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Inaba flexes muscles as Fighters return to top

Kyodo

Atsunori Inaba came a homer shy of hitting for the cycle and drove in four runs Thursday to fuel the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in a 7-0 shutout of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to clinch a three-game set.

Nippon Ham, which has won nine of its last 11 games, retook sole possession of first place, moving a game ahead of Rakuten in the Pacific League.

Brian Sweeney (1-3) pitched six innings, allowing five hits and striking out four at Kleenex Stadium.

“It feels good to get the first win of the season. I was just trying to execute my pitches and keep the ball down and get out of jams,” Sweeney said.

Lions 3, Buffaloes 1

At Kyocera Dome, Takahiko G.G Sato, Yasuyuki Kataoka and Hiram Bocachica each homered as Seibu beat Orix for its first sweep of the season.

Sato went deep to left with one out in the second inning followed by Kataoka’s inside-the-park solo homer in the fifth, before Bocachica punched another over the left-center wall in the seventh — all coming off right-hander Chihiro Kaneko (3-3).

Hawks 5, Marines 4

At Yahoo Dome, Yuya Hasegawa hit a tying two-run homer in the ninth inning and Hidenori Tanoue followed with a game-winning solo blast as Softbank avoided being swept by Chiba Lotte.

The Marines had a 4-2 lead through the fifth, featuring a Saburo Omura two-run shot in the fourth before the rally.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Giants 9, BayStars 5

At Yokohama Stadium, backup catcher Kazunari Tsuruoka homered and drove in three runs against his former team, leading Central League front-runner Yomiuri over Yokohama.

Tsuruoka hit a sacrifice fly in the third inning to give the Giants the lead for good at 3-2 and capped a five-run fourth with a two-run homer.

Tigers 7, Carp 1

At Koshien Stadium, Keiichi Hirano and Kodai Sakurai each went 3-for-4 with two RBIs to back a solid pitching performance by Yuya Ando as Hanshin routed Hiroshima.

Swallows 8, Dragons 5

Rhodes breaks hand

OSAKA (Kyodo) The Orix Buffaloes suffered another blow Thursday when slugging outfielder Tuffy Rhodes was diagnosed with a broken fifth metacarpal bone in his right hand.

Rhodes joins first baseman Alex Cabrera, who has suffered a broken toe, on the sidelines after being hit by a pitch from Seibu Lions left-hander Tomoki Hoshino in Wednesday’s 8-3 loss at Skymark Stadium.

It is expected to take him two months to fully recover without surgery.