CHIBA — Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara usually greets Giants that hit home runs with a double-fisted handshake just outside of the dugout. Alex Ramirez’s shot on Tuesday was so big that Hara went with a bear hug instead.
Ramirez hit a go-ahead, three-run homer to cap a four-run eighth as the Giants outlasted the Chiba Lotte Marines 12-11 in a back-and-forth contest on the opening day of interleague play at Chiba Marine Stadium.
“The hitting coach gave me good advice,” Ramirez said of the home run. “I went up there looking for something middle away and I got it.”
The Giants put the finishing touches on a six-run rally with a two-run seventh to tie the game at 8-8 in the seventh inning, only to have Marines respond with a two-run inning of their own in the bottom half.
Trailing 10-8, Michihiro Ogasawara pulled the Giants within one with an RBI single up the middle. Then Ramirez’s 14th homer of the season put the Giants ahead 12-10.
“We never put our heads down,” Ramirez said. “We kept coming back and coming back. Our pitcher did a good job, we scored a lot of runs and I’m happy we could win today.”
It wasn’t a good day for pitchers. Each team had huge offensive performances, combining for 23 runs, 37 hits and three triples.
Each Giants starter finished with a hit, with Shinnosuke Abe leading the way with four and Ogasawara and Luis Gonzalez each finished with three. Toshiaki Imae and Jose Ortiz were the point men for the Marines with three hits apiece.
Each team used six pitchers. Yomiuri hurlers Kiyoshi Toyoda and closer Marc Kroon were the only two to leave without yielding a run.
Lotte starter Yuki Karakawa (3-0), who was vying to become the first pitcher drafted out of high school to earn a win in his first four games since the draft era, was touched up for six runs on 13 hits over 4 2/3 innings.
The last pitcher to win his first four games was the Hankyu Braves’ Hiroyuki Miura, who won one in relief, in 1978.
Giants starter Hisanori Takahashi continued to struggle this season, giving up six runs on seven hits over two innings before being lifted after loading the bases to lead off the third. Yomiuri’s rally spared him from taking the loss.
Takahashi (2-3) has failed to make it to the fourth inning in two of his previous three starts. He was pulled after 3 1/3 innings on May 6 against Hanshin. He has given up 13 runs over his last three starts.
Neither starter factored into the decision. Toyoda and Kroon earned the win and save, respectively, while Tadahiro Ogino took the loss.