Yomiuri shortstop Tomohiro Nioka homered in three consecutive at-bats and rookie right-hander Yuya Kubo carried a three-hitter over eight innings in his first career start as the Giants cruised past the Yokohama BayStars 9-2 at Tokyo Dome on Thursday.

Nioka, playing his fifth pro year, struck out in his first at-bat and then homered in his next three at-bats — a solo dinger in the fourth, a two-run clout in the fifth and a solo homer in the seventh.

Kubo (2-1) struck out 10 batters and walked one, allowing one run on a solo home run by Takanori Suzuki in the seventh in his 18th appearance this season.

Yokohama slugger Tyrone Woods smashed a solo homer in the ninth — his CL- and PL-leading 14th of the season — off Giants closer Junichi Kawahara.

BayStars hurler Daisuke Miura (1-1) gave up six runs on eight hits over five innings in taking the loss.

Dragons 8, Swallows 4
Kazuyoshi Tatsunami and Masahiro Araki had three hits each for Chunichi as it rolled over Yakult at Ishikawa Prefectural Stadium in Kanazawa.

Makoto Kito (2-0) held Yakult to one run over five innings for the win.

Kawakami out 2 weeks

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Deactivated Chunichi Dragons right-hander Kenshin Kawakami will be out for two weeks after damaging joints in his right shoulder, baseball officials said Thursday.

Irabu qualifies for FA

OSAKA (Kyodo) Hanshin Tigers right-hander Hideki Irabu has qualified to be a free agent after recording nine years in Japanese pro baseball, team officials said Thursday.

Irabu played for three major league teams before returning to Japan after seven years to join the Tigers for the 2003 season.

Irabu, who played for the Lotte Marines prior to his departure to the United States, had already recorded eight years and 102 days on the top team with the Pacific League club.

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