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Baseball: Kato allows 2 hits as Fighters shut out PL-leading Lions

Takayuki Kato of the Nippon Ham Fighters pitches against the Seibu Lions in Asahikawa, Hokkaido, on Sept. 5, 2018. (Kyodo)

ASAHIKAWA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Left-hander Takayuki Kato retired 20 of the 22 batters he faced Wednesday night as the Nippon Ham Fighters churned out a 4-0 win against the Pacific League-leading Seibu Lions.

Kato (5-6), the Fighters' second pick in the 2015 draft, yielded a single to Shogo Akiyama in the fourth at Hokkaido's Asahikawa Starffin Stadium but got his next batter to ground into a double play.

The left-hander allowed a single to Fumikazu Kimura in the sixth but avoided one from Sosuke Genda after a close play at first was challenged and ruled an out. Fighters catcher Shinya Tsuruoka deftly nabbed a fly foul to cap the inning.

It was Kato's first start and first win since July 8.

In the first, Daiki Enokida (9-3) gave up a pair of singles and a run on Sho Nakata's sacrifice fly. Tsuruoka doubled in the Fighters' second run, sailing one just outside of Kimura's reach despite the right fielder's diving effort.

In the fourth, Brandon Laird led off with a single, reached third on Tsuruoka's hit and came around to make it 3-0 on Kenshi Sugiya's sac fly.

Kensuke Kondo drove in the final run in the seventh against recently-acquired reliever Ryuya Ogawa. Naoki Miyanishi threw a 1-2-3 eighth and Naoya Ishikawa allowed a hit but fanned the final batter to close out the victory.

The third-place Fighters improved to 64-53 five games back of the Lions, who remain in command of the PL at 69-48. It was Seibu's first shutout loss since May 20, when they were blanked 3-0 by the Orix Buffaloes.


Marines 11, Hawks 3

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Katsuya Kakunaka and Daichi Suzuki each delivered two-run home runs, and back-to-back RBI doubles from Seiya Inoue and Suzuki in the fourth doubled Lotte's score. Taiga Hirasawa's three-run shot in the fifth cemented the loss for second-place SoftBank as Tanner Scheppers (1-3) picked up his first win in Japan.


Eagles 9, Buffaloes 8

At Hotto Motto Field Kobe, Hiroaki Shimauchi homered to bring his team from a run down in the seventh, singled in the tying run in the ninth, and the visitors scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch from Hirotoshi Masui (1-5) as Rakuten came from behind twice to defeat Orix in a nailbiter. Yuki Matsui took the mound in the ninth and retired the side in order for the save.


Central League

BayStars 6, Giants 3

At Toyama Stadium, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo homered twice, and Masayuki Kuwahara tripled and scored the go-ahead run on a sac fly in the fourth. DeNA rookie Katsuki Azuma (10-5) fanned eight and picked up his fourth win over Yomiuri.


Swallows 6, Dragons 5

At Jingu Stadium, Yakult countered the visitor's five-run rally in the fourth with one of their own in the sixth thanks to clutch homers from Norichika Aoki and Yuhei Takai as last-place Chunichi lost after having the lead for a Japan-worst 33rd time.


Tigers 11, Carp 3

At Mazda Stadium, Allen Kuri (7-4) gave up four runs following a first-inning bases-loaded jam, including a three-run homer to Yusuke Oyama, and a late Hanshin rally soured Hiroshima's day even further following news that 20-year veteran infielder Takahiro Arai will retire at the end of the season.

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