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Hiroki Kokubo went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs, leading the Yomiuri Giants to a 3-1 victory over the front-running Chunichi Dragons in the Central League on Thursday.

Kokubo hit an RBI grounder in the first inning that led to an error by Chunichi starter Domingo Guzman, singled home a run in the third and connected for a solo blast in the ninth to cap the scoring at Nagoya Dome.

Hiroshi Kisanuki (7-7) pitched a five-hitter in six shutout innings with six strikeouts and three walks. Guzman (7-4) took the loss for Chunichi.

Swallows 4, Carp 3

At Jingu Stadium, Alex Ramirez hit a two-run go-ahead homer to cap a three-run first inning and rookie Ryo Kawashima (8-4) pitched two-run ball over six sharp innings as Yakult held off Hiroshima for its second straight victory.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Fighters 11, BlueWave 4

At Yahoo BB Stadium, Shinji Takahashi delivered a two-run go-ahead homer in the fourth inning as Nippon Ham went on to rout Orix.

Marines 6, Buffaloes 5 (12)

At Chiba Marine Stadium, Koichi Hori hit a solo homer off Toyohiko Yoshida (2-6) with two out in the bottom of the 12th inning, giving Lotte a walkoff victory over Kintetsu.

‘Stars plead with Sasaki

Yokohama BayStars President Susumu Minegishi said Thursday he will try to convince closer Kazuhiro Sasaki to fulfill a two-year contract instead of retiring.

Sasaki, who is playing in his first season back in Japan following a four-year stint with the Seattle Mariners, told the Central League team a day earlier that he intends to retire after a string of unsettling performances.

But Yokohama is hoping Sasaki will change his mind and stay with the club.

“It’s not necessary to change anything with his contract,” Minegishi said, but suggested it might be that getting Sasaki to pitch is a lot like leading a horse to water.

“I don’t understand what he feels right now. We can take him to the mound but we can’t make him pitch,” Minegishi said.

Sasaki, who is second on the all-time list with 248 saves, is apparently depressed after blowing three straight save opportunities and is scheduled to be deactivated from the roster Friday.

“I hope he’ll do everything to get himself reactivated,” Minegishi said.

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