Masataka Yoshida blasts Buffaloes past Lions

Two-time defending Pacific League batting champion Masataka Yoshida hit a pair of late home runs to power the defending champion Orix Buffaloes to a 3-2 win over the Seibu Lions on Saturday.

Considered by some MLB scouts to be Japanese baseball’s best pure hitter, Yoshida went 3-for-4 with a first-inning single, and tie-breaking homers in the sixth and eighth innings, his third and fourth long bombs of the season.

Right-hander Taisuke Kondo (1-0), pitching in his second game this season in his comeback from September 2020 elbow surgery, allowed a pair of hits but preserved a 2-2 eighth-inning tie. He was credited with the win after Yoshida’s second home run.

“I haven’t been giving the pitchers the kind of run support they deserved, so I was going all out to get them a run at the end,” said Yoshida. “Hopefully, winning a game this way will give us some momentum as we try to make it three wins a row.”

Yoshida and Kondo joined the Buffaloes in 2016 as their top two picks in the 2015 draft.

“He (Kondo) endured a trial like none of us know and came back,” Yoshida said. “It would be great if I get a lot of hits that result in us both being on the (postgame interview) podium.”

Yoshihisa Hirano, Orix’s fourth pitcher at Kyocera Dome, worked a 1-2-3 ninth to pick up his PL-leading ninth save.

Brian O’Grady doubled in Sosuke Genda to put Seibu up 1-0 in the first inning, but lefty Sachiya Yamasaki limited the damage with three straight strikeouts.

The Buffaloes bounced back with a run in the first, and Yamasaki left after six innings with a 2-1 lead only for Seibu to tie it in the top of the seventh.

Elsewhere, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles scored four runs in the ninth inning on their way to beating the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 7-6 in 11 innings, while Koki Yamaguchi drove in four runs to propel the Chiba Lotte Marines to a 7-3 win over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

In the Central League, the Hanshin Tigers came from behind to secure their fifth straight win, 10-3 over the Yomiuri Giants, while the Tokyo Yakult Swallows beat the Yokohama DeNA BayStars 2-0, and the Chunichi Dragons beat the Hiroshima Carp 4-2.

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