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Matt Murton celebrated his 29th birthday by tying Ichiro Suzuki for the most hits in a single season in Japanese baseball, and his teammates contributed with three longballs in the Hanshin Tigers’ 7-2 win over the Hiroshima Carp on Sunday.

The victory moved the Tigers into second place ahead of the idle Yomiuri Giants in the Central League.

Murton grounded into a fielder’s choice once and flied out twice before hitting a single to left in the seventh inning to match Ichiro’s single-season mark of 210 hits set with the Orix BlueWave, when there were only 130 games played in 1994. The Tigers have three games left this season.

The former Colorado Rockies outfielder, who was playing in his 141st game of the year, flied out to center in the ninth.

Takashi Toritani hit a solo shot and Tomoaki Kanemoto and Kenji Johjima both had two-run drives. Takahiro Arai went 3-for-5 with an RBI double and two runs scored at Mazda Stadium.

Jason Standridge (11-5) pitched one-run ball over seven innings. Keisuke Imai (0-4) was roughed up for six runs in six innings.

Chiba Lotte Marines shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka finished with 206 hits this season, and Tokyo Yakult Swallows outfielder Norichika Aoki has 204 hits with four games to play.

Swallows 3, BayStars 1

At Jingu Stadium, Yoshinori Sato allowed one unearned run in six innings and Jamie D’Antona hit a two-run homer to help Tokyo Yakult beat last-place Yokohama.

Sato (12-9) scattered six hits, struck out four and walked two. Lim Chang Yong picked up his 35th save. Takayuki Makka (0-1) took the loss. Norichika Aoki had his hitting streak snapped at 25 games, going 0-for-3 with a walk.

‘Stars to stay: owner

Kyodo News

BayStars owner Kiyoshi Wakabayashi made it clear Sunday that the team will stay in Yokohama even if there is a change in ownership.

“It has to be in Yokohama,” Wakabayashi said outside his Tokyo home, adding the BayStars will also keep their name. “We owe it to the city to stay, and the players live there.”

Financially strained Tokyo Broadcasting System Holdings Inc. is considering selling its controlling stake in the Central League club. TBS Holdings has confirmed it is negotiating with JS Group Corp., a holding company for household equipment firms.

Niigata Prefecture is reportedly keen on bringing over a baseball team. The J. League’s Albirex Niigata is one of the best supported clubs in the country.

Yet asked about the possibility of moving the BayStars to Niigata, Wakabayashi said, “I don’t think that will be happening.”

He also said the last-place BayStars will not be sold at any discount.

“That’s a very delicate part of the talks,” Wakabayashi said. “It’s not good for professional baseball as a whole if people get the impression that TBS just got rid of the team — at any price.”

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