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Fukudome belts winning blast in 12th

Kyodo

Kosuke Fukudome came through when his team needed him the most, delivering a 12th-inning, walk-off home run to lift the Hanshin Tigers to a 3-2 victory over the archrival Yomiuri Giants on Tuesday night.

Hanshin won its fourth consecutive game and beat the Central League-leading Giants for the second night in a row at the fabled ballpark at Koshien Stadium. With the victory, second-place Hanshin closed the gap to 1-1/2 games on Yomiuri.

It was all the more cathartic after Tigers starter Randy Messenger brought his team to life and back in the game with a clutch single as Hanshin rallied for a 2-1 lead in the sixth, only for Yoshinobu Takahashi to hit a game-tying homer in the ninth.

Fukudome connected to right on a 1-0 fastball from Scott Mathieson, the ball bouncing off the foul post as Fukudome pumped his right fist in the air rounding first. He was swarmed by his teammates and doused with water as he came across home plate.

The Tigers’ first hit of the ballgame came when Messenger hit a line drive to left with two outs in the sixth on a ball that had home run written all over it. Until then, Giants lefty Toshiya Sugiuchi had held the Tigers hitless through five innings and retired 13 in a row from the second.

The ball bounced off the top of the wall for a single but Messenger, who had surrendered a two-out solo blast to Yoshiyuki Kamei in the opening frame, turned up the volume after that when he dug in to slide into third on leadoff man Hiroki Uemoto’s double down the left-field line.

Pinch hitter Ryota Arai then knocked a liner to right to bring in both runners, with Messenger pumping his fist in the air as he crossed the plate and welcomed home his teammate.

The drama continued after Messenger allowed back-to-back one-out singles to Giants captain Shinnosuke Abe and Leslie Anderson in the seventh, but the right-hander got Hirokazu Ibata to hit into an inning-ending double play.

Giants manager Tatsunori Hara appeared to make the right choice when he called on pinch hitter Takahashi in place of Shuichi Murata to face Tigers closer Oh Seung-hwang. Takahashi hammered a 1-2 fastball into the left-center stands to tie the game with two outs in the ninth to force extra innings.

Carp 7, Swallows 4 (10)

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Yoshihiro Maru homered off Ryohei Kiya (4-5) to break a 4-4 tie in the 10th inning and Brad Eldred followed with his second home run of the night, his Japanese baseball-leading 32nd, in Hiroshima’s win over Yakult.

Ren Nakata (6-3) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.

Dragons 7, BayStars 3

Yokohama Stadium, Dragons player-manager Motonobu Tanishige drove in four runs, featuring a tiebreaking, three-run drive and extended his home run streak to a record 26 consecutive years with his first homer of the year in Chunichi’s rout of Yokohama.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Buffaloes 4, Fighters 3

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Takahiro Okada went 3-for-4 with a homer and a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning off Naoki Miyanishi (0-4) as Orix edged Hokaido Nippon Ham.

Motoki Higa (6-0) got the win in relief.

Marines 4, Hawks 3

At Kitakyushu Civic Stadium, Chad Huffman and Luis Cruz hit back-to-back, one-out homers to overturn a 3-2 deficit in the seventh as Chiba Lotte saw off Fukuoka Softbank.

Takuya Furuya (7-2) yielded three runs in six innings of the win.

Lions 2, Eagles 0

At Seibu Dome, Takeya Nakamura hit a two-run homer off Koji Aoyama (1-2) in the seventh inning, five relievers held the opposition scoreless after Lions starter Yusei Kikuchi left with a blister on his left hand in the second, and Seibu blanked Tohoku Rakuten.