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Ayumu Ishikawa tossed six shutout innings as the Pacific League-leading Chiba Lotte Marines claimed a 1-0 win over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters on Monday, moving 3½ games clear of the Orix Buffaloes.

Ishikawa (3-2), who returned this month after having surgery on his right elbow in June, struck out three without issuing a walk in a 92-pitch effort at Sapporo Dome.

Takuma Kato scored the only run in the sixth, opening the inning with a double off Nippon Ham lefty Ryusei Kawano (2-4) and coming home on a one-out sacrifice fly by Kyota Fujiwara.

“The rehab was tough, but I’m glad to have made it (before the end of the season),” Ishikawa said. “The team was in really good form, and I wanted to be back with them as soon as I could.”

“I didn’t pitch very well last time out, so I tried to be careful with my pitches, focusing on control. (Catcher) Kato called really good pitches.”

Ishikawa had runners on the corners in the third, but Haruki Nishikawa lined out to first, and Yuki Nomura grounded out to shortstop as Nippon Ham wasted its best chance of the game.

Ishikawa had three straight 1-2-3 innings from the fourth before Frank Herrmann, Chihaya Sasaki and Yuki Kuniyoshi each worked a scoreless inning to complete a five-hit shutout of the home team.

Kawano was tagged with the loss despite limiting the Marines to a run over 6⅓ innings on three hits and two walks, fanning three in a 100-pitch effort.

Lions 6, Buffaloes 4

At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Kona Takahashi (11-5) allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk over eight innings to earn the win as Seibu beat Orix.

Hawks 5, Eagles 4

At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Rakuten built a three-run lead in the second, but former New York Yankee Masahiro Tanaka (4-6) allowed five runs over five innings, including two-run shots from Alfredo Despaigne and Ryoya Kurihara, as SoftBank snapped its five-game skid.

CENTRAL

BayStars 6, Dragons 0

At Yokohama Stadium, Stefen Romero (3-2) had a six-hit shutout as DeNA beat Chunichi.

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