Second-year Hanshin Tigers import Joe Gunkel allowed a run over six innings to improve to 4-0 as the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers held off the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 10-7 on Sunday.

Gunkel struck out six while allowing a walk and five hits. He credited his teammates for his fourth straight win and the Tigers’ seventh straight.

“The game was close the first three innings and I kept it where it was, then the offense exploded. I was thankful that they did that,” Gunkel said after the win at Koshien Stadium.

“A lot of credit goes to my teammates and the defense behind me.”

The Tigers backed Gunkel with a run in the first off Yakult right-hander Yasuhiro Ogawa (1-1), and Gunkel singled to open Hanshin’s five-run third inning.

Tigers leadoff man Koji Chikamoto had four hits and scored three runs, while Jefry Marte singled, walked and belted a two-run homer. Yusuke Oyama, whose first-inning sacrifice fly opened the scoring, singled in two runs in the third. He reached base three times and scored twice.

The Swallows fought back once Gunkel was out of the game, but Tigers closer Robert Suarez slammed the door with two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his fifth save.

BayStars 2, Giants 2

At Yokohama Stadium, Neftali Soto homered and Tyler Austin singled in a run, allowing DeNA to come from behind and tie game.

Carp 4, Dragons 2

At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, Kevin Cron returned to Hiroshima lineup with a bang, driving in three runs in a come-from-behind win over Chunichi.


Eagles 4, Fighters 1

At Tokyo Dome, Rakuten rookie Takahisa Hayakawa (2-2) allowed a run over eight innings in a win over Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

Hawks 4, Lions 4

At Tokorozawa’s MetLife Dome, Akira Nakamura earned SoftBank a tie with with his two-run, ninth-inning home run off closer Tatsushi Masuda.

Marines 3, Orix 2

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Buffaloes reliever Tyler Higgins (0-1) allowed two ninth-inning runs on three walks and an infield single as Lotte Marines rallied for a victory.

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