Baseball: Hawks cut magic number to 2, Eagles miss playoffs

SENDAI (Kyodo) — Kenta Imamiya drove in two runs, including the go-ahead run, as the Pacific League-leading SoftBank Hawks beat the Rakuten Eagles 5-4 on Thursday to reduce their magic number to two for clinching the PL title.

The fourth-place Eagles’ loss at Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi guaranteed that the Hawks, the second-place Orix Buffaloes and the third-place Seibu Lions would advance to the Climax Series playoffs.

Imamiya broke a 4-4 tie with an RBI single in the fifth inning off Tomohiro Anraku (6-2). The shortstop also hit one of SoftBank’s four consecutive two-out RBI singles in the first.

“I was ready to swing at the first pitch,” Imamiya said of his fifth-inning tiebreaking single during a postgame interview.

The Hawks now lead the Buffaloes by 1-1/2 games, with only three and two games left in the regular season for SoftBank and Orix, respectively.

“We are just trying to win every remaining game no matter how we play,” Imamiya said. “I’ve been able to get hits in clutch situations recently. I want to continue this.”

Tomohisa Ohzeki (7-6) won in relief. Livan Moinelo earned his 24th save.

In the Central League, pinch-hitter Jose Osuna hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh inning, leading the CL champion Yakult Swallows to a 5-4 win over the Hiroshima Carp.

Yakult’s Munetaka Murakami went 1-for-5 with a single and three strikeouts, staying at 55 homers and going without a home run for the 12th consecutive game.

The DeNA BayStars beat the Chunichi Dragons 6-1.