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The good fight …

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The good fight …

Darvish, Fighters battle past Marines

Yu Darvish didn’t have his typical dominating start, but the Nippon Ham Fighters certainly enjoyed the finish.

Darvish (11-2) scattered six hits and two walks for three runs -- two earned -- in eight innings as the Fighters avoided a sweep at The Q with a 4-3 decision over the Lotte Marines on Thursday night.

Darvish, who fanned just five, uncorked a wild pitch and a (incorrectly ruled) pass ball by Shota Ono also cost the battery a run. In fact, iffy defense in the outfield led to Masato Watanabe’s inside-the-park homer in the third inning that gave the Marines a 1-0 lead.

Sho Nakata let the ball play him, missing a swipe as Watanabe’s liner to left bounced past him and went to the wall. Center fielder Yoshio Itoi, who was racing over to back up on the play, slipped as he fielded the ball and lost time while getting back to his feet. He fired to cut-off man Makoto Kaneko, whose throw was in time but a little off line. Once Ono got the ball he leaned into Watanabe, but wasn’t able to put the tag on him.

Itoi made up for his slip-up by stroking a two-run homer, his eighth, in the fourth to give Darvish the lead 2-1.

The Fighters tacked on a run, thanks to an error, in the sixth, and Atsunori Inaba smacked a solo shot in the eighth -- his fifth, first since June 5 -- off the pole in right and Hisashi Takeda put a runner on before nailing down his Japan-best 22nd save.

The Fighters moved to within 1.5 games behind front-running SoftBank.


Masahiro Tanaka (9-2) blew a 3-0 lead the offense provided for him after a half-inning, but Ryo Hijirisawa’s solo shot in the fifth broke the tie as Rakuten edged Orix at Kyocera Dome Osaka.

Tanaka, who won his sixth straight decision, surrendered a season-high three runs on nine hits and two walks with seven Ks, and saw his Japan-best ERA jump from 1.08 to 1.27. Hijirisawa had three hits and scored twice, and the Eagles got three scoreless innings from the bullpen with Darrell Rasner fanning two in a perfect ninth for his first career save in Japan.



Chunichi closer Hitoki Iwase (0-1) got rocked in his Japan-record 587th consecutive relief appearance, allowing three run in the 11th as Hanshin outlasted Chunichi at Nagoya Dome.

Takashi Toritani doubled, Matt Murton singled and an error pushed across the first run, while Craig Brazell singled and Iwase’s own error scored the second run. The Tigers added their third a run on Akihito Fujii’s RBI groundout as they avoided a sweep.

Hanshin starter Minoru Iwata allowed two hits over nine innings, but Kyuji Fujikawa (2-0) fanned all three batters in the 10th, while Iwase was yanked with two on and none out in the 11th.


Norichika Aoki’s infield single with the bases loaded pushed home the winning run as Yakult struggled past Yomiuri to steal a victory in the 11th inning before the time limit ended things at Jingu Stadium.

Aoki’s slapped a roller up the middle with two outs and the bases loaded to send the Swallows 12 games over .500 with their fourth straight win. The fifth-place Giants have dropped four straight and are 10 games under .500.


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Michael Westbay
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