Baseball: Buffaloes delay Marines' march into playoffs

Yutaro Sugimoto put a damper on the Lotte Marines' hopes of clinching a playoff spot Saturday afternoon, when he homered twice in the Orix Buffaloes' 4-1 Pacific League win that left Lotte's postseason plans in limbo.

Sugimoto broke a 1-1 fourth-inning tie at Chiba's Zozo Marine Stadium east of Tokyo with a solo home run, his 15th, and tacked on Orix's final run in the ninth with his 16th.

It was Sugimoto's first multi-homer game of the season. He led the PL in home runs in his 2021 breakout season but managed just 15 in an injury-plagued 2022.

"I haven't been hitting for extra bases that much, so for the first time in a long time it was like a weight off my shoulders," Sugimoto said.

The Buffaloes have already wrapped up their third straight PL pennant and own the top seed in the postseason playoffs to determine who will represent the league in the Japan Series, where they are defending champions.

Third-place Lotte could have clinched a postseason spot with a win, but the Marines' playoff hopes now rest on Monday's game against the fourth-place Rakuten Eagles.

© Kyodo News