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Kawai, Akaminai provide heroics against Fighters

Kyodo

Lefty Takashi Kawai (3-0) threw seven scoreless innings and Ginji Akaminai opened the scoring with a two-run triple on Thursday as the Pacific League-leading Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles defeated the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 3-0.

The victory in the PL’s only game of the day increased the Eagles lead to a franchise-record three games over the Chiba Lotte Marines.

Kawai, who wasn’t called up for active duty until June 27, won his third straight start, allowing three hits while striking out five and walking none.

Right-hander Koji Aoyama faced four batters in the eighth, and closer Darrel Rasner surrendered a two-out hit and a walk, but got out of the jam on a groundout to complete the shutout and record his 10th save.

With two outs and two on in the third inning, Akiminai plated two with a triple off Fighters right-hander Keisuke Tanimoto (3-4). In the top of the fourth, however, Nippon Ham charged back on back-to-back, no-out singles in the fourth before a trip to the mound by catcher Motohiro Shima got Kawai straightened out.

“After we got two runs, I started pitching defensively,” Kawai said. “Shima called time, came to the mound and reminded me to be aggressive.”

A groundout to third and a double play ended the scoring threat. The 36-year-old Kawai retired the last eight batters he faced.

Shintaro Masuda homered to lead off the seventh. Akaminai tripled with two outs in the ninth but was stranded at third.

CENTRAL LEAGUE


Carp 7, BayStars 3

At Yokohama Stadium, new import Kila Ka’aihue was a one-man wrecking crew as Hiroshima demolished the hosts.

Ka’aihue, playing in his third game for the Carp, opened the scoring with an RBI single, homered twice and drove in six runs.

In three games, Ka’aihue has homered four times and driven in 10 runs. Hiroshima right-hander Bryan Bullington (4-7) held Yokohama at bay until Nyjer Morgan and Tony Blanco singled in the seventh and scored on Takehiro Ishikawa’s third homer of the season.

Otani to start All-Star opener

Rookie sensation Shohei Otani will take to the mound in the first game of this season’s three-game All-Star Series on July 19, Pacific League skipper Hideki Kuriyama said Thursday.

The 19-year-old Otani, who is 2-0 in five starting pitching assignments for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, was voted onto the PL squad as an outfielder by the fans. The Fighters principal right fielder, Otani is batting .310 in 87 at-bats with 14 of his 27 hits going for extra bases. The All-Star Series opener will be held at Sapporo Dome, the rookie’s home park.

“Because the fans are clamoring for him, I thought I might have him throw for about an inning,” said Kuriyama, who is also the Fighters manager.

Kuriyama, whose club won the PL last season with an outfield of Sho Nakata in left, Yang Dai-kang in center and Yoshio Itoi in right, will use that trio to start Game 1. Itoi, however, will be wearing a different uniform following his January trade to the Orix Buffaloes.

The skipper said he would also consider using Otani as a fielder if the timing is right.

Otani, who hit his first home run on Wednesday, suffered a freak injury prior to Thursday’s game against the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles at Kleenex Stadium in Sendai. After taking batting practice and throwing in the bullpen, Otani was walking in the outfield when he was struck near the right ear by a batted ball.

An examination at a local hospital determined the rookie had suffered an incomplete fracture in his right cheekbone that will require him to rest for three days.

Asao works out with Dragons
Nagoya KYODO

Chunichi Dragons reliever Takuya Asao, who missed this year’s World Baseball Classic because of shoulder trouble, practiced with the team’s pitchers at Nagoya Dome on Thursday.

Asao, 28, won the Central League’s 2011 MVP Award for his sterling season as the Dragons’ setup man, when he went 7-2 with 10 saves and 45 holds over 79 games. In 2012, however, the right-hander struggled with injury and was limited to just 29 games.

“I only want to get results,” he said. “I have to get results, so that I can be used in crucial situations. All I can say is that I’ll do my best.”

He was demoted due to ineffectiveness in May 2012 and was soon found to have a damaged rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Asao returned to pitch eight games at the end of last season, and was invited by Japan manager Koji Yamamoto to take part in this year’s WBC training camp, but was not selected due to shoulder trouble.

The problem was once more pinned on his right rotator cuff and he did not resume pitching in live games until the end of June. In five Western League games, Asao is 2-0. He has allowed five runs — four earned — in six innings.