Kenshin Kawakami went seven strong innings Thursday as the Chunichi Dragons blanked the Hanshin Tigers 6-0.

Kawakami improved to 4-0 on the season after striking out seven and holding the Tigers to five hits over seven innings at Nagoya Dome.

Koichi Sekikawa and Eiichi Nakano each drove in a pair of runs as Chunichi tagged Hanshin starter Kei Igawa for four runs in the bottom of the first inning.

Alex Ochoa, formerly of the Anaheim Angels, added a solo shot in the seventh inning — his sixth homer of the season.

With the victory, Chunichi improved to 14-9 and moved into a tie for first place with Hanshin in the Central League standings.

Giants 5, Swallows 4

At Tokyo Dome, Matt Randel gave up two runs on three hits over five innings to pick up his first win as Yomiuri edged Yakult.

Mototsugu Kawanaka drove in the winning run with a clutch single in the fourth inning when the Giants scored three runs to take the lead.

Yakult rallied for two runs in the top of the ninth but reliever Junichi Kawahara recorded the final out to pick up his fourth save of the season and preserve the win for Randel.

Thursday’s other Central League game between the Hiroshima Carp and the Yokohama BayStars in Hiroshima was called off due to rain.

There were no games scheduled Thursday in the Pacific League.

Balloting starts Friday

Kyodo News

Fan balloting for this summer’s two-game All-Star series in Osaka Dome and Chiba Marine Stadium will get under way Friday, officials of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) said Thursday.

Fans will be able to submit votes for players in the Central and Pacific leagues for the July 15-16 night games via mail, Internet or cellular phone sites through June 22 with final results of the fan picks to be announced on July 3 and manager selects the following day.

Tatsunori Hara of the defending Japan Series champions Yomiuri Giants will head the CL and Seibu Lions’ Haruki Ihara will guide the PL in the nine-inning regulation game featuring 28 players on each side.

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