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Even the return of Shigeo Nagashima couldn’t inspire the underachieving Yomiuri Giants.

News photoFormer Giants manager Shigeo Nagashima sits in the stand prior to Sunday’s Yomiuri-Hiroshima
game at Tokyo Dome. It was Nagashima’s first public appearance since suffering a stroke in
March last year.

Mike Romano went eight strong innings Sunday, striking out eight and giving up one run on five hits as the Hiroshima Carp downed the Yomiuri Giants 4-1 at Tokyo Dome to spoil the return of the legendary former player and manager of the Giants.

“I had good control today,” said Romano. “I spotted my fastball and my slider well and the team played great defense behind me.”

Nagashima, nicknamed Mr. Giants, was making his first appearance at Tokyo Dome since suffering a stroke in March of 2004. The stroke left Nagashima partially paralyzed on the right side of his body.

The 69-year-old Nagashima watched Sunday’s game from a private box behind home plate and got a huge ovation from the Yomiuri fans when he stood up and waved from his seat.

Takahiro Arai went 3-for-4 and hit a solo homer in the third inning to lead the Hiroshima attack.

Yomiuri starter Masumi Kuwata, who was also making a return after a long absence, took the loss after giving up four runs on five hits over five innings.

With the loss, the Giants fell to 9 1/2 games behind the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers.

Tigers 6, BayStars 3

At Yokohama Stadium, Andy Sheets drove in three runs to power league-leading Hanshin to a win over Yokohama.

Sheets hit a solo homer in the third inning and also drove in a pair of runs in the top of the ninth with a single up the middle.

Hanshin starter Yuya Ando earned the victory after giving up three runs on five hits over 8 1/3 innings and Tomoyuki Kubota recorded the final two outs for the save.

Swallows 5, Dragons 2

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Akinori Iwamura connected for a three-run homer in the third inning and Ryuji Miyade went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs as Yakult beat Chunichi.

With the victory, the Swallows pulled even with the Dragons in second place, 5 1/2 games back of the Tigers.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Hawks 6, Buffaloes 3

At Yahoo Dome in Fukuoka, streaking Softbank got home runs in three consecutive at-bats from Nobuhiko Matsunaka, Kenji Jojima and Julio Zuleta on its way to a win over Orix.

Matsunaka, Jojima and Zuleta all hit solo homers in the bottom of the fourth inning to power the Pacific League-leading Hawks to their 11th straight win.

Lions 5, Marines 2

At Chiba Marine Stadium, Daisuke Matsuzaka struck out 12 while giving up two runs on 11 hits over the distance as Seibu defeated Chiba Lotte.

Kazuhiro Wada hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Jose Fernandez drove in a pair of runs as the Lions took two out of three from the Marines, who lost for the fifth time in their last seven.

Eagles 6, Fighters 5

At Fullcast Stadium in Sendai, Koichi Isobe drove in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth to lift Rakuten to a win over Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

Isobe’s single up the middle drove home the go-ahead run as the Eagles won their second straight against Trey Hillman’s Fighters.

Mirabal released

The Nippon Ham Fighters said Sunday they have released right-hander Carlos Mirabal, who had been sidelined since early April due to a shoulder injury.

Mirabal, who started for Nippon Ham on Opening Day, was expected to serve as a core of the starting rotation this season but the injury limited the 32-year-old American to an 0-3 record in three games with a 7.71 ERA.

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