The Hanshin Tigers did not skip a beat in the absence of their star leadoff man and center fielder on Tuesday, when the Central League leaders pounded the Chunichi Dragons 8-2.

With Koji Chikamoto out of the starting lineup after being drilled in the ribs by a pitch on Sunday, Shota Morishita started in center and batted leadoff for Hanshin at Vantelin Dome Nagoya. The rookie sparked two three-run rallies with leadoff singles.

Takumu Nakano tripled in Morishita to open the scoring in the first off veteran right-hander Hideaki Wakui (4-12), and the Tigers never looked back behind Yuki Nishi (6-5), who allowed two runs over seven innings.

"My teammates got off to a flying start, but frankly it's hard for me to pitch in games like this," Nishi said. "I struggled a little early on but eventually found a rhythm."

Seiya Hosokawa drove in both of Chunichi's runs, with a sacrifice fly and a solo homer.

The Tigers remained 7½ games ahead of the second-place Hiroshima Carp, who came from a run down in the ninth before beating the third-place DeNA BayStars 6-5 in 10 innings.

Elsewhere, the Yomiuri Giants came from behind with the help of three unearned runs to beat the Yakult Swallows 4-3.

In the Pacific League, the Seibu Lions knocked off the league-leading Orix Buffaloes 3-0, while the second-place Lotte Marines roughed up the SoftBank Hawks 7-1.