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Baseball: Seibu beats Rakuten in hunt for postseason spot

Shota Hiranuma, right, is congratulated by Seibu Lions teammate Sosuke Genda after hitting a solo home run in the fifth inning of a Pacific League baseball game against the Rakuten Eagles on Sept. 28, 2022, at Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi in Sendai, northeastern Japan. (Kyodo)

SENDAI (Kyodo) -- Shota Hiranuma hit his first home run of the season to back an eight-inning effort by Tatsuya Imai as the Seibu Lions edged the Rakuten Eagles 1-0 in the Pacific League on Wednesday.

    The third-place Lions now lead the fourth-place Eagles by 1-1/2 games with just two and three games left for Seibu and Rakuten, respectively, in the regular season in their race for a spot in the Climax Series playoffs.

    Imai (5-1) held the Eagles to four hits while striking out eight in a 123-pitch outing at Rakuten Seimai Park Miyagi.

    Hiranuma homered to right in the fifth inning off Takayuki Kishi (8-10), who threw eight innings of one-run ball. Kaima Taira picked up his ninth save.

    "I'm relieved," Hiranuma said of the Lions' fourth straight win during a postgame interview. "My home run was like an accident. We won because of Imai's strong outing and (shortstop Sosuke) Genda's fielding performance."

    At Sapporo Dome, Seiya Inoue homered and drove in four runs in the Lotte Marines' 11-3 rout of the Nippon Ham Fighters.

    In the Central League, the Hanshin Tigers held Munetaka Murakami hitless and beat the Yakult Swallows 2-1. The 22-year-old Swallows slugger stayed at 55 home runs, going without a homer for the 11th straight game.

    The Chunichi Dragons beat the DeNA BayStars 1-0.

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