Sherman Obando belted a game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night as the Nippon Ham Fighters gave their dwindling number of fans one last hurrah before the All-Star break begins.

Obando’s 123-meter shot into the center-field stands made a winner of Nippon Ham reliever Hiroshi Shibakusa (2-1) as the Fighters completed a three-game sweep of the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes with a 2-1 victory at the Tokyo Dome.

“All of the pitchers did a great job today, so I’m really happy we were able to get the win,” said Obando after the game. “And we really appreciate the fans coming out here tonight to watch us.”

The game only drew 9,000 spectators which could partly be explained by the strong wind and heavy rain as Typhoon No. 6 approached Tokyo.

However, attendance at Fighters games has been down all season as the team prepares to move to Sapporo.

On Tuesday, Nippon Ham received official approval from the other pro baseball owners to move the franchise, and Fighters fans — some holding signs critical of the team’s decision to move — were noticeably more subdued Wednesday night than the Kintetsu supporters.

But Fighters fans had another reason to be in a poor mood.

Just five pitches into the game, Nippon Ham starter Itsuki Shoda surrendered a home run to Kintetsu leadoff batter Naoyuki Omura.

“It was a full count, so I stood back a little bit to make the strike zone wider and the next pitch was right where I wanted it,” said Omura. “That homer was great because it gave everyone on our team a bit of a lift.”

Although Shoda quickly settled down and held the Buffaloes scoreless the next eight innings, he got little support from his lineup as the Kintetsu starter Jeremy Powell kept the Fighters off balance with a combination of curveballs and inside fastballs.

The Fighters finally struck back in the fifth inning on Seigo Fujishima’s solo home run to right field.

“It was a curveball and I hit it on the sweet spot,” said Fujishima. “Shoda was pitching really well, so it’s good we could tie the game and give him a chance to win.”

But after that, Powell bore down and retired 11 of the next 13 batters, and he showed little mercy for Nippon Ham first baseman Michihiro Ogasawara, who was forced to jump out of the way of several inside fastballs.

Nippon Ham manager Yasunori Oshima went to his bullpen in the top of the ninth inning, and reliever Noriyuki Takahashi quickly got into trouble by issuing a walk to Kenshi Kawaguchi on four pitches.

Oshima then put Hiroshi Shibakusa on the mound, and after allowing a single to pinch-hitter Daisuke Masuda, retired the next three batters to end the threat.

Kintetsu manager Masataka Nashida, however, kept Powell in the game even though he had thrown nearly 126 pitches. That set the stage for Obando, who sent the second pitch from Powell into the bleachers.

With the victory, the Fighters enter the All-Star break with a 35-34 record while the Buffaloes have an entire week plan a way to end their four-game skid.

Lions 7, Hawks 2
Tsutomu Ito capped Seibu’s six-run first inning with a grand slam off Daiei starter Akichika Yamada (5-6) as the PL-leading Lions beat the Hawks at the Fukuoka Dome.

Lions reliever Hayato Aoki (4-1) pitched 1 1/3 perfect innings in relief and picked up the win.

Hawks left fielder Pedro Valdez went 3-for-4 and hit a solo homer in the first inning off Seibu starter Fumiya Nishiguchi.

Marines 5, BlueWave 2
Lotte starter Naoyuki Shimizu gave up two runs on six hits over six innings and two relievers shut out Orix the rest of the way as the Marines won at Green Stadium Kobe.

Tied 0-0 with two out and a runner on second, the Marines scored two runs on four consecutive singles.

In the third, Lotte scored three more with Tadaharu Sakai’s bases-clearing double.

Scott Sheldon drove home two runs for the BlueWave with a two-run clout in the sixth.


Giants 9, Carp 2
Yomiuri ace Koji Uehara scattered three hits over eight innings and fanned nine batters en route to his 10th win as the Giants beat Hiroshima at Hiroshima Stadium.

Dragons at Tigers — ppd. Swallows at BayStars — ppd.

Gomez heads home

OSAKA — Chunichi Dragons infielder Leo Gomez will return to the United States on Thursday to have his injured right knee examined and treated, the Central League club said Wednesday.

The club gave no date for the return of the Puerto Rican slugger, who was taken off the Dragons’ active roster on July 3 after twisting his knee in an at-bat the previous evening in a game against the Yomiuri Giants.

Gomez was diagnosed at a Nagoya hospital with an inflammation in his right knee and was told he would need three days of rest.

The knee, however, has shown little improvement, prompting the slugger to seek treatment in the U.S.

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