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The Orix Buffaloes won their second consecutive Pacific League championship on the final day of the league’s regular season Sunday.

The Buffaloes’ 5-2 win over the Rakuten Eagles, coupled with the SoftBank Hawks’ 5-3 loss to the Lotte Marines, left the Buffaloes and the Hawks at the same 76-65 win-loss record with two ties each, but the Buffaloes clinched the title by virtue of a 15-10 head-to-head record against the Hawks.

Orix won its first back-to-back league titles since the then Orix BlueWave won in 1995-96 with Ichiro Suzuki.

The Buffaloes turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning when Shuhei Fukuda followed a Torai Fushimi RBI single with a two-run single off former New York Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka (9-12).

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Orix Buffaloes players toss manager Satoshi Nakajima in the air after winning the Pacific League Championship title on Oct. 2. 2022, at Rakuten Seimei Park in Sendai, northeastern Japan. (Kyodo)

After the Orix bullpen held on to the one-run lead, Fushimi doubled in two much-needed insurance runs in the ninth at Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

“This is unbelievable,” Buffaloes manager Satoshi Nakajima said of the team’s come-from-behind victory on the final day. “None of our players was ready to give up (after trailing 2-0), so I believed we would turn the game around.”

“I’m proud of my players for getting through this tough season,” he added.

Yuki Udagawa (2-1) won in relief. Shota Abe picked up his third save.

At Zozo Marine Stadium, the Hawks blew an early 2-0 lead when reliever Keisuke Izumi gave up a three-run homer to Koki Yamaguchi in the sixth inning.

The Hawks had entered the day with a one-game lead over the Buffaloes.

At Belluna Dome, the Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Seibu Lions 4-2.

In the Central League, the Yakult Swallows and the Hanshin Tigers played out a 3-3, 12-inning tie. Yakult’s Munetaka Murakami stayed at 55 home runs as he sat out the game after going a season-worst 13 games without a homer.

The CL champion Swallows will play their final regular-season game Monday against the DeNA BayStars.

The 22-year-old Murakami is bidding to become the first Triple Crown winner in Japan since Nobuhiko Matsunaka of the then Daiei Hawks in 2004.

The Yomiuri Giants edged the BayStars 3-2. The Chunichi Dragons blanked the Hiroshima Carp 3-0.


Related coverage:

Baseball: Yakult wins 2nd straight Central League pennant in walk-off




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