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Lions roar back on Naka-Naka dinger double

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Lions roar back on Naka-Naka dinger double

by Rob Smaal (Sep 14, 2009)

There's some life left in these Lions yet.

The scrappy Seibu Lions clawed their way back from a 6-2 deficit Sunday afternoon at Seibu Dome, riding a pair of eighth-inning solo homers from Hiroyuki Nakajima and Takeya Nakamura to a 10-8 victory over the Orix Buffaloes.

With the win, the defending Japan Series champions, who are battling for their playoff lives, gained a game on third-place Rakuten. The Eagles, who lost 2-1 to Softbank in Fukuoka on Sunday, now hold a three-game lead over Seibu in the chase for the third and final playoff spot in the Pacific League.

Nakajima and Nakamura each had a pair of longballs on Sunday. With two out and the game tied 8-8 in the eighth, Nakajima took Orix reliever Ryan Vogelsong deep with his 20th homer of the season, slicing the ball just past the right-field foul pole. Nakamura followed up by crushing a Vogelsong delivery over the wall in center to tack on an insurance run.

"I just go up there trying to do my best each game," Nakamura said. "We just want to keep it going, keep winning. Things went well today and I just want to keep it going like that for the rest of the season."

The home run was the portly Nakamura's NPB-leading 39th of the year. Earlier in the game, he had connected for his 38th off Buffaloes reliever Daisuke Kato to lead off the bottom of the fifth frame, getting the Leos to within a run at 6-5.

Nakajima belted a two-run shot in the third off Orix starter Satoshi Komatsu, who also gave up a leadoff tater the following inning to G.G. Sato.

Sato had three hits Sunday afternoon and drove in a pair of runs, but he also had an adventurous day in right field, botching two balls in the top of the fourth that eventually led to Orix runs. The scene brought back memories of Sato's disastrous defense at the Beijing Olympics, only this time he quickly made amends at the plate with his home run in the bottom of the inning and a seventh-inning line drive RBI double that made the score 8-7.

Sato would also come around to score the tying run in the seventh on a scary play that saw Orix third baseman Jose Fernandez leave the game with a bloodied face. Taketoshi Goto hammered a hard groundball to third off reliever Ryota Katsuki that took a nasty hop and caromed off Fernandez's left cheekbone. As Fernandez lay sprawled out on the turf, Sato motored home with the tying run, setting the stage for the Naka-Naka double in the eighth.

Lefty Hironori Matsunaga got the win, his first of the season, with two hitless innings of scoreless relief, while Taiyo Fujita gave up two hits in the ninth but kept the Buffs off the scoreboard to earn his second save with the club.

Vogelsong (0-4) took the loss. The American right-hander gave up two runs on two hits, both home runs.

Orix slugger Alex Cabrera smacked a three-run homer off Seibu rookie starter Ryoma Nogami to open the scoring in the third inning and added an RBI double in the fourth that saw Sato get all twisted around in right field. The home run was the 13th of the season for Cabrera, who spent the first seven years of his career in Japan wearing a Seibu uniform, clubbing 273 home runs for the Lions.

Abe drove in three runs and had a pair of hits for the last-place Buffaloes, who split the first two games of the series with Seibu.

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