NAGOYA – Masahiko Morino was a double short of a cycle as his four-hit, four-RBI game sparked the Central League-leading Chunichi Dragons to a 5-2 win against the hapless Yokohama BayStars on Sunday.
Chunichi, now a season-high 17 games over .500 after its fourth straight win, opened the scoring in the first inning at Nagoya Dome thanks to Morino, who hit a three-run home run off Atori Ota (0-5), his 20th roundtripper of the season.
“I think it’s been a long time since we scored in the first inning on my hit,” said Morino, who had his fourth four-hit game of the season.
Morino had a triple in the third inning, a single to right in the fifth and in the seventh, hit a crucial RBI single in his last at-bat that put the Dragons up 4-2.
That Morino, who has 161 hits for the season, missed a cycle by a double was ironic. He leads baseball with 43 doubles.
“I really thought I had it,” he said. “But I guess it just doesn’t come that easily. At least I helped the team win.”
Kenichi Nakata worked six strong innings to pick up his sixth victory. The right-hander struck out six and allowed two earned runs as Chunichi put together its sixth four-game winning streak of the season.
The Dragons remained a game and a half ahead of the Hanshin Tigers in the pennant race.
Hitoki Iwase struck out two in the ninth to collect his CL-leading 39th save.
“It was a much easier game than yesterday,” Chunichi skipper Hiromitsu Ochiai said. “But I can’t believe we still have 12 games to play this season. Man.”
Last-place Yokohama dropped its third in a row — its sixth straight loss at Nagoya Dome — and is 40 games below .500.
Ota, the third-year right-hander out of Teikyo High School, lost his seventh straight start and has yet to win in his career.
Tigers 5, Swallows 0
At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin rookie Takumi Akiyama (3-1) pitched his first career shutout, a four-hitter that stopped the Tigers’ skid at three games.
The 19-year-old Akiyama never allowed Yakult back-to-back hits as the righty became the first CL rookie straight out of high school in 21 years to throw a shutout without issuing a single walk.
Giants 5, Carp 1
At Tokyo Dome, Hayato Sakamoto and Michihiro Ogasawara set the tone with a pair of solo shots in the opening frame as Yomiuri won its third in a row.
Dicky Gonzalez (5-1) held Hiroshima to one earned run in five-plus innings for the victory, the first Giants starter to earn a win since Aug. 26. Sakamoto led off the game with a homer for the seventh time this season.
Lions 14, Marines 3
At Seibu Dome, Hisashi Takayama led the Lions’ 18-hit barrage with four hits including his first career grand slam in the fourth inning as Seibu sent Lotte to its fifth straight defeat.
Kazuyuki Hoashi (11-8) won for the first time in almost a month, holding the Marines to three runs and seven hits over eight innings.
Lotte’s Tsuyoshi Nishioka had a single in the first, giving him a new team season record of 181 hits.
Fighters 4, Hawks 1
At Yahoo Dome, Kenji Otonari (4-8), Brian Falkenborg and Takahiro Mahara combined for a three-hit shutout as Softbank stopped a three-game slide against Nippon Ham.
The Fighters couldn’t reach second base as they saw their winning streak come to an end at three games. It was the 11th time Nippon Ham has been shut out this year.
Eagles 9, Buffaloes 4
At Kleenex Stadium, Darrell Rasner (5-10) labored through six innings but still picked up his first win since Aug. 13 as last-place Rakuten beat Orix for the second straight day.
Rasner allowed four earned runs on seven hits and three walks during a 101-pitch outing. Teppei Tsuchiya went 4-for-4 with a two-run homer and three RBIs as the Eagles pounded the Buffaloes for 17 hits.
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