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Baseball: Mercedes gets win as Giants snap season-long losing streak

Cristopher Mercedes poses after holding the Chunichi Dragons hitless through five innings as the Yomiuri Giants won 9-3 and hung on to their slim Central League lead. (Kyodo)

NAGOYA (Kyodo) -- Cristopher Mercedes held the Chunichi Dragons hitless through five innings as the Yomiuri Giants won 9-3 and hung on to their slim Central League lead on Wednesday.

Mercedes (7-6) allowed three runs over 5-2/3 innings but did not give up a hit until he had a 5-0 lead to work with. The left-hander struck out five, while allowing two hits. But it was enough to help the Giants snap their season-worst six-game losing skid.

"I didn't realize I had a no-hitter going until the fifth," Mercedes said. "I think that (nervousness) got to me a little bit in the sixth inning."

The Giants opened the scoring in the fourth on some flashy base-running skills from stocky slugger Kazuma Okamoto, who singled to open the inning against 19-year-old rookie Takumi Yamamoto (1-2).

After advancing to second on a walk, Okamoto surprised right fielder Ryosuke Hirata by taking third on a fly to right. He scored on a sacrifice fly to medium deep center, avoiding the tag at the plate thanks to a creative slide that would have made Ichiro Suzuki proud.

Two-run home runs by Yoshihiro Maru and Shinnosuke Abe made it 5-0 in the fifth, before Chunichi rallied in the sixth.

Mercedes struck out Dragons slugger Zoilo Almonte looking on a tough pitch for the second out, but reliever Yohei Kagiya surrendered Dayan Viciedo's two-run double that made it a 5-3 game.

"He (Almonte) is a real good batter," Mercedes said. "That was a pressure situation, but I've got to get him out. I'm sure glad I did."

Almonte came close to keeping his team in the game in the top of the seventh inning, but he failed to make a two-out catch on a sinking liner in left field with the bases loaded. The ball off the bat of Akihiro Wakabayashi skipped past him. Instead of an inning-ending out, Wakabayashi was credited with a three-run triple.

The Giants' win kept them a half-game ahead of the DeNA BayStars, who beat the third-place Hiroshima Carp 4-0 at Mazda Stadium behind six innings from Haruhiro Hamaguchi (6-3) and Neftali Soto's 29th home run, a two-run blast in the third.

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