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Nakamura blasts Dragons past Giants

by Jason Coskrey

Norihiro Nakamura sure made his first career hit off Koji Uehara a memorable one.

Nakamura ripped a tie-breaking home run in the top of the ninth inning to send the Chunichi Dragons to their third straight win of the young season, a 4-3 victory over the Yomiuri Giants in front of 42,357 fans on Tuesday night at Tokyo Dome.

With Uehara working the ninth, Nakamura turned on a first-pitch fastball to spoil the Yomiuri hurler’s celebrated return to the starting rotation.

“I thought it would be good to swing at the first pitch because Uehara gets tougher as the count goes on,” Nakamura said. “I think the pitch I hit was a straight fastball over the plate.”

Uehara was also upstaged by Chunichi starter Kenichi Nakata, who was lights out from the third inning on.

After giving up three early runs, Nakata (1-0) retired 18 of the 21 batters he faced from the third through the eighth innings, dismissing 11 straight at one point.

Nakata allowed six hits in the first two innings but allowed just one the rest of the way.

“He settled down and really pitched well,” said Dragons first baseman Tyrone Woods, who hit an RBI single in the fourth inning.

The Chunichi hurler took the win after giving up all three Yomiuri runs on seven hits and striking out nine in eight innings of work.

Closer Hitoki Iwase kept the Giants off the scoreboard in the ninth to earn the save.

The loss sent Yomiuri tumbling to its fourth consecutive loss to start the season. After a busy offseason, the star-studded Giants began the year by being swept by the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in their opening series last week.

Uehara (0-1), making his first start since 2006, was in control early but took the loss after giving up a pair of home runs late in the game.

Pitching with a 3-1 lead Uehara gave up a game-tying homer to Lee Byung Kyu in the sixth before Nakamura’s late game heroics.

Uehara allowed all four runs on nine hits and struck out seven over the distance.

Michihiro Ogasawara gave the Giants an early advantage with a first-inning RBI single up the middle that made the score 1-0. Ogasawara came around to score on a double by Shinnosuke Abe to make the score 2-0.

The Giants added a run in the second on a sacrifice fly from Yoshinobu Takahashi before Woods’ RBI in the fourth inning.

The Dragons tied the score in the top of the sixth on Lee’s two-run shot to right and took the lead on Nakamura’s ninth-inning home run.

Nakamura, last season’s Japan Series MVP, also homered in the Dragons’ 4-0 win over the Hiroshima Carp on Sunday.

“I’ve hit home runs two games in a row, so I feel good about that,” Nakamura said. “But more important is that the team was able to win and we hope to make it four straight wins tomorrow.”

‘Stars end skid

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Toshihisa Nishi capped a four-run eighth-inning rally with a bases-clearing double as the Yokohama BayStars beat the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 9-6 to snap a three-game losing streak on Tuesday night.

Tigers 5, Carp 3

At Hiroshima Stadium, Tomoaki Kanemoto went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer and Scott Atchison threw six effective innings as undefeated Hanshin held off Hiroshima for its fourth win in as many games this season.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Eagles 7, Marines 4

At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Jose Fernandez hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the seventh inning as Tohoku Rakuten beat Chiba Lotte to extend its winning streak to a club record-tying five games.

Fighters 6, Hawks 0

At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Masaru Takeda (2-0) threw a two-hitter over seven innings and Shinji Takahashi homered as Hokkaido Nippon Ham blanked Softbank.

Buffaloes 10, Lions 6

At Kobe’s Skymark Stadium, Osamu Hamanaka hit a go-ahead grand slam in the fifth inning as Orix overcame a five-run deficit to beat Seibu.