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Cristopher Mercedes held the Chunichi Dragons hitless through five innings as the Yomiuri Giants won 9-3 and hung on to their slim lead in the Central League on Wednesday.

Mercedes (7-6) allowed three runs over 5⅔ innings but did not give up a hit until he had a 5-0 lead to work with. The left-hander struck out five, while allowing two hits. It was enough to help the Giants snap their season-worst six-game losing skid.

“I didn’t realize I had a no-hitter going until the fifth,” Mercedes said. “I think that (nervousness) got to me a little bit in the sixth inning.”

The Giants opened the scoring in the fourth on some flashy base-running from stocky slugger Kazuma Okamoto, who singled to open the inning against 19-year-old rookie Takumi Yamamoto (1-2).

After advancing to second on a walk, Okamoto surprised right fielder Ryosuke Hirata by taking third on a fly to right. He scored on a sacrifice fly to center, avoiding the tag at the plate thanks to a creative slide that would have made Ichiro Suzuki proud.

Two-run home runs by Yoshihiro Maru and Shinnosuke Abe made it 5-0 in the fifth, before Chunichi rallied in the sixth.

Mercedes struck out Dragons slugger Zoilo Almonte looking on a tough pitch for the second out, but reliever Yohei Kagiya surrendered Dayan Viciedo’s two-run double that made it a 5-3 game.

“He (Almonte) is a real good batter,” Mercedes said. “That was a pressure situation, but I’ve got to get him out. I’m sure glad I did.”

Almonte came close to keeping his team in the game in the top of the seventh inning, but he failed to make a two-out catch on a sinking liner in left field with the bases loaded. The ball off the bat of Akihiro Wakabayashi skipped past him. Instead of an inning-ending out, Wakabayashi was credited with a three-run triple.

The Giants’ win kept them a half-game ahead of the Yokohama BayStars, who also won on Wednesday.

BayStars 4, Carp 0

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Yokohama starter Haruhiro Hamaguchi threw six innings and Neftali Soto hit his 29th home run of the year, a two-run blast in the third.

Swallows 11, Tigers 2

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Buffaloes 6, Fighters 4

Lions 4, Eagles 3

Marines 5, Hawks 3

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