Baseball: Murakami homers lift Swallows past BayStars

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) — Munetaka Murakami homered twice and drove in four runs, powering the Central League-leading Yakult Swallows to a 6-3 win over the second-place DeNA BayStars in the opener of their three-game series.

Murakami made out his first two times up at Yokohama Stadium against Shinichi Onuki (10-5) before breaking up the scoreless game in the sixth with a three-run homer.

His 46th of the season, it made the 22-year-old the youngest player in Japanese pro baseball history with 150 career homers.

“It was a line drive and I thought it was going out but wasn’t sure, but I hit it well,” Murakami said. “I’m really happy to hit one out in a game like this.”

Onuki left with one out and one on in the inning, and Jose Osuna made it 5-0 with his 14th home run.

The BayStars came back for three runs in the home half off Cy Sneed (7-5), on Yasutaka Tobashira’s solo homer and a two-run shot by Shugo Maki, his 21st homer.

Murakami completed the scoring with a solo homer in the seventh, his Japan-leading 47th.

“The BayStars have been on a roll and so we wanted to win this first game any way we could,” Murakami said. “Now I want to concentrate even more and give it my best tomorrow.”

Three Swallows relievers each worked a 1-2-3 inning to close it out, with Scott McGough getting his league-leading 32nd save.

Elsewhere in the CL, the third-place Hanshin Tigers remained six games back of the BayStars after a 5-2 loss at the hands of the last-place Chunichi Dragons, while the Yomiuri Giants beat the Hiroshima Carp 4-3.

In the Pacific League, the Lotte Marines beat the Rakuten Eagles 2-0 behind seven innings from 20-year-old Roki Sasaki (8-3), while the SoftBank Hawks thrashed the Nippon Ham Fighters 10-0 to maintain a half-game lead over the second-place Seibu Lions, 3-2 winners in 10 innings over the third-place Orix Buffaloes.