Hisashi Iwakuma carried the load on the mound and his Eagles hit Hawks ace Toshiya Sugiuchi hard and often Friday night in Sendai as Rakuten jumped out to a 1-0 lead in Stage 1 of the Pacific League Climax Series with an 11-4 victory over Softbank.
A win Saturday in the best-of-three series will earn the upstart Eagles a date with the Nippon-Ham Fighters in Stage 2, with the winner of that series taking on the Central League representative in the Japan Series.
Fernando Seguignol drove in three runs at Kleenex Stadium to back the six-hit complete-game effort of Iwakuma (1-0). The 28-year-old right-hander struck out seven, walked a pair and allowed just two earned runs in his 132-pitch outing.
"I got a lot of run support today," Iwakuma said after the Eagles victory, "so I was able to pitch aggressively."
Eagles leadoff hitter Yosuke Takasu deposited Sugiuchi's second pitch of the night into the stands in left and Seguignol belted a two-run homer to center as the Eagles took a 3-0 lead after one inning.
The home run by veteran Takasu was a rarity. He went deep only once all year and has homered just a dozen times in 2,428 at-bats over 11 seasons.
"I wanted to give our team momentum so I'm happy I was able to hit that first home run," Takasu said.
An RBI double to left by Teppei Tsuchiya in the third was followed by a Seguignol sacrifice fly to right to make it 5-0 before Toshiya Nakashima capped off the four-run inning with a two-run homer off the left-field foul pole.
That was the end of the line for Sugiuchi, a 15-game winner this season, as Hawks first-year skipper Koji Akiyama brought in Kenji Otonari, another lefty, from the bullpen. Sugiuchi (0-1) had a night he'd like to forget. His line: 2 2/3 innings pitched, seven runs allowed on five hits--including three home runs--and two walks.
The Hawks got four back in the fourth. After Iwakuma loaded the bases with one out on a pair of singles and a walk, Jose Ortiz stroked a two-run single back up the middle. Later in the inning, with two out and two men on, Iwakuma got Hidenori Tanoue to hit a harmless looking groundball to second that should have ended the inning. However, infielder Takasu misplayed the ball and a pair of runs scored on the error to make it 7-4.
Rakuten blew it open with a three-run sixth that featured a bloop RBI double to shallow center by Daisuke Kusano and a two-run single to center off reliever Yoshiaki Fujioka by Naoto Watanabe.
Eagles veteran slugger Takeshi Yamasaki, who turns 41 next month, smoked a towering solo homer to left to lead off the seventh off Makoto Sato.
The Eagles battered six Hawks pitchers for 12 hits on the night.