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Swallows extend lead over Tigers

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Swallows extend lead over Tigers

by Jim Allen (Sep 29, 2009)

The Tokyo Yakult roller coaster continued to climb on Monday.

Unheralded right-hander Hiromitsu Takagi provided his third straight solid start and Yuichi Matsumoto broke open a scoreless game with a sixth-inning RBI double and the Swallows went on to beat the Hanshin Tigers 7-1 at Jingu Stadium on Monday.

The Swallows' sixth straight win lifted them 1-1/2 games ahead of the fourth-place Tigers in the battle for the CL's final playoff spot.

"At the crucial moment, a head-to-head battle with Hanshin, Takagi provided the good pitching we needed," Swallows skipper Shigeru Takada said.

Takagi (3-0) allowed a run on five hits in 6 2/3 innings for his third straight victory and fourth straight solid start. Using a good curve and slider and good location with his 133-kph fastball, the 26-year-old kept the Tigers off balance most of the night.

"I just figured that if I could throw strikes, things would be OK," said Takagi, who outdueled Yuya Ando (8-11),

Matsumoto broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth inning with a two-out RBI double.

A hit batsman and a two-out single by Norichika Aoki set the table, and Matsumoto drove a low fastball over the head of center fielder Keiichi Hirano.

"I'm not really in the position to be thinking of this series as big," said the 28-year-old Matsumoto, who was born in Brazil and joined the Swallows as a teenager before taking Japanese citizenship.

He was, however, inspired when Swallows captain Shinya Miyamoto dove head-first into first base in attempt to avoid a double play in the third inning.

"I'm much younger than he is, so seeing that made me think I need to give a lot more than just 100 percent," Matsumoto said.

Miyamoto left the game, swelling Yakult's list of walking wounded.

Matsumoto's double left men on second and third, and the Tigers opted to pitch around the Swallows' power core, No. 6 hitter Aaron Guiel. Untried infielder Yuji Onizaki, however, walked to make it 2-0.

The Tigers, who had threatened in the third and fourth, finally got on the board in the top of the seventh.

Akihiro Yano tripled to open the inning and fellow 40-year-old Shinjiro Hiyama plated him with a pinch-hit single.

Swallows Lefty Lee Hye Cheon came on with two outs and a runner on third and got the final out.

Ando allowed two runs in six innings. The right-hander struck out one, walked three and also hit a batter, while giving up five hits.

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