CHIBA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Ayumu Ishikawa tossed six shutout innings as the Pacific League-leading Lotte Marines claimed a 1-0 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters on Monday, moving 3-1/2 games clear of the Orix Buffaloes.
After returning this month from his right elbow surgery in June, Ishikawa (3-2) struck out three without issuing a walk in a 92-pitch effort at Sapporo Dome.
Takuma Kato scored the only run in the sixth, opening the inning with a double off Nippon Ham lefty Ryusei Kawano (2-4) and coming home on a one-out sacrifice fly by Kyota Fujiwara.
"The rehab was tough, but I'm glad to have made it (before the end of the season)," Ishikawa said. "The team was in really good form, and I wanted to be back with them as soon as I could."
Ishikawa had runners on the corners in the third, but Haruki Nishikawa lined out to first, and Yuki Nomura grounded out to shortstop as Nippon Ham wasted their best chance of the game.
Ishikawa had three straight 1-2-3 innings from the fourth before Frank Herrmann, Chihaya Sasaki and Yuki Kuniyoshi each worked a scoreless inning to complete a five-hit shutout of the home team.
Kawano was tagged with the loss despite limiting the Marines to a run over 6-1/3 innings on three hits and two walks, fanning three in a 100-pitch effort.
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Kona Takahashi (11-5) allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk over eight innings to earn the win as the Seibu Lions beat Orix 6-4.
At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, the Rakuten Eagles went three runs ahead in the second, but former New York Yankee Masahiro Tanaka (4-6) allowed five runs over five innings, including two-run shots from Alfredo Despaigne and Ryoya Kurihara, as the SoftBank Hawks snapped their five-game skid.
At Yokohama Stadium, Stefen Romero (3-2) had a six-hit shutout as the DeNA BayStars beat the Chunichi Dragons 6-0 in the Central League.
At Jingu Stadium, Tomoki Ishihara and Ryosuke Kikuchi hit back-to-back solo shots for the Hiroshima Carp in the fifth before the Yakult Swallows scored two eighth-inning runs to force a 2-2 tie.