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Kosuke Fukudome went 3-for-4 and drove in a run, improving his average to .337 to overtake batting title rival Hideki Matsui of the Yomiuri Giants as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Hiroshima Carp 9-5 at Hiroshima Stadium on Thursday night.

Hirokazu Ibata singled in the tie-breaking run in the second inning. Fukudome hit an RBI single in the five-run sixth inning.

Marines 3, Fighters 1
Nathan Minchey gave up one run on seven hits with no walks over eight-plus innings, carrying Lotte past Nippon Ham at Chiba Marine Stadium.

Minchey, who was named the Pacific League’s MVP for the month of September earlier in the day, earned his 15th decision. Masahide Kobayashi finished up for his 34th save.

Takashi Tachikawa doubled in a run in the fifth inning. Derrick May and Saburo Ohmura hit RBI singles in the sixth and the seventh, respectively, for Lotte.

BlueWave 3, Hawks 2
Yoshitomo Tani singled in a tie-breaking “sayonara” run with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning as Orix edged Daiei at Green Stadium Kobe.

Carp to drop Lopez

HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) The Hiroshima Carp said Thursday that they will release infielder Luis Lopez, who was taken off the active roster at the end of August, after this season.

Lopez is scheduled to return to the United States on Friday.

Lopez, who led the Central League in RBIs in 1996 and 1997, has struggled much of the current season, batting .245 with five homers and 33 RBIs in 80 games until being deactivated on Aug. 30.

The 37-year-old American served a 10-day suspension for a dugout disturbance in April when he got into a shoving match with teammate Tomonori Maeda during the middle of a game.

Saito to test waters

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Yokohama BayStars right-hander Takashi Saito will exercise his right to become a free agent at the end of the season, officials of the Central League club said Thursday.

“Ultimately, I didn’t feel all that certain (about becoming a free agent) but I feel this is my last time in terms of age to exercise this right,” said Saito, who is finishing up his 11th season with Yokohama.

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