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Baseball: Takahiro Norimoto pitches Eagles past Buffaloes

Takahiro Norimoto pitches for the Rakuten Eagles en route to his sixth win of the season. He worked into the eighth inning, striking out 10 in a 4-2 Pacific League win over the Orix Buffaloes at Hotto Motto Field Kobe on June 28, 2022. (Kyodo)

KOBE (Kyodo) -- Takahiro Norimoto struck out 10 and Rakuten Eagles outfielders threw out a pair of runners at the plate in a 4-2 win over the defending Pacific League champion Orix Buffaloes on Tuesday.

    The win at Hotto Motto Field Kobe moved the Eagles to within a half-game of the PL-leading SoftBank Hawks, with the third-place Seibu Lions 2-1/2 games back after their 5-2 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.

    Norimoto (6-2) did not allow a base runner until one out in the fifth inning and struck out six in a row in one stretch.

    Trailing 2-0 in the fifth, the Buffaloes put the tying runs on base. That rally ended, however, on Kenya Wakatsuki's two-out single when the lead runner was thrown out by a good margin. The seventh inning ended the same way on a Wakatsuki single to left.

    Norimoto allowed a run in the eighth. He gave up nine hits but no walks and left with one out and the tying run on base. Rookie Sora Suzuki retired two-time batting champ Masataka Yoshida, and Naoto Nishiguchi struck out reigning PL home run champ Yutaro Sugimoto.

    "I wanted to finish up (the inning), but I gave it all I had. My pitching until the fifth was my best it's been all season," said Norimoto, who credited his control of the fastball and good action on his forkball.

    "I'm also grateful for the work the fielders did behind me."

    The Eagles got some breathing room in the ninth on solo home runs by Daichi Suzuki and Hideto Asamura. Rakuten closer Yuki Matsui allowed a solo homer to Orix's Ryoichi Adachi but secured his 18th save.

    Hiroya Miyagi (6-4), last year's PL rookie of the year, allowed two runs over 6-2/3 innings to take the loss.

    In the Central League, the first-place Yakult Swallows came from behind to beat the Hiroshima Carp 6-3 on the back of Munetaka Murakami's 27th home run, while Neftali Soto's three RBIs powered the DeNA BayStars past the Hanshin Tigers 6-2, and Yoshihiro Maru's 16th home run lifted the Yomiuri Giants to victory, 6-2 over the Chunichi Dragons.

    Nippon Professional Baseball has announced that the SoftBank Hawks' game on Wednesday at Fukuoka's PayPay Dome against the Lotte Marines has been postponed after two more players and three others tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday.

    Between Saturday and Monday, veteran lefty Tsuyoshi Wada was among eight team members, including five players, to test positive.

    Wednesday's game is the 10th coronavirus postponement of the season, surpassing the nine that were scratched last season.

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