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Baseball: Rodriguez, Nishikawa lead Fighters past 1st-place Hawks

Bryan Rodriguez allows a run over five innings en route to his sixth win of the season as the Nippon Ham Fighters beat the SoftBank Hawks 4-3 in the Pacific League. (Kyodo)

SAPPORO (Kyodo) -- Bryan Rodriguez allowed a run over five innings, and Haruki Nishikawa put Nippon Ham ahead with a two-run double as the Fighters beat the SoftBank Hawks 4-3 in the Pacific League on Sunday.

The win lifted the second-place Fighters to within 2-1/2 games of the Hawks, who had taken the first two games of their series at Sapporo Dome.

Mizuki Hori pitched a 1-2-3 first as the Fighters' first "opener" of the season, before Rodriguez (6-2) took the mound in the second to pitch the bulk of the game. Although the right-hander surrendered a second-inning homer to Nobuhiro Matsuda, he allowed only two more hits and no runs, while striking out three.

"Coming to the mound in the second inning, my only thought was on giving 100 percent to give the team a chance to win," Rodriguez said. "I gave up a home run in my first inning. After that the pitching coach just told me to concentrate and I'd be fine, and I took confidence from that."

The Fighters managed just two hits and a walk against Hawks starter Akira Niho (1-3) through the first four innings, but that changed in the fifth.

Kazunari Ishii beat out a leadoff infield single in the fifth. A sacrifice and a Takuya Nakashima single put runners on the corners for Nishikawa. On a 3-0 pitch, Niho hung a two-seam fastball in the middle of the zone, and Nishikawa drilled it off the base of the wall in left-center for a two-run double.

"The manager always gives me the take sign there, but this time he gave me the green light (to swing), and I swung for all I was worth," the Fighters' leadoff man said. "When I got back to the bench, everyone was ribbing me, saying I had no power."

Taishi Ota doubled Nishikawa home and scored on a two-out Kensuke Kondo single.

The Hawks scored twice in the seventh off left-handed relief stalwart Naoki Miyanishi, but Naoya Ishikawa and Ryo Akiyoshi shut the Hawks down over the final two innings to close it out.

Elsewhere in the PL, Seibu's Shogo Akiyama led off the game with a home run, and capped the scoring with a tie-breaking, seventh-inning triple that lifted the Lions past the Orix Buffaloes 5-4 at Kyocera Dome.

At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Atsuki Taneichi (6-1) struck out 10 over seven scoreless innings, while Leonys Martin, Katsuya Kakunaka and Ikuhiro Kiyota each drove in three runs for the Lotte Marines in an 11-2 win over the Rakuten Eagles.

In the Central League, five DeNA pitchers scattered eight hits and three walks as the second-place BayStars completed a three-game sweep of the league-leading Yomiuri Giants at Yokohama Stadium to move within half a game of first place.

At Mazda Stadium, Tsubasa Aizawa went 4-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs, while Hiroshima's Allen Kuri (6-5) held the Hanshin Tigers to two runs over six innings in the Carp's 10-5 win.

At Jingu Stadium, Yakult lefty Keiji Takahashi (3-4) allowed two runs over six innings, while 20-year-old rookie Munetaka Murakami hit his 23rd home run in the Swallows' 7-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons.

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