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Baseball: Nakamura leads way as Lions' offense bruises Fighters

Takeya Nakamura of the Seibu Lions is congratulated by his teammates after hitting a home run against the Nippon Ham Fighters in the third inning of a game in Asahikawa, Hokkaido, on Sept. 4, 2018 (Kyodo)

SAPPORO (Kyodo) -- Takeya Nakamura drove in three runs on three hits, including his 24th homer of the season, as the Seibu Lions beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 7-3 in the Pacific League on Tuesday night.

On a night when three of the six scheduled Nippon Professional Baseball games were postponed as a powerful typhoon battered western Japan, the PL-leading Lions forced the Fighters to go deep into their bullpen at Asahikawa Starffin Stadium with an impressive hitting display.

Nippon Ham starter Mizuki Hori (2-2) took the loss after surrendering five runs on seven hits and a pair of walks. He exited in the top of a fifth inning in which the Lions would rally for two runs.

Seibu starter Shinsaburo Tawata (13-5) got the win after going 5-1/3 innings, giving up three earned runs on eight hits. He struck out a pair and walked one.

The home side opened the scoring in the bottom of the first when Sho Nakata reached 25 homers for the season with a two-run effort. With two out and leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa on first, Nakata sent Tawata's 0-2 pitch deep to left.

The Lions went ahead in the top of the third when Nakamura followed Hideto Asamura's RBI single with a two-run bomb.

Asamura, who extended his hitting streak to nine games, brought home Yuji Kaneko on a grounder initially ruled a sacrifice before a video review determined the speedy infielder had beaten the tag at first.

The video wasn't so kind to Asamura later in the inning, however, when he was ruled out trying to run home on Hotaka Yamakawa's double through center field. With two out and a 2-2 count, next-man-up Nakamura went deep over the left field wall to put the visitors up 3-2.

The right-handed slugger said the Lions were happy to move a game further ahead of a PL rival in the standings, but were already focused on the next game in the series.

"We played well today, but we have another game coming up tomorrow, so we need to make sure we can put in another good performance," he said.

Left-hander Hori received his marching orders with runners on second and third and no outs in the top of the fifth. Reliever Yohei Kagiya lasted just two outs, surrendering a pair of runs on hits from Nakamura and Tomoyo Mori before getting pulled for Katsuhiko Kumon.

The Fighters cut the lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the inning when Haruki Nishikawa scored on a Kensuke Kondo single. The visitors stretched it to 7-3 in the seventh when Michael Tonkin gave up an RBI single to Takumi Kuriyama, then walked Shogo Saito with the bases loaded.

The loss leaves the third-placed Fighters six games back from the Lions in a tightly contested PL playoff race.

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Central League

Carp 5, Tigers 4, 12 innings

At Mazda Stadium, Ryosuke Kikuchi earned CL leaders Hiroshima a walk-off win in the bottom of the 12th and final inning with a fly single off Hanshin closer Rafael Dolis' two-out, 2-1 pitch to bring home Tetsuya Kokubo. The teams were deadlocked 4-4 through nine innings.

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Swallows 12, Dragons 9, 11 innings

At Jingu Stadium, second-place Yakult walked off in the bottom of the 11th when Tsuyoshi Ueda belted Chunichi right-hander Katsuki Matayoshi for a three-run homer. The home side pushed the game to extra innings with a six-run rally in the bottom of the ninth.

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