The old rivalry is back on center stage.

Central League
WonLostTiedPct.GBHanshin 20 11 1 .645 -Yomiuri 20 13 0 .606 1.0Yakult 17 15 0 .531 3.5Hiroshima 14 14 1 .500 4.5Chunichi 14 17 1 .452 6.0Yokohama 7 22 1 .241 12.0Pacific League
WonLostTiedPct.GBSeibu 19 11 1 .633 -Daiei 19 12 1 .613 0.5Nippon Ham 17 16 0 .515 3.5Kintetsu 14 16 1 .467 5.0Orix 14 17 0 .452 5.5Lotte 9 20 1 .310 9.5

In a battle for the Central League’s leading position, the Hanshin Tigers drew first blood in the three-game series against their archrival the Yomiuri Giants, with a 7-2 triumph Friday night at the Tokyo Dome.

The Tigers, who have been trying to put their long-time drought behind them, and who have led the CL since the beginning of the season, took a one-game lead over the second-place Giants.

George Arias blasted a two-run roundtripper off reliever Junya Sakai to break a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning while Kei Igawa (6-1) overcame a sluggish start to get the win, allowing three hits and striking out six over six innings.

It was the Giants who took the early lead. In the bottom of the first inning, Hideki Matsui doubled home Takayuki Shimizu for a 1-0 lead.

The Tigers responded in the third inning when Makoto Imaoka broke open the inning with a double into center field and scored for the game-tying run on Shinjiro Hiyama’s single.

Igawa, who had difficulty with his control, seemed to have regained his rhythm when he struck out five batters in a row during the second and third innings. But Keiji Fukui, who hit a winning homer on April 19 off Igawa (his only other homer this year), nailed a solo clout to break a 1-1 tie in the fourth inning.

The Tigers, however, wasted no time tying the score again. With one out and runners at first and second in the fifth inning, Derrick White smacked a double off Yomiuri starter Masumi Kuwata to drive home Atsushi Kataoka. Arias also tried to reach home but was tagged out at the plate.

The turning point for the Tigers came in the sixth inning when Kuwata, who held the Tigers to two runs on seven hits over five innings, left the mound after 121 pitches and was replaced by Sakai. The Tigers jumped on Sakai and Arias belted Sakai’s 1-2 pitch to the left stands for the go-ahead runs.

The Tigers added a run on a wild pitch by reliever Yukinaga Maeda in the seventh and Osamu Hamanaka, who went 3-for-4 in the game, hit a two-run double in the eighth to put the game out of the Giants’ reach. Dragons at BayStars — ppd. PACIFIC LEAGUE Lions 2, BlueWave 1

Kazuo Matsui drilled a go-ahead “sayonara” solo home run in the ninth inning as Seibu edged Orix at the Seibu Dome.

Trailing the BlueWave 1-0 in the eighth, Toshiaki Inubushi hit a solo homer off Orix starter Koo Dae Sung.

In the ninth with one out, Matsui connected for his fifth homer of the year for the game-winning run off reliever Jun Hagiawara (0-1).

Shinji Mori (1-2) picked up the win, pitching two scoreless innings in relief of Lions starter Koji Mitsui. Buffaloes 10, Fighters 2

Jeremy Powell tossed four-hit ball over eight innings and Kintetsu racked up 16 hits en route to beat Nippon Ham at the Osaka Dome.

Powell walked none and struck out 10 batters for his second win. He gave up two runs on four hits, including a solo homer in the third inning to Yukio Tanaka.

Tied 2-2 in the sixth, Koichi Isobe sacrificed home the go-ahead run before Yuji Yoshioka nailed an RBI double to add a run.

Kenshi Kawaguchi went 4-for-4 and Naoyuki Omura had four RBIs for the Buffaloes who put a halt to their losing streak at three.

Nippon Ham lefty Itsuki Shoda took the loss. He gave up four earned runs on nine hits over five-plus innings.

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