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Buffaloes Earn Sayonara Win over Hawks and a Japan Series Rematch with Swallows

Orix's Keita Nakagawa delivered the game-winning hit with two outs in the ninth, ending SoftBank's comeback hopes and keeping his team's title ambitions alive.

With two outs in the ninth inning, Keita Nakagawa stroked a run-scoring, walk-off single to left field, leading the Orix Buffaloes to a 3-2 win over the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks on Saturday night, October 15.

With the win in Game 4, Orix eliminated the Hawks from the Pacific League Climax Series Final Stage at Kyocera Dome Osaka.

This year's Japan Series, starting on October 22, will be a rematch of last year's championship series, when the Tokyo Yakult Swallows won the best-of-seven series 4-2. Game 1 will be held at Jingu Stadium. First pitch is set for 6:30 PM.

The Swallows eliminated the Hanshin Tigers in the Central League Climax Series Final Stage on Friday night, winning 6-3 in Game 3 and earning a series sweep. (The regular-season champions in the Central and Pacific Leagues receive an automatic one-win advantage to start their respective series.

In the fourth inning, Masataka Yoshida slugged a two-run home run to center for the Buffaloes. It remained 2-0 until Hawks slugger Alfredo Despaigne hit a game-tying homer in the top of the seventh.

Nakagawa, who had two of Orix's six hits on the night, came up in the pressure-filled moment in the ninth and maintained his composure, calmly facing Hawks lefty reliever Livan Moinelo, SoftBank's sixth pitcher. His ground single sent Kenya Wakatsuki dashing home for the winning run, triggering a euphoric celebration from the Buffaloes dugout and throughout their home ballpark.

"I thought he [Nakagawa] was going to decide the game there, and it was a relief that he did," Orix manager Satoshi Nakajima said, according to Kyodo News. "It meant I wouldn't have to figure out the relief pitchers we'd need in extra innings."

Buffaloes starter Taisuke Yamaoka worked four scoreless innings. His counterpart, Tsuyoshi Wada, who surrendered the two-run blast to Yoshida, lasted 4⅓ innings.

Road to the Japan Series

The Buffaloes opened the Pacific League Climax Series Final Stage with a 5-0 victory over the visiting Hawks on Wednesday. Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto tossed eight scoreless innings in Game 1, striking out 10 and allowing five hits. 

In Game 2, the Buffaloes prevailed again the next day, winning 4-3.

With the automatic one-win advantage, the Buffaloes entered Game 3 on Friday with a chance to clinch a spot in the Japan Series, but the Hawks bounced back with a 3-0 victory to stave off elimination.

Yoshida was named MVP of the series. He batted .462 with two homers and four RBIs in the four games in Osaka.

"We lost hard last year [against the Swallows], so I want to make up for it this year," Nakajima was quoted as saying by Baseball King, referring to the upcoming Japanese Fall Classic.


Author: Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward's [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven

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