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Daisuke Masuda went 2-for-2 at the plate and connected for a solo homer in the seventh inning Saturday to lead the Kintetsu Buffaloes to a 9-1 win over the Orix BlueWave in Kobe.

Hirotoshi Kitagawa belted a solo homer off former Montreal Expos pitcher Masato Yoshii and Masuda followed with his fourth homer of the season in the next at-bat as the Buffaloes took a 5-1 lead.

Masuda is playing left field in place of Tuffy Rhodes, who was handed a two-game suspension for charging the mound in Wednesday’s 11-3 win over Seibu. Masuda hit a two-run homer in Friday’s 7-1 win over the BlueWave.

Kintetsu starter Hiroshi Takamura picked up the win after giving up one run on three hits over 6 2/3 innings.

The Buffaloes have won four straight and trail the Pacific League-leading Daiei Hawks by only one game in the standings.

Hawks 9, Lions 4

In Fukuoka, Nobuhiko Matsunaka belted a three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning to power Daiei past Seibu.

Matsunaka, who drove in five runs, also contributed to a three-run fourth inning with a clutch RBI single as the Hawks took a commanding 7-0 lead.

Daiei starter Kazumi Saito picked up his sixth win of the season after holding the Lions to four runs on nine hits over six innings.

Fighters 13, Marines 5

At Tokyo Dome, Michihiro Ogasawara and Angel Echevarria hit back-to-back homers as Nippon Ham erupted for nine runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on its way to a victory over Lotte.

Nippon Ham reliever Hiroshi Shibakusa came on in the sixth inning and picked up his first win of the season after holding the Marines scoreless over 1 2/3 innings.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Dragons 3, Carp 2

At Hiroshima Stadium, Motonobu Tanishige lined to left off Toshikazu Sawazaki (3-1) for the game-winner with two out and two on in the top of the 10th inning as Chunichi edged the Carp.

With Chunichi down 1-0 in the fourth, Tanishige hit a two-run homer to turn the game around in favor of the visitors until Hiroshima’s Andy Sheets retied the game and forced an extra inning on a single in the eighth.

Swallows 5, Tigers 3

News photoMichihiro Ogasawara of the Nippon Ham Fighters slugs a two-run homer in the six inning against the Lotte Marines on Saturday.

At Matsuyama Stadium in Ehime Prefecture, Shinichi Sato went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, including a two-run single in a three-run second inning, as Yakult downed Hanshin and tagged Trey Moore with his first loss of the season.

Moore (7-1) got off to a shaky start, allowing four runs on six hits and three walks in 1 2/3 innings.

Yakult starter Hideki Sato (3-0) yielded one run and four hits in six innings while striking out four for his third win in as many games.

Giants 4, BayStars 2

At Yokohama Stadium, a wild pitch by Denney Tomori (0-2) to Tomohiro Nioka bounced over the catcher’s head to allow Ichiro Horita to score the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning as Yomiuri beat the BayStars.

Johnny takes mound

Chiba Lotte Marines right-hander Tomohiro Kuroki, who has been sidelined because of shoulder pain, made his first mound appearance in nearly two years when he pitched a scoreless inning in a minor league game against the Nippon Ham Fighters on Saturday.

Kuroki, whose last outing was on July 27, 2001 against the Orix BlueWave, yielded a hit to one of the four batters he faced in the seventh inning but nevertheless took a big step toward his comeback, with his fastball clocking a maximum 142-kph in the Eastern League game.

“My arm moved well and there’s no pain. I’ll have to see how it feels tomorrow, but I want to pitch again in three or four days,” said the three-time Pacific League All-Star also known as “Johnny.”

Kuroki had double-digit wins from 1997 to 2001 but went did not appear in a game last season after failing to recover from an injury to his right shoulder. The eight-year veteran has a lifetime 73-64 record with a 3.38 ERA.

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