Not even a win could keep cranky Eagles skipper Katsuya Nomura from fuming about the umpire on Sunday.
Despite Tohoku Rakuten's 7-5 victory over the Pacific League-leading Saitama Seibu Lions at Seibu Dome, Nomura left a few choice words for home plate umpire Norihiro Akimura, who oversaw the 3- hour 59-minute game that saw 16 walks.
"I think the umpire must have been tired, too, because he seemed to have a little trouble today," Nomura said after his club came from behind to pull within five games of the front-running Lions.
His ace, Hisashi Iwakuma matched his season high in walks (three) and runs allowed (five) in a five-inning effort as he failed to earn a win for the first time since May 2. The 27-year-old right-hander had won his eight starts since.
"Iwakuma could have been beaten by the umpire, but he simply wouldn't be," Nomura said. "If there were culprits behind this four-hour game, one of them was the umpire and that little strike zone.
"Don't think it's just us. It hurt them [the Lions] as well."
Walks destroyed the Lions. Their 11 walks issued were the most by any team since the Eagles handed out 12 free passes to the Hanshin Tigers in 10 innings on June 14, 2006. Starter Fumiya Nishiguchi set a season high with five walks. He allowed four runs in five-plus innings.
Walks, too, helped the Eagles break the game open in the eighth. With the score tied 5-5, Hsu Ming-chieh (1-2) walked the bases loaded with two outs. The Taiwan right-hander sawed off the bat of cleanup hitter Jose Fernandez with a 142-kph running fastball inside--but the bat died a hero as the former Lion lifted the ball over the infield for a two-run single.
Nomura could blame the umpire, but neither Iwakuma nor Nishiguchi could hit the glove in the first two innings. Although Iwakuma was effectively wild, the Eagles preyed on Nishiguchi's lack of control to take a two-run, second-inning lead.
Rick Short's leadoff single and two walks loaded the bases with two outs for Yosuke Takasu. With Nishiguchi frequently missing with the sliders he throws away from right-handed hitters, Takasu doubled off a 1-0 fastball to drive in two.
Nishiguchi dodged a couple of more bullets, and Seibu struck for four in the fourth. A pair of doubles off high Iwakuma sliders, a walk and a couple of lucky singles turned the game around in a hurry.
Hiroyuki Nakajima doubled to open the inning, G.G. Sato walked and Iwakuma lost it. His first pitch to Taketoshi Goto found the gap in right-center for an RBI double.
Takeya Nakamura bounced a low forkball over the head of the Eagles' third baseman to tie it 2 -2. Yoshihito Ishii won a tough at-bat to single home a run, and Hiram Bocachica's wicked lineout to center was good for a sacrifice fly.
Nakamura added an RBI single in the fifth after a pair of two-out walks, but the Eagles knocked Nishiguchi from the mound in the sixth. Rookie Fuminori Yokogawa made Seibu pay for a leadoff walk to Short with his fourth home run.
The Eagles, who had 10 hits to go with their 11 walks, tied it in the seventh off Koji Onuma, the Lions' third pitcher. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with no outs, and Takasu scored on a double play.
Eagles reliever Koji Aoyama (2-2) worked three scoreless innings for the win despite loading the bases in the sixth inning with two walks.