Yusei Kikuchi overcame an awkward start to strike out 11 batters over eight innings as the Seibu Lions whipped the Rakuten Eagles 8-1, extending their win streak to 12 games.
Before 20,355 at MetLife Dome outside Tokyo, Kikuchi (11-4) stumbled covering first base on the game's first play, but showed no ill effects as he dominated the Eagles' lineup. The lefty allowed a run on three hits and a walk and hit a career-high 158 kilometers per hour (98 miles per hour) on a pitch to Zelous Wheeler in the fifth inning.
"My teammates gave me three runs in the first and I could settle in and pitch," Kikuchi said. "Last year, or rather every year, I have issues with walks, and every offseason that's a focus for me. It seems like I've been making progress."
After a 1-2-3 top of the first by the Lions lefty, Shogo Akiyama opened the bottom of the inning with his 19th home run of the season. Sosuke Genda drew a walk from Tomohiro Anraku, stole second, went to third on a Hideto Asamura single and scored on a throwing error.
With two outs, Hotaka Yamakawa, who homered three times the night before, singled in Asamura to make it 3-0. The Lions put the game away in the seventh, when Genda tripled in two runs and Yamakawa, who went 3-for-4 with a double, singled in two more.
Anraku (1-3) was charged with four runs, two earned, on seven hits and two walks. The 20-year-old right-hander struck out six.
The Lions' winning streak is the franchise's longest since 1991. The three-game sweep was the first suffered by the Eagles, who had spent much of the season in first place.
Hawks 5, Buffaloes 3
At Kyocera Dome, Yuki Yanagita and Alfredo Despaigne hit back-to-back, first-inning home runs and Nao Higashihama (11-3) allowed a run in 6-1/3 innings as SoftBank held off Orix.
Fighters 3, Marines 2
At Zozo Marine Stadium, lefty Takayuki Kato (4-5) worked five scoreless innings as Nippon Ham squeaked past Lotte in a game in which both teams combined for 21 hits but struggled to drive runners in.
BayStars 4, Dragons 3
At Yokohama Stadium, Jose Lopez broke a 2-2, third-inning tie with his 20th home run, a two-run shot as DeNA snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Chunichi.
Swallows 7, Giants 5
At Jingu Stadium, Wladimir Balentien broke a 5-5, seventh-inning tie with his 22nd home run, a two-run shot, as Yakult overcame a four-run deficit to beat Yomiuri, which got off to a hot start behind two homers from Taiwan's Yang Dai-kang.