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Baseball: Hawks' Senga stops Lions in crucial clash

Kodai Senga of the SoftBank Hawks (Kyodo)

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) -- Kodai Senga outdueled Yusei Kikuchi, pitching the SoftBank Hawks to a 3-2 series-opening win over the Seibu Lions on Friday.

The win at Yafuoku Dome moved the second-place Hawks to within seven games of the Pacific League leaders.

Senga (10-4) struck out 12 and scattered three hits and four walks, allowing two runs over 6-2/3 innings. Three relievers held the Lions to one hit the rest of the way.

Kikuchi (9-4) allowed three runs on four hits and two walks over eight innings. The lefty struck out 10 but saw his career record against SoftBank drop to 0-13 in 18 starts.

After Senga retired the Lions in order in the top of the first, Kenta Imamiya blasted Kikuchi's first pitch of the game well back into the left field stands for his seventh home run.

Lions captain Hideto Asamura made Senga pay for a pair of walks in the third inning with a two-out RBI single to tie it 1-1.

The Hawks, however, regained the lead in the third inning. Yurisbel Gracial's second single of the game set the table for cleanup hitter Yuki Yanagita, who hit his 27th home run of the season.

The Lions made it a one-run game in the fourth on Takeya Nakamura's 22nd home run but could not close the gap. With a runner on and two outs in the seventh, Shinya Kayama came on in place of Senga and retired Lions leadoff hitter Shogo Akiyama, who had homered the last time the two faced each other.

With two outs in the ninth and the potential tying run on second after Nakamura doubled, Hawks closer Yuito Mori pounded his glove after striking out veteran Takumi Kuriyama to end it and record his 24th save.

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Fighters 7, Eagles 1

At Sapporo Dome, rookie Mizuki Hori (2-1) allowed a run over seven innings and Brandon Laird drove in three runs for Nippon Ham, which beat Rakuten and snapped a five-game losing streak.

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Buffaloes 3, Marines 1

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Brandon Dickson (4-5) allowed one run on the only hit he permitted over seven innings, and Hiroyuki Nakajima's two-run, eighth-inning single brought Orix from behind in a win over Lotte.

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Central League

Giants 2, Tigers 0

At Tokyo Dome, Christopher Mercedes (4-2) struck out seven in his first shutout in Japan and doubled in Yomiuri's second run in a win over Hanshin.

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BayStars 6, Swallows 3

At Jingu Stadium, Tatsuya Shibata's two-run, second-inning double broke a 1-1 tie, while Neftali Soto and Jose Lopez each drove in another run in the inning as DeNA beat Yakult.

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Dragons 5, Carp 3

At Mazda Stadium, Zoilo Almonte and Shuhei Fukuda each drove in a pair of runs, while Shotaro Kasahara (3-3) allowed two runs over six innings in Chunichi's win over league-leading Hiroshima.

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