Emergency call-up Seiichiro Oshita came to the rescue as the Orix Buffaloes rallied from a late deficit to beat the Lotte Marines 4-3 on Tuesday and supplant them as Pacific League leaders.
Two days after surrendering first place to the Marines, Orix was without Adam Jones, who was deactivated due to vaccination side effects. The Buffaloes replaced him on the active roster with Oshita, who had spent most of this season on the farm.
Trailing 3-1 at Hotto Motto Field Kobe, Oshita led off the eighth with a pinch-hit home run. A Torai Fushimi double off Lotte reliever Chihaya Sasaki and a two-out error on shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria allowed the tying run to score.
Former big leaguer Yoshihisa Hirano (1-3) retired the heart of the Lotte lineup in order in the ninth. In the home half, the Marines turned not to Japan saves leader Naoya Masuda but journeyman Yasuhiro Tanaka (1-1), who took the loss.
Orix loaded the bases on a walk and two hits, bringing Oshita to the plate with one out and a chance to win it. With the Lotte's outfield shallow to prevent a sacrifice fly from ending it, Oshita drove a pitch beyond the reach of the center fielder for an RBI single.
"I'm as happy as can be," Oshita said. "I went to the plate thinking I needed to get the big hit so I put as good a swing as I possibly could on the ball."
"I'd been thinking all year (in the minors) how I could make an impact. To be able to do so was the greatest. I thought I might get a chance in a big situation and I was prepared for that."
The rally took rookie starter Hiroya Miyagi off the hook for the loss after he surrendered three runs over five innings. Leonys Martin did most of the damage for the Marines with a two-run first-inning double.
The Buffaloes mounted threats in the fifth and seventh but failed to score. Running out of time, manager Satoshi Nakajima turned to Oshita, who had provided similar heroics in 2020 when promoted from the farm team.
"Just amazing. When we needed a spark, he provided it," Nakajima said of Oshita.
The win moved Orix one full game ahead of Lotte with the third-place Rakuten Eagles another 2-1/2 games further back and the fourth-place SoftBank Hawks, the defending champions, 1-1/2 games back of Rakuten.
At Sapporo Dome, Japan Olympian Hiromi Ito (9-5) worked seven innings to win a duel of rookies with Rakuten's Takahisa Hayakawa (7-5) in the Nippon Ham Fighters' 4-2 win.
At MetLife Dome, Sosuke Genda's two-run eighth-inning single brought the Seibu Lions from behind in a 6-5 win over SoftBank.
At Koshien Stadium, Yakult Swallows rookie Yasunobu Okugawa (6-3) struck out eight while allowing two hits over seven innings in a 12-0 win over the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers.
At Yokohama Stadium, the DeNA BayStars came from behind against the Yomiuri Giants, battering their ace, Tomoyuki Sugano (3-6), for seven runs in an 8-2 win. The loss left Yomiuri 1-1/2 games back of Hanshin and one ahead of Yakult.
At Mazda Stadium, Seiya Suzuki went deep for the fourth straight game, belting his 23rd and 24th home runs, in the Hiroshima Carp's 8-7 win over the Chunichi Dragons.