/

Time running short for Cabrera

by Dan Latham

Seibu Lions slugger Alex Cabrera got a hit in Sunday’s game against the Nippon Ham Fighters, but not the one he wanted.

News photoSeibu’s Alex Cabrera looks disappointed after getting walked by the Nippon Ham Fighters in the eighth inning.

Cabrera, currently tied for the single-season record with 55 home runs, flied out twice, picked up a walk and hit a single as the Lions blanked the Fighters 3-0 at the Tokyo Dome.

The Venezuelan first baseman has three games remaining to break the record, which was established by Sadaharu Oh in 1964 and tied by Tuffy Rhodes last season.

Cabrera, eager to take any chance he could get, wasn’t picky about the pitches he swung at. In the first inning, he popped up the second pitch from Satoru Kanemura to first base.

In his second at-bat he popped up the first pitch to third base and in the sixth inning, he smacked a single up the middle on the second pitch.

Cabrera also came up in the top of the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on third.

After a brief conference on the mound — while most of the 26,000 fans at the dome chanted, “Don’t walk him” — Nippon Ham catcher Toshiro Noguchi crouched down behind the far side of the plate and Kanemura walked Cabrera on four pitches.

In Saturday’s game against the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, who are managed by Oh, Cabrera was walked twice and hit by a pitch.

“Today it was about the same thing with the pitchers,” Cabrera said after the game. “Last night some of the balls were five feet from the plate. And today they were throwing ball, ball, ball. No change.

“I’m still confident about (breaking the record). I’m hitting a lot of balls and if pitchers throw strikes, I’ll hit it.”

Asked if he was angry at Kanemura, Cabrera added: “No, I’m not angry at the pitchers. I’m more angry at the coaches. They (the pitchers) may want to give me a chance, but they have to follow what the coaches say.”

The day marked a milestone for Seibu shortstop Kazuo Matsui, who appeared in his 1,000th consecutive game. Matsui went 1-for-4 with a base hit in the eighth inning.

“I’m really proud that I’ve been able to play for seven years without missing a game,” Matsui said.

It also marked the Pacific League debut of Hiroyuki Nakajima, who is on track to fill the hole at shortstop if Matsui decides to go to the major leagues next season.

Nakajima, one of the top hitters in the minors this season, went 1-for-3 with a single.

Seibu’s Katsuhiko Miyaji broke up a scoreless game with a two-run homer in the sixth and Taisei Takagi added an RBI single in the eighth.

Takashi Ishii (8-3) picked up the win after scattering five hits and a walk in seven innings.