The Yakult Swallows made just about everything Chunichi starter Kenshin Kawakami offered up in the first inning look like a flight risk.
The Swallows batted around for five runs in a half-inning that lasted nearly 30 minutes, and went on to win 8-4 before 14,243 on Thursday at Jingu Stadium.
Hiroyasu Tanaka had three hits and drove in three runs, and Keizo Kawashima went 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored as Yakult took the rubber game of a three-game set from the Japan Series champion Dragons.
Tanaka, who singled in two runs in the first inning before knocking in a run in the fourth with a single, helped the Central League's third-place Swallows get a game closer to second-place Chunichi.
"I tried to forget about what I did in my first at-bat and start from scratch in that at-bat," Tanaka said about his fourth-inning hit, which gave Yakult a 6-1 cushion. He said the game wasn't over just because the Swallows had knocked Kawakami around.
"I don't think we put the game away in that situation, but the guys did a good job of setting the table and I was glad to come through."
Said Yakult skipper Shigeru Takada: "We did a good job of attacking today. If we play offense like this, we can run, and if our leadoff batter gets on base, we can string hits together."
Kawakami (2-2) needed nearly a half-game's worth of pitches to get out of the first inning. A leadoff double down the line in left by Kawashima got it all started, and he spent most of the night on the basepaths.
"I hadn't been swinging well the past two or three games, so to get three hits in a game Chunichi ace Kawakami starts is a real confidence-builder. I hope I can repeat this kind of performance over and over."
Kawakami wasn't only spotting his pitches poorly, his decision-making was also off. He tried to nail Kawashima at third on No. 2 man Kazuki Fukuchi's sacrifice bunt, but the throw was late and only compounded matters in an inning in which he allowed six hits and a walk.
After Fukuchi stole second Tanaka plated a pair with a single to right. Aaron Guiel, who had two hits, followed with a hard RBI single to right. The Swallows gave Kawakami his first out with a sacrifice bunt and then Yuichi Matsumoto singled.
Just when it looked like the right-hander had plugged the leak with a strikeout, he allowed second-year catcher Atsushi Kinugawa's first pro RBI on a single to right.
He walked opposing starter Shohei Tateyama (3-1) to boot before Kawashima singled for the second time in the inning.