Baseball / MLB

Ramirez grand slam lifts Swallows

Kyodo

Alex Ramirez hit a grand slam in the first inning and added an RBI sacrifice fly in the fifth as the Yakult Swallows sent the last-place Hiroshima Carp to their third straight defeat in a 7-6 victory in the Central League on Tuesday.

News photoGeorge Arias of Hanshin hits a sacrifice fly for the “sayonara” run in the bottom of the ninth
inning to lead the Tigers to 5-4 win over the Yokohama BayStars on Tuesday at Osaka Dome.

Hiroshima cut the deficit to 5-4 on Koichi Ogata’s solo homer and a three-run blast by Greg Larocca but Yoshiyuki Noguchi’s two-run shot in the ninth put the game out of reach at Hiroshima Stadium.

Tigers 5, BayStars 4

At Osaka Dome, George Arias hit a sacrifice fly off Hiroshi Yamada (0-2) for the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning after Hanshin squandered an early three-run lead, giving the Tigers their third win in a row.

Giants 1, Dragons 1 (12)

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Hawks 2, BlueWave 1

At Fukuoka Dome, Shinji Kurano pitched one-run ball over eight solid innings and got run support from a Yusuke Torigoe bases-loaded single in the fifth inning as first-place Daiei held on for a victory over Orix.

Fighters 9, Marines 3

At Sapporo Dome, Shinji Takahashi connected off Kosuke Kato (0-1) for a three-run homer to highlight a six-run first and Itsuki Shoda (8-4) limited Lotte to two runs over five-plus innings, helping Nippon Ham return to third place in the PL standings.

Lions 3, Buffaloes 2 (11)

Merger talks continue

Pacific League officials are working to put forward specific plans for a second merger between ballclubs to present to next week’s gathering of top baseball officials, Central League President Hajime Toyokura indicated Monday.

“They told us they are making efforts to present the Aug. 30 executive committee meeting (of Nippon Professional Baseball) with the merger plan,” Toyokura said after representatives from the 12 ballclubs discussed issues regarding possible realignment of professional baseball.

The club representatives met for the first time since they left inconclusive the debate on whether to realign Japanese baseball in their talks a week ago. Time is running out to decide on the setup and schedule for next season.

The PL clubs support the idea of reducing the number of teams to 10 through mergers and making a switch to a one-league system from the current two-league format that has been in place since 1950.

However, most CL clubs oppose the idea and have urged the PL side to show concrete plans regarding a merger plan that would follow the one between the Orix BlueWave and Kintetsu Buffaloes.

“In reality, nothing has come out about the second merger plan. I don’t know what’s going to happen and nobody really knows anything about it,” baseball commissioner Yasuchika Negoro said.

Seibu Lions owner Yoshiaki Tsutsumi said at a July 7 owners meeting that another merger plan was in the works in the PL in addition to the Orix-Kintetsu merger.

Tsutsumi at the time said he would prefer to see Japanese baseball realigned into one league, sending shock waves among baseball officials and fans.

The owners and top officials of the other PL clubs have since sided with Tsutsumi, but no specific proposals on the second merger, including the teams involved, have been made.

Hanshin Tigers President Katsuyoshi Nozaki, who spearheads the opposition to a shift to a one-league system, said time is running out as a key Sept. 8 meeting of the owners is approaching.

Meanwhile, baseball players reiterated Monday they are ready to exercise the right to go on strike if baseball officials press ahead with a plan that will result in the contraction of Japanese baseball.