloes one.
At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, the SoftBank Hawks, a day after being eliminated from the postseason, beat the playoff-bound Rakuten Eagles 6-2.
At Jingu Stadium, the Central League-leading Yakult Swallows snapped a string of three straight losing decisions, beating the third-place Yomiuri Giants 6-4 behind 5-1/3 innings from pitcher Juri Hara (3-1), whose three-run double highlighted a six-run fourth inning. The win cut the Swallows' magic number to clinch the pennant to two.
At Mazda Stadium, the second-place Hanshin Tigers kept their pennant push in high gear with a 7-2 win over the Hiroshima Carp after a three-run homer from rookie Teruaki Sato and a solid 5-2/3 innings outing from rookie lefty Masashi Ito (10-7).