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After losing their previous two games against the Chunichi Dragons, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters needed a win Sunday to ensure they would finish their interleague slate with at least a .500 record. They won 3-2, largely because Shohei Otani rode to the rescue, striking out 12 over eight shutout innings on the mound and recording a hit and drawing two walks at the plate.

That the game was in Nagoya Dome, a Central League park where the designated hitter rule is not in effect, was hardly a disadvantage for the Pacific League’s Fighters. Manager Hideki Kuriyama batted Otani fifth in his lineup, far from the normal spot at the bottom pitchers, especially Pacific League hurlers, usually occupy when forced to hit.

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