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Abe sparks into life to keep Giants unbeaten

Kyodo

The Yomiuri Giants improved to 7-0 on the young season following a tense 8-6 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Tokyo Dome on Sunday afternoon.

Giants captain Shinnosuke Abe belted a three-run homer, his first of the season, to put the Japan Series champions ahead for good in the fifth inning, while Japan teammate Tetsuya Utsumi (1-0) got away with the win despite allowing four runs in five innings.

Abe, who was inconsistent through the World Baseball Classic and had done little since the start of the regular season, broke out with four hits, reaching 1,500 for his career.

“I haven’t hit at all this year, but I think I am getting sorted now,” Abe said. “I feel a whole lot better.

“(My first hit in 2001) was so long ago, but it seems like time has gone by so quickly.”

The Giants, who have one tie among their first eight games, have opened the season with seven straight wins for the first time in 72 years, but it needed a game-saving catch to seal the victory.

With one out and the bases loaded in the ninth, center fielder Tetsuya Matsumoto made a diving grab on a flare in shallow center that prevented the tying run from scoring.

“I’m glad I could make the catch,” Matsumoto said. “I go all out every day, and it’s great to be able to make that play at the end.”

Swallows 10, BayStars 6

At Jingu Stadium, Tokyo Yakult snapped a three-game losing streak in a wild slugfest that saw Yokohama cleanup hitter Tony Blanco hit three homers.

Blanco increased his CL-leading RBI total to 16 from eight games.

The Swallows took the lead with three consecutive second-inning solo homers by Akinori Iwamura, Shinichi Takeuchi and Yuhei Nakamura. Kazuhiro Hatakeyama, who belted a solo shot in the third, broke a 4-4 tie in the seventh with a two-run double.

Carp 6, Tigers 1

At Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima ace Kenta Maeda (1-0) threw two-hit ball over seven scoreless innings to continue his good run of form since the World Baseball Classic.

The Carp scored early, with a Fred Lewis sacrifice fly in the first and a solo shot by Shota Dobayashi in the second. Maeda, one of three pitchers named to the WBC’s all-tournament team, has allowed one run in 15 innings this season.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Buffaloes 10, Lions 0

At Kyocera Dome, outfielder Yoshio Itoi went deep for the first time with Orix, opening the scoring in the first inning, and Tomotaka Sakaguchi tripled in three runs in the fourth as the Buffaloes trampled Seibu.

Former St. Louis Cardinals farmhand Brandon Dickson (2-0) allowed three hits over eight innings to lower his ERA to 0.60 with the Buffaloes.

The Lions’ loss lifted the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, whose game against the Chiba Lotte Marines was rained out in Sendai, into first place for the first time since April 20, 2011.

Fighters 3, Hawks 2

At Sapporo Dome, Hokkaido Nippon Ham’s Sho Nakata made Fukuoka Softbank suffer for its mistakes with a three-run homer that brought the Fighters from behind to beat the Hawks.

Trailing 2-0, Taiwan international Yang Dai-kang reached on an error to open the Fighters’ eighth. Eiichi Koyano drew a one-out walk from former major leaguer Ryota Igarashi, and Nakata decided the game with his second homer of the year.

Marines at Eagles — ppd.