Norichika Aoki led off the bottom of the first inning with a leadoff homer on the first pitch from Hisanori Takahashi and the Yakult Swallows went on to hammer the Yomiuri Giants 14-3 Wednesday night at Jingu Stadium.

News photo
Hanshin Tigers outfielder Yutaka Nakamura belts a solo homer
in the top of the 11th inning at Nagoya Dome.

Adam Riggs and Kosei Ono homered in the second and Noriyuki Shiroishi padded the lead with a triple in the fourth and a double in the fifth, providing more than enough run support for Yakult starter Rick Guttormson.

Shiroishi added a two-run single in the eighth and finished the game 4-for-5 and five RBIs in Yakult’s 20-hit attack.

Guttormson (8-5) allowed three runs on six hits and a pair of walks over six innings for the win. Takahashi (7-9) gave up all three Yakult homers and left after yielding five runs and seven hits in four innings.

Tigers 4, Dragons 3 (11)

At Nagoya Dome, Hanshin outfielder Yutaka Nakamura hit a go-ahead homer in the top of the 11th inning as the Tigers edged Chunichi to increase its lead back to three games in the CL.

Nakamura, who came on as a pinch-runner in the ninth and stayed in the game, connected off Masafumi Hirai (4-4) for a leadoff shot that landed near the left-field foul pole as Hanshin and second-place Chunichi split their crucial two-game series.

Carp 6, BayStars 2

At Hiroshima Stadium, Greg LaRocca hit a two-run double and Tomonori Maeda followed with a two-run homer as the Carp rallied for five runs in the seventh inning to send Yokohama to its fourth straight loss.

Kan Otake (9-9) earned the win after holding Hiroshima to four hits in seven innings of work.


Lions 10, Fighters 1

At Invoice Seibu Dome, Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched seven shutout innings and Hiroyuki Nakajima opened the scoring with a three-run homer in the fourth inning as the Lions beat Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

News photoJeremy Powell of the Orix Buffaloes pitches against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks at Osaka Dome.

Matsuzaka (12-12) held Nippon Ham to five hits and received home run support from Nakajima, Jose Fernandez and Yoshihito Ishii, who each homered off Nippon Ham starter Ken Kamakura (6-5).

Every player in the Seibu starting lineup had at least one hit.

Marines 6, Eagles 5

At Chiba Marine Stadium, Makoto Kosaka drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI groundout in the sixth inning as Chiba Lotte edged Tohoku Rakuten.

Rakuten tied the game at five on an Akihito Fujii two-run double in the fifth in a comeback from a 5-1 deficit after three innings.

But Lotte went ahead for good in the sixth when Toshiaki Imae scored on Kosaka’s grounder to second with one out and runners at the corners.

Buffaloes 13, Hawks 6

At Osaka Dome, Eiji Mizuguchi belted a three-run homer in the sixth inning as Orix rallied behind a 15-hit attack to hand Softbank’s Kazumi Saito (15-1) his first loss of the season.

WBC talks continue

Nippon Professional Baseball and the players’ association failed to reach a conclusion Wednesday over Japan’s participation in next spring’s World Baseball Classic and will meet again next week in an attempt to iron out an agreement.

Both sides exchanged opinions over a range of issues arising from participating in the tournament scheduled for March 3-20, including injury compensation, which is one of core demands of the players’ association.

The meeting was held after Major League Baseball renewed its call for Japan to take swift action to clarify its participation in the WBC, the first international competition to feature major league players representing their countries.

“The World Baseball Classic will take place in March before the regular season starts so we are trying to make sure everything important will be put in place,” said Toru Matsubara, secretary general of the players association.

Top NPB officials, who initially voiced opposition to MLB’s dominance in organizing the tournament, are ready to give the nod to Japan’s participation as soon as an agreement is reached with the players.

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