Baseball: Kawabata sparks offense as Swallows snap losing skid

Shingo Kawabata made a rare start and sparked the two-time defending Central League champion Yakult Swallows in their 5-0 interleague win Thursday over the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters, the Swallows' first victory since May 14.

Having fallen into last place on the back of 12 losses and one tie in Yakult's last 13 games, manager Shingo Takatsu tweaked his lineup at Es Con Field Hokkaido outside Sapporo.

Kawabata, currently Yakult's ace-pinch hitter, was dropped into the starting lineup batting third, and his first-inning single set up an RBI single by sputtering cleanup hitter Munetaka Murakami.

The Swallows No. 4 hitter followed Kawabata's third-inning single with his 10th home run, staking pitcher Cy Sneed (4-2) to a 3-0 lead. Kawabata also singled in a seventh-inning insurance run as Sneed cruised.

The right-hander allowed three hits, a walk and a hit batsman while striking out six over seven innings.

"It was a little bit of a difficult stretch, but we scored a run in the first and scored in multiple innings," Sneed said. "I had a little trouble in the first, but I was able to lock in my delivery and we played great defense."

Tough Fighters lefty Takayuki Kato (4-3) allowed four runs, three earned, over 6-2/3 innings to take the loss.

Elsewhere, the Seibu Lions took down the CL-leading Hanshin Tigers for the second straight day, 4-2, while the PL-leading Lotte Marines also lost their second straight, 3-2 to the Yomiuri Giants, whose cleanup hitter, Kazuma Okamoto doubled, homered and drove in all three runs.

The CL's second-place DeNA BayStars mauled the Rakuten Eagles 11-3, while the PL's No. 2 team, the defending Japan Series champion Orix Buffaloes, beat up the Hiroshima Carp 9-2.

The CL's Chunichi Dragons beat the SoftBank Hawks 6-5, with closer Raidel Martinez wrapping up the series by striking out dynamic slugger Yuki Yanagita in the ninth with the tying run on base.

© Kyodo News