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Tatsunami lifts Dragons

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YOKOHAMA — It was a classic case of age before beauty for the Chunichi Dragons against the Yokohama BayStars.

Kazuyoshi Tatsunami broke a scoreless tie with an eighth-inning home run off rookie Futoshi Kobayashi to lead the Dragons past the BayStars 2-1 on Friday night at Yokohama Stadium.

The 38-year-old Tatsunami, who has played almost as many seasons in professional baseball (21) as years Kobayashi has been alive (25), broke up a pitcher’s duel to give the Dragons their sixth-straight victory with his first home run of the season.

“Our condition over the last six games has been very good,” Chunichi outfielder Kazuki Inoue said. “We’ve been able to get big wins and ride a big wave of momentum.”

Kobayashi (2-4) was working on a gem, having taken a three-hit shutout into the eighth, before giving up the home run. His night was over after his next pitch, a single to Masahiro Araki.

“He kept us off balance for sure,” slugger Tyrone Woods said. “He was going inside and outside. Breaking balls down and away, shuutos inside.”

Kobayashi wasn’t overpowering, or even dominant, but kept the Dragons off the scoreboard by forcing them into a number of easily fielded groundballs.

Kobayashi took the loss after allowing a single run on five hits and striking out three in seven-plus innings.

The rookie put up a valiant fight against Chunichi starter Kenshin Kawakami, who threw seven scoreless innings. Kawakami allowed six hits and struck out seven before Tatsunami pinch-hit for him in the eighth. He earned the win to improve to 6-3 and closer Hitoki Iwase worked the ninth for his 23rd save of the season.

Kawakami made things a bit more interesting than his counterpart. The Chunichi veteran pitched himself into a couple of tight spots but used his guile to wiggle free unscathed.

He nearly gave up a run in the first inning on a hard-hit ball by Shuichi Murata. Center fielder Masaaki Koike spared him, however, by throwing out leadoff batter Tatsuhiko Kinjo, who was attempting to score from second, at the plate.

The BayStars wasted a number of opportunities against Kawakami, including going 0-for-3, all strikeouts, when they had a runner on third.

Ryoji Aikawa and Kobayashi each whiffed in the second to strand Larry Bigbie at third, and Yuki Yoshimura struck out with the bases loaded to end the third.

Reliever Kazuki Yoshimi retired pinch hitter Takahiro Saeki with runners on second and third in the eighth to leave the BayStars 0-for-4 overall with a runner on third.

Leading 1-0, the Dragons added an insurance run on a pinch-hit RBI single by Ryosuke Hirata in the ninth.

Hiroaki Onishi pulled Yokohama within a run with a leadoff homer in the ninth off Iwase.

Lions edge Marines

SAITAMA, (Kyodo) Craig Brazell and Takumi Kuriyama homered to help the Saitama Seibu Lions end their six-game losing skid with a 4-1 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines as action resumed in both leagues Friday following five weeks of interleague play.

Fighters 4, Buffaloes 3

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Atsunori Inaba drove in two key runs and Yu Darvish won his second straight start, leading Hokkaido Nippon Ham past Orix.

Fighters hurler Yu Darvish (8-3) struck out 10 in seven innings while allowing five hits.

Hawks 3, Eagles 2

At Fukuoka Prefecture’s Kitakyushu Stadium, Yuichi Honda singled drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving Softbank a “sayonara” win over Tohoku Rakuten.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Carp 6, Giants 1

At Hiroshima Stadium, Kenta Kurihara hit a three-run homer to power Hiroshima to a win over Yomiuri with a 13-hit attack.