It didn’t take Shinnosuke Abe long to get back into the swing of things.
The Yomiuri Giants catcher hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat since July 29 in a regular-season game, and the Giants jumped all over the Yokohama BayStars early in a 7-3 victory in front of 40,949 fans on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome.
“It’s nice to have Abe back,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “Especially leading the victory tonight.”
The Giants already had a two-run advantage when Abe, returning to the fold after playing for the Japanese national team in the Olympics, sent the first pitch he saw into the center-field seats to give the Giants a 5-0 lead in the first inning.
“It’s a warm feeling to come home and be welcomed back by our fans,” Abe said. “I was anxious to get back into the groove, so I swung at the first pitch and got it all.”
Giants starter Tetsuya Utsumi (9-7) allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out two to pick up the win. Relievers Daisuke Ochi, Tetsuya Yamaguchi and Kiyoshi Toyoda combined to throw five scoreless innings in relief of Utsumi. Closer Marc Kroon ended the game with a 1-2-3 ninth in a non-save situation.
“Our pitchers did well tonight,” Hara said. “Especially Ochi and Yamaguchi in relief of Utsumi, who threw a good game, and Kroon closed it with no problems. So I was very pleased.”
Yokohama’s Yuji Yoshimi, who took the loss, was touched up for six runs in a 40-pitch first inning and fell to 1-3 this season.
The Giants won for the fifth time in their last seven games to remain eight games behind the first-place Hanshin Tigers in the Central League standings. The Tigers defeated the Chunichi Dragons 4-0 at Koshien earlier in the night. The Giants begin a three-game series with the Tigers on Friday in Koshien.
Yomiuri did the majority of its damage in a six-run first inning. Takehiro Suzuki and Takuya Kimura led off the inning with singles and Michihiro Ogasawara drew a walk to load the bases. Alex Ramirez got the Giants on the board with a two-run single before Abe’s shot later in the inning.
Suzuki hit an RBI single in his second at-bat of the inning to put the Giants ahead 6-0.
Yokohama outfielder Yuki Yoshimura hit a two-run double in the fourth to make the score 6-1 and the BayStars added a second run on a groundout by Tatsuhiko Kinjo.
Yokohama’s Shuichi Murata cut the lead in half with an RBI single in the fifth.
Yomiuri’s Hayato Sakamoto closed out the scoring with a solo homer to lead off the sixth.
Tigers blank Dragons
Lin Wei-zhu hit a two-run homer and Minoru Iwata tossed seven solid innings as the Hanshin Tigers blanked the Chunichi Dragons 4-0 Tuesday to claim their fifth straight win.
Lin connected to the right stands at Koshien Stadium off Mitsuru Sato (1-3) to open the scoring in the fourth inning and Tomoaki Kanemoto doubled in two runs in the eighth for insurance for the Central League-leading ballclub.
Carp 5, Swallows 1
At Hiroshima Stadium, Colby Lewis (12-5) yielded one run in seven innings to pick up his 12th win to tie the league’s season high while Kenta Kurihara went 2-for-3 with two RBIs to help Hiroshima hand Yakult its fifth consecutive loss.
Eagles 7, Lions 2
At Seibu Dome, Rick Short doubled in two crucial runs and Takeshi Yamasaki homered twice as Tohoku Rakuten held off the Pacific League front-running Seibu.
Fighters 3, Marines 2
At Chiba Marine Stadium, Eiichi Koyano hit a tiebreaking RBI single and Brian Sweeney pitched seven strong innings as Hokkaido Nippon Ham edged Chiba Lotte.