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Baseball: Fighters demolish Lions, Tadano deals in Saitama

by David Hueston and Dave Hueston

Kyodo

The hot-hitting Fighters continued their winning ways against the feckless Lions, and added insult to injury in their opponents’ backyard.

Kazuhito Tadano threw six shutout innings, and Hokkaido Nippon Ham knocked Seibu’s lights out in a six-run seventh en route to a 13-0 blowout to extend its winning streak to three games on Monday night.

Playing in front of a sparse crowd of 12,077 in Saitama Prefecture, last-place Seibu remained winless at home and fell to its second loss in a row. Nippon Ham improved to 3-1 against Seibu this season.

Atsunori Inaba hit a two-run homer and drove in four runs on a 2-for-4 night, and Nippon Ham lit up the scoreboard right out of the gate against Fumiya Nishiguchi (0-1) at Seibu Dome.

Makoto Kaneko hit an infield single and reached second on shortstop Hiroki Nakajima’s throwing error to first. After Kensuke Tanaka drew a walk, cleanup hitter Sho Nakata drilled a fast roller into left past diving third baseman Takeya Nakamura for a 1-0 lead.

Terrmel Sledge added an RBI bloop single to right one out later.

Sledge was back in the fifth with a two-out line drive to right to drive in the third run, and right fielder Mitsugu Ishikawa allowed Nakata to score from first when he bobbled the ball for an error on the play.

Inaba and Yuji Iiyama added two-run singles as Nippon Ham put the game to bed in the seventh, and Inaba sprinkled salt in the wound with his blast off Micheal Nakamura in the eighth.

Nakata had an RBI single for the final run in the ninth.

“The main thing was I didn’t want to take a bad swing at that pitch,” said Inaba, who pounced on Nakamura’s first pitch, just clearing the right field foul post.

“It was really by chance, but I was able to make contact. It just stayed fair.”

Making his first start of the year, Tadano (1-0) gave up four hits — all singles — with three strikeouts and one walk. The right-hander won for the first time since Aug. 27, 2009, when he pitched six innings of one-run ball against the Orix Buffaloes.

“I pitched well from the opening inning, and was really helped out by my teammates’ defense,” Tadano said. “They also scored a lot runs for me tonight and that made it easy for me to relax and do my job.”

The Fighters are 5-2 on the road this season, while the Lions, who have lost six of their last seven, are 0-6 in Saitama.

Seibu was outhit by Nippon Ham 13-6 and committed four errors.

Tadano, who joined Nippon Ham in 2008 after a short stint in the major leagues and was released before rejoining the team on a special contract in 2010, had been called up from the farmhand due to Bobby Keppel’s injury.

“Tadano did a great job for us tonight. He was really prepared,” said first-year manager Hideki Kuriyama. “If he continues to pitch this way, he could get more starts. We’ll think about it as we go along.”