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Streaking Giants power past last-place ‘Stars

by Kaz Nagatsuka

YOKOHAMA — Again, resting their core starting pitchers for the upcoming crucial series against the Hanshin Tigers, the surging Yomiuri Giants stomped the Yokohama BayStars 6-2 on Wednesday night.

After an overwhelming 14-1 win guided by Lee Seung Yeop’s three-homer performance and a marvelous job by unexpected starter Yuya Kubo on the previous night, Yomiuri got off to a quick start with three dingers and starting pitcher Shun Tono gave a stellar performance as the Giants firmly defeated the hosts.

“Tono did a great job although it was his first start,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said after the game. “I think he was able to show more than 90 percent of his ability.”

The second-place Giants have now won seven straight — their longest streak of the season (they have six four-game streaks this year) — putting themselves close enough to put pressure on the league-leading Tigers, against whom the Tokyo club hosts a three-game series at Tokyo Dome from Friday.

“We wanted to go back to Tokyo Dome in a good fashion, which we can now,” Hara said. “Now we want to fight with the league-leading Tigers face-to-face.”

After a 19-year-old shortstop Hayato Sakamoto ignited the surge with a nicely-hit homer in the second inning off Yokohama ace Daisuke Miura, veterans Alex Ramirez and Shinnosuke Abe added fuel to the fire with a solo (the 250th of his career) and three-run home run, respectively, to make the score 6-0 after the third frame.

The ‘Stars put two on the scoreboard with a Seiichi Uchikawa two-run homer (his 10th of the season) in the sixth, but couldn’t come up with run-scoring hits after that.

Hara sent the 22-year-old Tono, who has been mainly used as a middle reliever this year, to the hill as a starter for the first time in his career, and the hard-thrower right-hander was up to the challenge.

Capitalizing on sharp fastballs and effective curveballs, Tono (1-0), a 2004 seventh-round draft choice, was nearly perfect until the homer by Uchikawa, who currently leads the lead in batting average, in the sixth. But overall, he did more than enough for a Yomiuri team that has fierce batting power.

Tono allowed just two hits and two runs in six innings of work, while Miura (7-8) surrendered six runs on seven hits in only three innings for the loss.

“I didn’t want to stop the winning streak with me, so I swung my arm hard from the first inning,” Tono said.

Asked if he was nervous entering the game, Tono replied, “Yeah, because it was my first time, I got nervous against the first inning. But from the second inning on, I could just swung my arm without hesitation.”

Abe was two-for-three with three RBIs, while Uchikawa was two-for-four with two RBIs.

Swallows hook Carp

Kyodo News

Tokyo Yakult snapped its losing skid at eight games after capitalizing on a fifth-inning error by Hiroshima catcher Yoshikazu Kura at Jingu Stadium.

Kura threw wildly to second base to allow Yakult to take a 3-1 lead following a bases-loaded grounder to second base by Yasushi Iihara.

Hiroyasu Tanaka and Masakazu Fukukawa helped increase the lead with RBI hits later in the game. Masanori Ishikawa (10-9) reached double-digit wins for the first time in two seasons with a complete-game effort.

Tigers 11, Dragons 6

At Nagoya Dome, Takashi Toritani hit his first career grand slam and drove in five runs as front-running Hanshin went on to hold off Chunichi.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Hawks 4, Buffaloes

At Skymark Stadium, Yuichi Honda saved Softbank from suffering another setback in the hunt for a Pacific League playoff spot, hitting a go-ahead three-run homer with two outs in the top of the ninth inning against Orix.

Lions 5, Marines 4 (10)

At Seibu Dome, Takeya Nakamura hit a walk-off homer leading off the 10th inning as Seibu edged Chiba Lotte and reduced its magic number for the Pacific League title to five.

Eagles 15, Fighters 7