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Hanshin Tigers infielder Makoto Imaoka eclipsed Ichiro Suzuki’s 1999 mark and became the player with the highest votes in the history of the summer All-Star series in Japan, collecting more than 1.37 million ballots as of Sunday.

Imaoka beat Suzuki’s vote count by nearly 30,000 to lead the Central League second baseman division, while his teammates dominated nine of 11 positions — all except for starter and reliever. Hanshin outfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto had the second-most votes overall with 1.32 million.

Also for Hanshin, Jeff Williams (closer), Akihiro Yano (catcher), Shinjiro Hiyama (first baseman), George Arias (third baseman), Atsushi Fujimoto (shortstop), Osamu Hamanaka (outfielder) and Norihiro Akahoshi (outfielder) led their respective positions.

In the Pacific League, Daiei Hawks’ Kenji Jojima maintained the top spot among catchers with 1.10 million while Seibu Lions starter Daisuke Matsuzaka headed a field of four players, including shortstop Kazuo Matsui, from his team with the most ballots.

There were 5.69 million valid votes as of Sunday noon. The final results of the fan picks for the July 15-16 night games at Osaka Dome and Chiba Marine Stadium will be announced July 3 with manager picks the following day.

Kawasaki won’t play

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Chunichi Dragons right-hander Kenjiro Kawasaki said on the Japanese players’ association Web site Monday that he will not play in the All-Star series next month even if he is selected in fan balloting.

Kawasaki, who has not played on the top team for the past two years due to a right shoulder injury, said he finds it strange that he leads in fan balloting for the Central League starting pitchers with 808,329 votes when he has not even pitched this season.

He has about 40,000 more votes than Hanshin Tigers right-hander Kei Igawa, who is currently second.

“Those votes are probably skewed because some fans are protesting since I haven’t made a mound appearance on the top team, but the bottom line is I’m really disappointed with myself,” said Kawasaki.

The 32-year-old Kawasaki said he wanted to let fans know of his intentions not to play in the summer classic before the final results of the ballots are announced July 3.

Fighters down Hawks

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Kuniyuki Kimoto singled home the tying run in the fourth inning and the go-ahead run was scored on a throwing error by Nagisa Arakaki as the Nippon Ham Fighters rallied to beat the first-place Daiei Hawks 6-1 to win their third straight game in the Pacific League on Monday.

The Fighters built a 6-1 lead through the seventh, including Tomochika Tsuboi’s RBI triple in the sixth. Lefty Masaru Yoshizaki (7-2) allowed one run on six hits in eight innings for his first win in a month while Arakaki (4-6) yielded three earned runs and scattered eight hits while striking out 10 over the distance.

Marines 9, Lions 2

At Seibu Dome, Kazuya Fukuura hit a two-run homer in the second inning and Rick Short doubled in the go-ahead run in the fifth as Lotte came from behind twice to halt Seibu’s winning streak at seven games. Lotte won its first in eight games.

Masato Watanabe’s two-run shot in the sixth made it 6-2 to help the cause of Shunsuke Watanabe (2-1), who pitched six-hit ball over six solid innings allowing no walks with three strikeouts.

Buffaloes 17, BlueWave 2 (7)

At Yahoo BB Stadium in Kobe, Kenji Kawaguchi belted a two-run drive and Tuffy Rhodes hit a grand slam for his 23rd homer of the season to highlight an eight-run eruption in the fourth inning as Kintetsu crushed Orix in a game called due to rain in the seventh.

The Buffaloes batted around twice and matched a league record with five doubles in an inning after bringing 11 men to the plate on eight hits in the sixth.

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