• The Associated Press

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Nobuhiko Matsunaka hit his Pacific League-leading 44th homer Friday afternoon as the Softbank Hawks downed the Seibu Lions 5-4.

News photoNoriyoshi Omichi of the Hawks waves to the crowd after hitting a two-run homer against the Lions on Friday at Invoice Seibu Dome. Fukuoka Softbank beat Seibu 5-4.

Matsunaka connected in the second inning at Invoice Seibu Dome with a blast off Seibu starter Junichi Kawahara. Munenori Kawasaki made it 2-0 in the fifth on a solo homer and Julio Zuleta widened the lead to 3-1 in the sixth with another solo shot, his 40th homer of the season.

The Hawks went into Friday’s game with a three-game lead over the second-place Chiba Lotte Marines in the Pacific League standings with just four games remaining in the regular season.

Pinch-hitter Noriyoshi Omichi added a two-run homer to left off Seibu reliever Satoshi Yamazaki in the top of the ninth.

Marines 12, Eagles 3

At Fullcast Stadium, Val Pascucci and Lee Seung Yeop both hit three-run homers to lead Chiba Lotte to a win over Tohoku Rakuten.

Fighters 5, Buffaloes 1

At Skymark Stadium, Fernando Seguignol and Michihiro Ogasawara both connected for two-run homers to lead Hokkaido Nippon Ham to a win over Orix.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Tigers 8, Carp 6

At Muscat Stadium in Okayama, Shinjiro Hiyama drove in a pair of runs with a double in the top of the ninth as Hanshin downed Hiroshima to move a step closer to clinching the pennant.

Reliever Kyuji Fujikawa worked a scoreless ninth for the win as the Tigers reduced their magic number to clinch the Central League pennant to five.

Dragons 10, Giants 6

At Nagoya Dome, Kosuke Fukudome hit a three-run homer in the first inning and Tyrone Woods added a solo blast in the next at-bat as Chunichi scored five runs on its way to a win over Yomiuri.

BayStars 5, Swallows 0

At Jingu Stadium, Takahiro Saeki, Shuichi Murata, Ryoji Aikawa and Seiichi Uchikawa all homered in the top of the ninth inning to power Yokohama to a win over Yakult.

Giants want Hara

The Yomiuri Giants are set to make an offer for Tatsunori Hara to return as manager of the Central League ballclub, team sources said Thursday.

Hara, 47, is expected to accept the offer that would see him replacing Tsuneo Horiuchi, 57, the sources said. Yomiuri is likely to announce the appointment shortly after its regular-season schedule ends in early October, they said.

Jojima ruled out

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Softbank Hawks catcher Kenji Jojima, who broke a shin in Thursday’s game, is expected to need two months to recover and will miss the rest of the regular season and the postseason games as well.

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