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Lions sweep Hawks, close PL gap

Kyodo

Alex Cabrera hit a pair of homers and Koji Mitsui pitched seven shutout innings Wednesday as the Seibu Lions completed a three-game sweep of the front-running Fukuoka Daiei Hawks with a 7-0 victory and extended their winning streak to five games.

News photoTakeshi Nakamura of the Yokohama BayStars jumps to reach out for the ball, but fails to make a squeeze bunt in the fourth inning against the Hanshin Tigers at Sapporo Dome. The BayStars
beat the Tigers 8-7.

Cabrera put Seibu ahead in the first inning with a homer off Junji Hoshino (5-7) and added his second of the night in the eighth that capped the scoring for the Lions, who came within 1 1/2 games of the Pacific League leader.

Mitsui (2-1) allowed three hits with four walks and six strikeouts and the Seibu bullpen kept the Lions at bay the rest of the way at Fukuoka Dome. Hoshino gave up four runs on five hits in six innings.

Marines 7, Buffaloes 2

At Chiba Marine Stadium, Tsuyoshi Nishioka went 3-for-4 with a second-inning two-run homer that got Lotte on the board on its way to its third straight victory with a win over Kintetsu, which lost its fourth in a row.

Benny Agbayani and Kazuya Fukuura also homered for the Marines to help make a winner of Hiroyuki Kobayashi (6-5), who held Kintetsu to two runs on four hits in his first complete game of the season.

BlueWave 7, Fighters 4

At Yahoo BB Stadium, Orix opened up a 5-1 lead on consecutive RBI hits by Kazuhiko Shiotani, Daisuke Hayakawa and Makoto Shiozaki in the second inning and went on to beat Nippon Ham and halt its seven-game losing streak.

Right-hander Takashi Aiki (3-0) earned the win after working eight innings in relief of starter Tatsuo Kato in the first. Shintaro Ejiri (4-1) took the loss giving up seven runs in six innings.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Dragons 5, Giants 1

At Nagoya Dome, Alex Ochoa hit a two-run homer and Masahiro Yamamoto threw seven strong innings as Central League-leading Chunichi beat Yomiuri and spoiled a bid for a 200th career win by veteran southpaw Kimiyasu Kudo.

Ochoa’s homer off Kudo (8-5) put Chunichi ahead and a two-run double by Hirokazu Ibata in the fourth made it 4-1 after an Ichiro Horita homer pulled the Giants within one run.

Swallows 4, Carp 2

At Jingu Stadium, Alex Ramirez opened the scoring with a three-run homer in the first inning and Yakult cruised to a victory over Hiroshima, which was held to a two-run homer by Greg Larocca in the ninth.

BayStars 8, Tigers 7 (10)

At Sapporo Dome, Tyrone Woods hit a grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning to give Yokohama the victory after Hanshin took a three-run lead in the top half.

Fans slam merger

The Associated Press About 300 fans marched through downtown Tokyo on Wednesday demonstrating against the proposed merger of the Pacific League’s Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and Orix BlueWave and the formation of a one-league system in Japanese professional baseball.

Marching to chants of “We’re against the merger,” and holding placards that read “Don’t ignore the fans,” the group wound its way through Tokyo’s Hibya business district Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, the BlueWave and the Buffaloes signed a basic agreement on their merger but the move still has to be approved at an owner’s meeting on Sept. 8.

Under the agreement, the merged club will be run by a new company jointly owned by Orix Corp. and Kintetsu Corp., the parent companies of the two teams.

The proposed merger has lead to speculation that Japanese baseball will be transformed into a single league with 10 teams.

The current two-league format, featuring the Pacific and Central Leagues, has been in place since 1950.

In July, the Japanese baseball players’ association vowed to fight the proposed merger but stopped short of calling for a strike by players.

Yakult Swallows catcher Atsuya Furuta, the head of the players’ association, said Tuesday that his organization will continue to do everything to prevent the merger.

If the two teams merge, it is expected that up to 100 players and team personnel could lose their jobs.

Adding to the frustration of the players and the fans is the fact that the president of a Tokyo-based Internet services company offered to purchase the Buffaloes in June but was turned down by the Kintetsu organization.

PL Gakuen stumbles

NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo Pref. (Kyodo) Yuya Matsushima tied a tournament record with six hits Wednesday as Tokyo’s Nichidai Daisan beat PL Gakuen of Osaka Prefecture 8-5 in the second round of the national high school baseball championship.

Leadoff man Matsushima went 6-for-6 and drove home three runs at Koshien Stadium, leading an 18-hit attack by the 2001 winner of the annual tournament in the victory over the four-time champion.

In first-round games held earlier in the day, Hiroyuki Homma pitched a four-hitter with 11 strikeouts as Seiko Gakuin from Fukushima Prefecture blanked Tottori Shogyo 6-0.

Wakayama Shogyo took a five-run lead after three innings and went on to down Tochigi’s Utsunomiya Minami 11-6.