The Yomiuri Giants looked a bit sluggish in the first game of their series against the Chunichi Dragons.
Turns out all they needed was a gut check.
Michihiro “Guts” Ogasawara hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat and a grand slam in his second as the Yomiuri Giants routed the Chunichi Dragons 11-2 in Game 2 of the second stage of the Central League Climax Series in front of 43,536 fans on Thursday at Tokyo Dome.
“We went into this game looking to wipe out the frustrating loss yesterday,” Ogasawara said. “We were able to do that in a big way.”
Ogasawara drove in six runs on a 2-for-5 day to give Yomiuri a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven series. The Giants began the series with an automatic 1-0 advantage as the CL champion.
“Our Nos. 1 and 2 hitters (Yoshiyuki Kamei and Takuya Kimura) set the table and I did my best to come through with runners on base,” Ogasawara said.
MVP candidate Alex Ramirez also went deep, a two-run shot to left, in the victory. Ramirez went 3-for-4 and finished a double away from hitting for the cycle.
Lee Seung Yeop added to the hit parade with a homer in the seventh and Kamei finished 3-for-5 as Yomiuri battered Chunichi with 17 hits.
“Our long-ball hitters really came alive tonight,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “We got 17 hits, great pitching from (Koji) Uehara, and we’re looking forward to another good game tomorrow.”
Pitching with a lead for most of the night, Giants starter Uehara faced little resistance in another strong start against the Dragons. Uehara, baffled Chunichi with his forkball, allowing two runs on four hits and striking out nine over eight innings to earn the win.
“I felt good all night from the beginning of the game and I just wanted to make sure we could win,” Uehara said.
Uehara was 1-3 against Chunichi in eight regular-season appearances, but has been solid against the Dragons lately.
In his last four starts against Chunichi, Uehara has given up four runs in 28 innings.
“Our only thoughts are on going to the Japan Series,” Uehara said. “We need only two more wins and I’m sure we’ll get them.
“I look forward to pitching once more in the Japan Series.”
The game didn’t go as well for his counterpart, Kenta Asakura.
Appearing in his first game since July 3 — and making his second start of the season — Asakura was roughed up for six runs on nine hits in two innings in the loss.
Nothing was working for Asakura, who was limited to 12 games due to injuries, in his first game against the Giants this season.
The top of the Yomiuri lineup abused his shuuto and fastball through the first half of his outing for two quick runs. Asakura tried a different approach against Ogasawara the second time around, only to give up a grand slam with a forkball.
Dragons center fielder Masahiko Morino gave his starter an early lead with a home run — his third of the playoffs — in the first inning.
Asakura lost the lead quickly after Ogasawara’s first homer put the Giants ahead 2-1 in the bottom half of the inning.
In the second, Uehara, Kamei and Takuya Kimura hit consecutive one-out singles before Ogasawara connected for his second homer of the night.
Ramirez got into the act with his two-run shot in the fourth, and Lee added his solo shot in the seventh to put Yomiuri ahead 9-2.
Ryuichi Kajimae got the Giants into double figures with a two-run, two-out single in the eighth which ended the scoring.
The teams will meet in Game 3 of the series at Tokyo Dome on Friday at 6 p.m.
Kato is disappointed
Nippon Professional Baseball commissioner Ryozo Kato on Thursday described Senichi Hoshino’s decision to turn down the offer of managing Japan at the World Baseball Classic next March as “disappointing” but said he was left with no option but to respect the Beijing Olympic skipper’s wishes.
“It is disappointing, but this is a decision that I have no option but to accept. Hoshino-san’s intentions have been made clear,” said Kato, who admitted that Hoshino had been one of candidates picked for the post.
Hoshino, 61, who came under fire after failing to guide Japan, one of the pre-tournament favorites, to a podium finish in Beijing, stood firm on his decision, saying Wednesday on his official Web site, “I will once again say I won’t take the WBC job.”
Hoshino revealed his elder daughter had to be hospitalized for a stress-related illness after the Olympics, adding, “I just don’t want any of my family to get hurt any more for what I do.”
Kato said the subject of selecting the WBC manager would be on the agenda at a WBC committee meeting on Monday.