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Tuffy Rhodes belted his 42nd homer of the year and three Kintetsu hurlers shut out Orix at Osaka Dome on Sunday as the Buffaloes downed the BlueWave 3-0 to win their third straight game.

Tied 0-0 in the eighth, Rhodes broke the deadlock with a solo home run and after two out with a runner on first, Koichi Isobe slammed a two-run homer.

Lefty Katsuhiko Maekawa (4-2) picked up the win, pitching two innings in relief of starter Kevin Beirne.

Hawks 4, Marines 1

Lefty Toshiya Sugiuchi combined with Katsunori Okamoto on a seven-hitter as Daiei beat Lotte at Fukuoka Dome.

Sugiuchi (7-7) gave up a run on six hits while striking out 10.

Tadahito Iguchi and Julio Zuleta — who hit a solo homer in the second — had two hits each.

Fighters 13, Lions 5

D.T. Cromer smashed a three-run dinger to cap Nippon Ham’s go-ahead six-run sixth as the Fighters beat Seibu in a six-homer slugfest at Sapporo Dome.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Dragons 6, Carp 1

Alex Ochoa belted a grand slam and Motonobu Tanishige added a solo clout in Chunichi’s five-run first as the Dragons downed Hiroshima at Nagoya Dome.

Lefty Kazuhiro Hiramatsu (3-2) held the Carp to one run on a solo homer by Andy Sheets over 5 2/3 innings.

BayStars 5, Tigers 2

Tyrone Woods smashed his Central League-leading 29th homer and starter Takashi Saito held the Tigers to two runs over six solid innings to help Yokohama beat the CL-leaders at Yokohama Stadium.

Woods belted a three-run homer in the first inning off Hanshin rookie Tomoyuki Kubota (4-5) to give the home team an early lead.

Tomoaki Kanemoto connected for a solo homer in the fourth and Norihiro Akahoshi hit an RBI triple in the sixth to bring the Tigers to within one run, but the BayStars widened the lead with a Takeshi Nakamura two-run single in the eighth.

Giants 6, Swallows 1

Rookie Yuya Kubo (6-4) combined with two relievers on a six-hitter while Yoshinobu Takahashi and Roberto Petagine hit two-run homers apiece as Yomiuri beat Yakult at Jingu Stadium.

Kubo allowed one unearned run on five hits over seven innings for the win.

Giants catcher Yoshinori Murata went 3-for-3 with two RBIs.

Matsui qualifies for FA

Seibu Lions shortstop Kazuo Matsui on Sunday earned the right to become a free agent after serving nine years on the top team roster in Japan, baseball sources said.

Matsui, who has reportedly been drawing interest from major league teams, said in a press conference at Sapporo Dome that he has a strong desire to play for Japan in next summer’s Athens Olympics, but has not made up his mind on whether to exercise his free agent rights.

Should Matsui join a major league club, he will not be able to play in the Olympics as a member of the national team.

“I haven’t decided what to do yet. I’ll talk to club officials when the season is over,” said the 27-year-old.

“Every player here dreams of playing in the majors and I’m no exception. It’s one of my choices, but I have a lot to think about,” he said.

Matsui, a seven-time All-Star, is batting .300 with a team-high 135 hits, 25 homers and 61 RBIs after 110 games this season.

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