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Baseball: Okugawa pitches CL-leading Swallows to 9th straight win

Yasunobu Okugawa of the Yakult Swallows pitches during a Central League game against the DeNA BayStars on Sept. 28, 2021, at Jingu Stadium in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Yasunobu Okugawa tossed six shutout innings as the Central League-leading Yakult Swallows won their ninth straight game for the first time in a decade Tuesday, beating the DeNA BayStars 4-0.

    Okugawa (8-3) allowed three hits and struck out four in an 84-pitch effort at Jingu Stadium. He had a runner on third with two outs in the third but struck out Keita Sano with a 2-2 forkball to get out of his biggest jam of the game.

    "I wasn't in good form but managed to be creative with my pitches," said the right-hander, who also helped his team with his trip to the plate.

    Katsuki Azuma (0-1) walked and allowed a single with one out in the fifth before Okugawa singled to left to load the bases, setting up former big-leaguer Norichika Aoki to hit a two-out, opposite-field grand slam that just about cleared the left-field fence.

    "I asked a lot of people as I couldn't get a hit for a long time," said Okugawa, who last had a hit on April 23.

    Azuma was chased after allowing four runs on four hits and two walks over 4-2/3 innings. Three Yakult relievers completed a three-hit shutout of the BayStars as Tomoya Hoshi, Kazuto Taguchi, and Ryuta Konno each had a scoreless inning.

    Yakult is a game ahead of the Hanshin Tigers after the Tigers lost 2-0 against the Hiroshima Carp at Koshien Stadium, with Hiroki Tokoda (5-3) throwing six shutout innings for his team's fourth straight win.

    At Vantelin Dome Nagoya, Yuya Yanagi (10-5) held the Yomiuri Giants to a run over eight innings as the Chunichi Dragons won 5-2, Kosuke Fukudome and Takuya Kinoshita each hitting a two-run homer in the eighth.

    At Zozo Marine Stadium, the Orix Buffaloes moved within two games of the Pacific League-leading Lotte Marines after Takahiro Okada's three-run shot, his 200th in career, in the fourth gave the second-place team the lead for good. Orix won 5-2.

    At Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi, Kazunari Ishii broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth with a two-run shot as the Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Rakuten Eagles 3-1.

    At PayPay Dome, Alfredo Despaigne and Takuya Kai each had a two-run homer in the second as the SoftBank Hawks beat the Seibu Lions 5-2.

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