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PL announces format change

Officials of the Pacific League agreed Thursday that if the first-place team leads the second-place team by more than five games at the end of the regular season next year, it will receive a one-game winning advantage in the league playoffs.

News photoYakult Swallows starter Kevin Hodges delivers a pitch against the Hanshin Tigers at Jingu Stadium.

Presidents of the players’ association for each PL team agreed that the front-running team leading by more than five games could clinch a Japan Series berth with two wins instead of three in the best-of-five series.

According to the plan, teams that finish second and third in the regular season will play each other in a best-of-three series with the winner facing the league’s top finisher in the second stage of the playoffs.

Originally, the top finisher in the league at the end of the 135-game schedule was only supposed to receive home-field advantage in the playoffs, but members of the players’ association pressed for a more substantial advantage that fans would also appreciate.

Swallows swoop

Tetsuya Iida hit a two-run homer off Tetsuro Kawajiri (1-1) in the second inning as the Yakult Swallows beat the Hanshin Tigers 5-2 for their second straight victory over their Central League rival at Jingu Stadium on Thursday.

Dragons 10, Carp 1

At Nagoya Dome, Shigeki Noguchi (8-6) pitched a three-hitter while striking out seven for his first complete game win in two years in Chunichi’s triumph over Hiroshima.

Giants 3, BayStars 2

At Tokyo Dome, 22nd-year southpaw Kimiyasu Kudo (5-3) struck out 11 and did not allow a single runner past second base after the third inning in Yomiuri’s win over Yokohama.