Nobuhiko Matsunaka went 3-for-4 and drove in three runs Sunday as the Softbank Hawks wrapped up first place in the Pacific League standings with a 4-2 win over the Seibu Lions.
Softbank's win means the Seibu Lions will play in the first-stage playoffs against the Chiba Lotte Marines starting on Oct. 8. The Hawks will wait to face the winner of that series in the second-stage playoffs, with the winner advancing to the Japan Series to play the Central League champions.
Matsunaka connected for his league-leading 45th homer in the fourth inning with a two-run shot to center off Seibu starter Daisuke Matsunaka.
Matsunaka also drove in a run in the sixth with a double to right that gave Sadaharu Oh's team a 3-0 lead. Softbank starter Kazumi Saito improved to 16-1 on the season after holding the Lions to two runs on five hits over 8-2/3 innings at Invoice Seibu Dome. Takahiro Mahara recorded the final out for the save.
At Fullcast Stadium, Matt Franco went 4-for-5 with four RBIs to lead the Chiba Lotte Marines to an 11-8 win over the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Following the game there were reports that the expansion Eagles, who lost their 95th game of the season, were set to release manager Yasushi Tao.
At Osaka Dome, Hichori Morimoto connected for a three-run homer in the top of the fourth inning to lead the Nippon Ham Fighters to a 6-2 win over the Orix Buffaloes. Naoyuki Tateishi picked up the win after holding the Buffaloes to two runs on four hits over six innings, AP reports.
Rescuers found the pilot of one of the two Su-34 fighters that had collided in midair in the Far East on January 18