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Milestone man Matsui powers Eagles past Buffaloes

Kyodo

Kazuo Matsui scored two runs and drove in four from the leadoff spot and reached a career milestone to boot on Sunday as he sparked the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to an 8-4 win over the Orix Buffaloes.

Before 25,981 at Kyocera Dome in his hometown of Osaka, Matsui singled the first pitch of the game for the 2,500th hit of a career split between Japan and the major leagues. The 38-year-old came around to score the game’s first run on a single by Andruw Jones.

Matsui had 1,433 hits with his first club, the Seibu Lions, 615 in the big leagues and 454 with the Eagles.

“Yesterday it was said I needed one more hit, but I never thought it would fall in my first at-bat today,” said Matsui, who is the 10th Japanese player with that many hits in either Japan or the majors. “That is in keeping with my style, I look for the first pitch I can hit and go after it.

“I’m grateful to the manager for the opportunity and to many others who’ve helped me keep playing so long. Now I want to keep adding to that total one hit at a time.”

He tacked on two more, a three-run second-inning homer off Orix rookie Kazumasa Yoshida (5-3) that gave the last-place Eagles the lead for good and an RBI single in the eighth.

Orix seized its only lead in the bottom of the first against right-hander Yasunori Kikuchi (2-0), when Ryoichi Adachi doubled and Yoshio Itoi followed with his 15th home run of the year.

The lead proved short-lived as a leadoff single, a hit batsman and a sacrifice brought Matsui to the plate with one out and men in scoring position. The veteran switch hitter stayed back on a high 1-0 curve and drove it into the seats in center field to make it 4-2.

Shintaro Masuda made it a two-run game when he led off the top of the sixth with his third home run of the season.

The Eagles scored three more times in the eighth against Mamoru Kishida.

Jones led off with a single and was forced at second. After a walk and some good base running by Ginji Akaminai to take third on a fly to center, Tetsuro Nishida, Shota Koseki and Matsui followed with three straight RBI singles, the last off Italy international Alessandro Maestri.

Itoi singled in a consolation run in the eighth before Eagles closer Brian Falkenborg — Rakuten’s fourth pitcher — worked a scoreless ninth to end it.

Kikuchi gave up three runs in six innings on five hits and a walk while striking out five.

Yoshida, the Buffaloes’ top draft pick a year ago, allowed five runs in six innings. The right-hander surrendered seven hits and two walks. He hit one batter and struck out four.

Fighters 4, Lions 3

At Sapporo Dome, Yang Dai-kang homered twice, including his second three-run shot in two days, as Hokkaido Nippon Ham came from behind to beat Seibu. Yang’s second homer, a tie-breaking solo shot gave him a career-best 19 for the season. Lions ace Takayuki Kishi returned to action after a three-week absence due to tightness in his right elbow, allowed three runs in five innings.

Marines 3, Hawks 0

At QVC Marine Field, Chiba Lotte’s Yuki Karakawa (2-8) went seven innings and combined with two relievers on a seven-hit shutout to hang a complete-game loss on Fukuoka Softbank’s Shota Takeda (2-1), who allowed one earned run over eight innings.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Dragons 7, Giants 3

At Tokyo Dome, fourth-place Chunichi snapped a five-game losing streak behind 5⅔ innings from lefty Yudai Kawai (5-6), who gave up just two runs on six hits, two walks and a hit batsman in a win over league-leading Yomiuri.

Tigers 8, Carp 2

At Mazda Stadium, Hiroshima’s bullpen wasted a strong Japan debut from Deunte Heath who allowed a run in six innings. Hanshin took the lead in the eighth-inning on Kentaro Sekimoto’s tie-breaking two-run, pinch-hit double.

Swallows 2, BayStars 1

At Matsuyama Stadium, Yasuhiro Ogawa (6-5) threw eight shutout innings and was backed by solo homers from Yuhei Takai and Shinichi Takeuchi as Tokyo Yakult won a pitchers’ duel against Yokohama.