Dragons advance to second stage


Kazuhiro Wada hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the third inning and the Chunichi Dragons continued to widen their lead Monday en route to beating the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 7-4 in a decisive Game 3 of the Climax Series first stage.

Second-place Chunichi rallied from a one-game deficit to win the final two games of the best-of-three series. The Dragons will face the Yomiuri Giants, who take a one-win advantage into the second stage for finishing the regular season in first, starting on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome.

Chunichi starter Kenichi Nakata (1-0) limited the damage to one run in five innings, striking out four. He walked two batters.

Wada jumped on a 1-1 fastball by 19-year-old Yakult starter Yoshinori Sato (0-1) with two outs and a runner at first in the third, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead at Nagoya Dome.

Motonobu Tanishige later added an RBI single followed by retiring Kazuyoshi Tatsunami’s pinch-hit, two-run double in the fifth.

Yakult rallied for two runs in the eighth on back-to-back singles by Norichika Aoki and Jamie D’Antona.

But setup man Takuya Asao later escaped a bases-loaded jam when he got pinch hitter Munehiro Shida to ground into an inning-ending double play.

Chunichi put the lights out for the Swallows in the home half of the eighth with two decisive hits. Pinch hitter Ryosuke Hirata had a run-scoring triple followed by Atsushi Fujii’s RBI double.

Yakult, making its first Climax Series appearance, was missing catcher Ryohei Kawamoto, who hit a two-run homer in Sunday’s 3-2 loss, and four other players who have been infected with influenza.

Kikuchi update

Kyodo News

Highly touted Japanese high school left-hander Yusei Kikuchi held talks Monday with the first four of eight major league clubs that have come to acquire his services.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox, the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants met the 18-year-old, accompanied by Hanamaki Higashi High School manager Hiroshi Sasaki, for 30 minutes each.

In a surprise move, the Rangers had their future ace Derek Holland attend the meeting.

Holland made his major league debut on April 22 and went 8-13 with a 6.12 ERA in 33 appearances, including 21 starts, this year.

The 23-year-old left-hander said he talked about how tough it is for players to make it to the majors and how competitive it is to get there.

The Giants brought a Japanese trainer who belongs to their Single-A affiliate.

Kikuchi is scheduled to meet the Seattle Mariners, the New York Mets, the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday and to hold a press conference about his meetings with the eight major league clubs.