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Veteran catcher Atsuya Furuta belted four homers in four at-bats Saturday to lead the Yakult Swallows to a 14-4 victory over the Hiroshima Carp.

Furuta connected for solo homers in the second and fifth innings before adding a three-run blast in the sixth and a two-run shot in the eighth at Hiroshima Stadium to tie the Japan baseball record for most homers in one game.

The other players who have also hit four home runs in a Japanese professional game are Yoshiyuki Iwamoto (1951), Sadaharu Oh (1964), Tony Solaita (1980) and Nigel Wilson (1997).

“I’m not usually a home run batter so this is a bit of shock,” said the 38-year-old Furuta. “The wind got hold of the first one so I was a bit lucky.”

Alex Ramirez connected for a grand slam in the fifth inning for his 21st homer of the season. With the victory, the Swallows improved to .500.

Yakult rookie Yuhei Takai picked up the win after holding the Carp to three runs on six hits over five innings.

Dragons 1, Giants 0

At Nagoya Dome, Yomiuri fell a further game behind the league-leading Hanshin Tigers on Saturday after a loss to Chunichi.

The Dragons scored the only run of the game when a Chunichi runner scored from third on Hirokazu Ibata’s grounder to second.

Chunichi veteran Masahiro Yamamoto tossed a three-hitter and struck out six over eight innings to pick up the win.

The defending Japan Series champion Giants, owners of the highest payroll in Japanese baseball, fell 13 1/2 games behind the Tigers after the loss.

Tigers 5, BayStars 3

At Yokohama Stadium, George Arias hit a solo homer in the fourth inning and Akihiro Yano added a two-run blast in the sixth to lift league-leading Hanshin over the BayStars.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Buffaloes 7, Fighters 6

At Tokyo Dome, Norihiro Nakamura connected for a three-run homer as Kintetsu scored five runs in the top of the first inning on its way to a win over Nippon Ham.

Kintetsu starter Nerio Rodriguez improved to 2-0 after holding the Fighters to one run on five hits over six innings.

Marines 16, BlueWave 7

At Chiba Marine Stadium, Koichi Hori hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning to power Lotte over Orix.

Hawks 13, Lions 1

At Fukuoka Dome, Noriyoshi Omichi connected for a three-run homer and Nobuhiko Matsunaka added a two-run blast as front-running Daiei scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning on their way beating Seibu.

Tigers give hope

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Economic and fiscal policy minister Heizo Takenaka voiced hope Saturday that Japan’s ailing economy will see a turnaround this year if the Hanshin Tigers win the Central League pennant, which many baseball fans expect to happen.

Takenaka said in a news conference after a town meeting in Yokohama that he strongly hopes a victory by the Tigers would “change the economic landscape in Japan,” just like the last time the professional baseball club clinched the Central League and Japan Series titles in 1985.

“I have been a Hanshin fan since childhood,” Takenaka said, when asked by a sports reporter about how much impact there would be on the economy if the Kansai-based club takes the championship.

“The year 1985 was a turning point for the (Japanese) economy. The 1985 Plaza Accord, which drove the yen higher and the U.S. dollar lower, changed the landscape of the Japanese economy with stock prices rising and the economy expanding,” he said.

Takenaka, a native of Wakayama Prefecture south of Osaka, did not mention any specific economic figures in relation to a Hanshin victory, saying it is difficult to gauge the precise impact on a macro level.

However, Jiro Ushio, a private-sector member of the Council of Economic and Fiscal Policy who attended the town meeting with Takenaka, said a Tigers victory would boost the economy by 50 billion yen to 60 billion yen in the near term and potentially by 1 trillion yen.

BlueWave get Phillips

The Orix BlueWave have acquired Cleveland Indians right-hander Jason Phillips, officials of the Pacific League club said Saturday. Phillips is scheduled to arrive in Japan in early July.

This season, the 29-year-old Phillips went 0-1 in three games with the Indians and 6-0 with a 2.70 ERA in seven minor league games.

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