The Tohoku Rakuten Eagles continued to find good fortune, while the Chiba Lotte Marines endured more misfortune, on Saturday night at Chiba Marine Stadium.
Lotte outfielder Naotaka Takehara allowed the go-ahead run to score in the sixth inning when he failed to glove a routine fly and the Eagles made it stand up, winning 5-4 before a crowd of 29,886.
The victory was the fourth straight for the Eagles--third in the Pacific League--and they moved four games ahead of the Seibu Lions, who lost an afternoon game.
"We got some help from Lotte again today. We'll have to send them a summer gift," said Rakuten skipper Katsuya Nomura, whose team clinched its sixth consecutive series victory.
When asked about the Eagles' recent penchant for catching breaks, Nomura joked, "That makes things all the more frightening. We've had a lot of games like this, don't you think?"
Nomura tried to quell the excitement about a possible Pacific League Climax Series appearance with his team currently holding the final playoff spot.
"It's too soon to be thinking about that," he said.
Rakuten starter Kohei Hasebe gave the team very little, getting yanked after three-plus innings and allowing three runs on five hits and a walk.
Nomura had few kind words for the lefty.
"He's not getting it done. I watched from the perspective of a scout, and you'd think 'What's good about him that would help him get guys out?' He doesn't have velocity and he doesn't have outstanding control."
The Eagles got a strong effort from their bullpen. Shinichiro Koyama gave up a go-ahead two-run homer and a single in the fourth, but got the next two batters and worked a scoreless fifth.
The pen retired 13 straight over one stretch, and closer Kazuo Fukumori, who entered with two on and two out in the eighth, needed just one pitch to escape that jam. The righty shut down the Marines in order in the ninth for his sixth save.
The Marines wasted little time jumping on Hasebe. Tsuyoshi Nishioka led off the bottom of the first with a single and scored on Toshiaki Imai's double.
The Eagle came back with two in the third, after the first two batters went down. Todd Linden grounded a single into right and Naoto Watanabe tripled past right fielder Shoitsu Omatsu, who tried to make a shoestring grab. Teppei Tsuchiya doubled him home to make it 2-1 Rakuten.
Omatsu got Lotte even with a single that sent Hasebe to the showers, then came home on pinch-hitter Kazuya Fukuura's home run to right for a 4-2 Lotte lead.
The Eagles, though, got a sacrifice fly from Tsuchiya and a clutch single by Kenshi Kawaguchi to even things at 4-4 in the fifth inning.
The Eagles took the lead in the sixth with a lot of help from the Marines. Yuji Miyade led off with a single and rookie hurler Hiroki Ueno (1-1) threw the ball into center field on Makoto Kosaka's bunt to make it first and second with no outs. After a sacrifice, Takehara allowed Linden's little fly to shallow left to pop out of his glove and Miyade raced home to give the Eagles a one-run lead.