The Hanshin Tigers started the second half of the season with a one-man, midsummer fireworks show by Ryota Arai who homered twice and drove in six runs during a 12-0 victory over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on Wednesday.
Arai followed a two-run shot in the opening frame with a grand slam in the seventh as the second-place Tigers kept the pressure on the Central League-leading Yomiuri Giants.
The Swallows did not have much of a chance with Hanshin starter Randy Messenger in top form, improving to 9-4 on the year after fanning 10 and allowing just three hits in seven shutout innings at Jingu Stadium.
Hanshin’s other Arai, Takahiro, had two hits and drove in the opening run in a five-run first.
Yakult lost its fifth straight after Ryosuke Yagi (2-7) coughed up five runs — all earned — in five innings of work.
Giants 8, Carp 4
At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri became the first to 50 wins in either league behind four home runs and seven solid innings by Tetsuya Utsumi (7-4).
Hisayoshi Chono hit a three-run homer in the second off Hiroshima’s Bryan Bullington (4-8) before Hayato Sakamoto and Yoshinobu Takahashi added solo shots.
Captain Shinnosuke Abe’s two-run blast in the seventh put the Giants in the clear.
BayStars 4, Dragons 0
At Nagoya Dome, Daisuke Miura (7-7) and three relievers combined on a four-hitter as Yokohama won its fourth in a row.
Kazunari Tsuruoka drove in three runs for the BayStars, including a two-run home run in the seventh off Chunichi veteran Masahiro Yamamoto (4-2).
Eagles 9, Hawks 4
At Kitakyushu Stadium, first-place Tohoku Rakuten scored six runs in the top of the ninth, Shintaro Masuda hitting a go-ahead, two-run single off Ryota Igarashi (1-2), with Fukuoka Softbank also committing four errors in the inning.
Andruw Jones had two RBIs for the Eagles, who were down 4-3 entering the ninth to move a season-high 13 games over .500.
Buffaloes 5, Fighters 1
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Orix’s Chihiro Kaneko (8-5) won his fourth straight start by holding Hokkaido Nippon Ham to one earned run and striking out seven in 7⅔ innings.
Fighters rookie Shohei Otani, who hogged the spotlight during the All-Star series, went 2-for-4 with one RBI but allowed Orix the fourth run with a poor defensive play in right field.
Marines 4, Lions 1
At Seibu Dome, Takuya Furuya (3-1) held Seibu to one earned run on three hits in five-plus innings as Chiba Lotte rolled to its third straight victory.