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Fans flock to ballparks as baseball returns

Compiled From Kyodo, AP

Designated hitter Masahide Kaizuka’s third-inning RBI double powered the Seibu Lions to a 6-1 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines Monday, as weekday games resumed following the start of the first players’ strike in Japanese baseball’s 70-year history.

News photoYakult Swallows catcher Atsuya Furuta, who organized the first strike in Japanese professional baseball history as chairman of the players association, hits a single in the first inning at Jingu Stadium on Monday.

Kaizuka, who went 3-for-4 with four RBIs, pounded in Seibu’s first run with a single to center in the first inning. He hit the RBI double to right field two innings later to give Seibu the lead in front of a capacity crowd of 45,000.

Seibu reliever Kazuyuki Hoashi (10-3) got the win after striking out nine while giving up one run on four hits over 6 1/3 innings.

Monday’s game followed a weekend strike by the players, after their negotiations with team officials failed Friday. The players have demanded that team owners suspend a planned merger of two Pacific League teams, the Orix BlueWave and Kintetsu Buffaloes, for one year, but owners have resisted.

All 12 games Saturday and Sunday were called off, and experts estimated the losses for teams at 1.9 billion yen ($17 million). Weekday games will continue.

Fighters 13, Hawks 12

At Sapporo Dome, Tsuyoshi Shinjo hit an apparent “sayonara” grand slam off Koji Mise (4-3) with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning as Nippon Ham bounced back from 2-0, 8-4 and 10-9 deficits against Daiei to turn the game around with four runs in the final inning.

Back-to-back RBI hits by Fernando Seguignol and Sherman Obando tied the game in the ninth and Shinjo capped the scoring with what appeared to be his second homer of the evening, until he ran past the first-base runner and the homer was rerecorded as an RBI single.

The 32-hit slugfest attracted 42,000 fans for the most ever at Sapporo Dome this season.

“Today, I’m not the hero, you are,” Shinjo told the crowd after the game, the Fighters’ first since the weekend strike.

Yasuyuki Kawamoto (1-1), who was traded from the Yomiuri Giants in June, earned his first win in the PL this season.

Buffaloes 14, BlueWave 2

At Osaka Dome, Hirotoshi Kitagawa hit a three-run homer off Koo Dae Sung (5-10) in the opening inning and Shinji Shimoyama highlighted a seven-run fifth with a three-run triple as Kintetsu hammered Orix in a one-sided game before a crowd of 25,000.

Third-year right-hander Kazuki Kondo (1-0) won his career first start after allowing two runs and five hits in five innings of work, sending Orix to its 80th loss for the third straight season. Kitagawa is the only player on his team who has played in every game this season.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

BayStars 12, Carp 5

At Yokohama Stadium, Takuro Ishii, Katsuaki Furuki and Ryoji Aikawa drove in two runs apiece to highlight a 12-hit offense as the BayStars crushed Hiroshima for their first victory in six games.

After Ishii drew a leadoff walk, Furuki hit an RBI single and Aikawa added two runs on a double in a five-run first inning, before the BayStars scored six more runs in the third and batted around for the second time in three innings.

Swallows 4, Tigers 3

At Jingu Stadium, Akinori Iwamura put Yakult ahead with a two-run homer in the fifth inning and Ryota Igarashi pitched out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the ninth for his career-high 30th save in a victory over Hanshin.

Yuhei Takai (3-0) maintained his perfect win record despite allowing three runs in five innings and helped Yakult stretch its winning streak to five games. Keiichi Yabu (6-9) gave up two homers, including one to Iwamura, for his ninth loss in 18 games.

Giants 6, Dragons 4

At Nagoya Dome, Hiroki Kokubo went 3-for-5 with two singles and a bases-loaded two-run single off Domingo Guzman (10-5) in the seventh inning, carrying second-place Yomiuri past front-running Chunichi before a capacity crowd.

Koji Uehara (12-5) scattered five hits in seven shutout innings. The Dragons took advantage of five walks and came back with four runs in the eighth and ninth but it proved too little, too late.

Oh wants to stay

SAPPORO (Kyodo) Fukuoka Daiei Hawks manager Sadaharu Oh said Monday he has no intention of leaving his post for now, hinting that he will serve as the manager of the Pacific League club for an 11th year in the 2005 season.

“I have no desire to quit so you can assume there will be a next year for me. The rest is up to the company,” Oh said during the team’s road trip in Sapporo.