Baseball: Murakami slam helps Swallows fly into 1st place

Munetaka Murakami hit his second grand slam in two days, helping power the defending Central League champion Yakult Swallows past the Yomiuri Giants 6-2 and into first place on Saturday.

Yakult entered the day a half game back of the Giants at Tokyo Dome with MLB veteran Matt Shoemaker toeing the mound for Yomiuri. Shoemaker (1-2), however, issued a one-out walk before surrendering a two-run home run to Tetsuto Yamada.

Without his "A" game, Shoemaker hit the first two batters in the third before walking Yamada and surrendering Murakami's ninth home run.

Swallows lefty Keiji Takahashi (3-0) surrendered a leadoff double in the bottom of the first, but retired the next 12 batters before allowing both Giants runs in the fifth. He struck out eight batters over six innings.

"He's pretty amazing," Takahashi said of Murakami. "It's hard to say enough about him."

"My teammates got me an early lead. That helped me settle down. My breaking pitches were really good today, too."

Elsewhere, the Chunichi Dragons edged the Hanshin Tigers 2-1, while the Hiroshima Carp beat the DeNA BayStars by the same score on Ryoma Nishikawa's 10th-inning walk-off home run.

In the Pacific League, the SoftBank Hawks thumped the Lotte Marines 16-0 behind a three-hit shutout from rookie lefty Tomohisa Ozeki (3-2), while the Nippon Ham Fighters came from behind to beat the Seibu Lions 3-2, and the PL-leading Rakuten Eagles won their ninth straight decision, beating the Orix Buffaloes 7-1.

© Kyodo News