A three-run triple by Yasushi Iihara highlighted a six-run fifth inning Tuesday at Jingu Stadium as the Yakult Swallows stomped the Chunichi Dragons 12-6 in a matchup of Central League playoff hopefuls.
Keizo Kawashima also had a three-ribbie night for Yakult, helping right-hander Dicky Gonzalez pick up his first win of the season. The big Puerto Rican, who missed all of last season through injury, allowed two runs on eight hits over seven innings to improve to 1-2. He struck out seven, walked one and threw 101 pitches.
"They have pretty good hitters, but we all worked together today," Gonzalez said.
Veterans Masao Kida and Ryota Igarashi each worked an inning in relief of Gonzalez and both men gave up home runs. Dragons slugger Tyrone Woods homered to straightaway center in the eighth off Kida, his 29th blast of the year, and Masahiko Morino took Igarashi for a three-run ride in the ninth.
Dragons starter Mitsuru Sato (1-4) took the loss. Sato was pounded for seven runs on eight hits in four-plus innings. The Swallows out-hit Chunichi 15-12 on the night.
Other key contributors offensively for Yakult included first-baseman Kazuhiro Hatakeyama, who was 2-for-5 with a home run and three runs scored, and Norichika Aoki, who belted a two-run homer in the eighth.
Aoki was also credited with an RBI after he was hit by a pitch on the elbow by reliever Masato Kobayashi with the bases loaded in the fifth. Iihara was 3-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and leadoff hitter Kazuki Fukuchi was 2-for-4 with three runs scored and a walk.
After the Dragons' Morino led off the game with double off Gonzalez, Masahiro Araki cashed him in with an RBI single to right for a quick 1-0 lead.
But the Swallows would get two of their own in the bottom half of the first when Aoki grounded into a double play, allowing Fukuchi to score from third, and Hatakeyama connected for a solo homer to center a batter later.
The Dragons put another run on the board in the fourth on a solo home run off the bat of Kazuhiro Wada but, once again, Yakult hit back for a pair in their half of the inning through a two-run single up the middle by Kawashima.
The Swallows, not normally birds of prey, then broke it open with a six-run fifth, which featured Gonzalez drawing a walk to lead off the inning and then later singling as Yakult went through the batting order.
Chunichi outfielder Lee Byung Kyu had a dismal evening, striking out four times.
The fifth-place Swallows improved to 52-57-3 on the year while third-place Chunichi fell to .500 at 55-55-5.
The top three clubs in each league qualify for the postseason.