Inaba, teammates rough up Yakult’s Tateyama


The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ first hit was a home run.

Their other 16 weren’t too shabby either.

Atsunori Inaba homered twice, Yoshio Itoi had four doubles, and the Nippon Ham offense exploded for 17 hits in a 10-2 rout of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on Tuesday at Jingu Stadium.

The Fighters won for the third time in four games and snapped the Swallows’ five-game winning streak. Nippon Ham also prevented Yakult from sweeping the season series.

“We didn’t want to lose four games in a row,” Inaba said. “In that respect it was a good game.”

The Fighters improved to 12-10-1 in interleague play and assured all six Pacific League clubs will finish the koryusen schedule above .500.

“It’s good,” Fighters manager Masataka Nashida said of securing a winning record. “But the other Pacific League teams are winning too. If it was only us, that would be great.”

Inaba homered in his first at-bat against starter Shoei Tateyama, giving his team a 1-0 advantage in the top of the first inning.

“It was a big blast that wiped away our bad rhythm from yesterday,” he said, referring to the team’s poor showing in Monday’s 8-3 loss to Yakult.

Inaba connected on his 12th home run of the season in the third and finished 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs.

His good vibes rubbed off on Takayuki Takaguchi, who recorded his second homer of the year pinch-hitting for Inaba in the ninth.

Itoi finished 5-for-5 after hitting a single his first time up then connecting on four consecutive doubles. He also drove in a run and tied the NPB record for doubles in a single game.

Fighters shortstop Makoto Kaneko was 2-for-4 with a three-run homer and Daikan Yoh drove in two runs on a 3-for-5 night.

The offense made life easier for Nashida, who was forced to go to his bullpen in the second inning after an injury to starter Hirotoshi Masui.

The Fighters rookie tossed one scoreless frame and struck out in his only plate appearance, before being lifted despite no outward signs of injury.

“He said he felt discomfort in his right shoulder during practice,” Nashida said. “We have yet to know what kind of injury it is. I have to see what our trainer thinks.”

Ryo Sakakibara took the mound in the top of the second and threw two scoreless innings of relief to earn his first career win.

With Sakakibara (1-0) leading the way, six Nippon Ham relievers combined to throw eight innings, allowing two runs on four hits.

Yakult starter Shohei Tateyama was roughed up for eight runs on 11 hits in the loss. Tateyama (3-5) balked once and struck out six.

“I’m sorry for my performance during the team’s winning streak,” Tateyama said.

BayStars end slide

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Seiichi Uchikawa hit his first career grand slam as the Yokohama BayStars beat the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 5-2 on Tuesday to end a season-worst nine-game losing streak.

The 2008 Central League batting champion’s slam to left-center broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning at Yokohama Stadium.

Rookie Shigeru Kaga (2-4) allowed two runs and six hits in five innings for the win.