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Giants are in driver’s seat

Lions need win to extend season

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The Yomiuri Giants held a light workout at Tokyo Dome Friday afternoon on the eve of a crucial tilt against the Seibu Lions in Game 6 of the Japan Series.

The Giants’ 7-3 victory in Game 5 at Seibu Dome on Thursday left them one win away from clinching the Japan Series title.

“It’s wonderful to be in the position of completing a major accomplishment like this,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “But in a series you never know what can happen. You have to look at the long term and compete or else you get beaten.”

The Lions also had an optional practice — which was reportedly scarcely attended — in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, early Friday morning.

The Lions face an uphill battle, needing to win a pair of games on the road in order to earn the championship.

There’s also the uncertain status of catcher Toru Hosokawa and star shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, who both left Game 5 with injuries.

Hosokawa suffered a shoulder injury while sliding into first base in the second inning, and Nakajima left after appearing to injure his left side while striking out in the fourth.

“I don’t have a problem walking,” Nakajima said on the way to the parking lot after the game. “At that time I felt something strange and I thought it would be troubling the whole team if I was going to take the field on defense like this.

“I swung too hard. I never experienced something like this before. I’m going to heal today and tomorrow definitely.”

Pitcher Kazuyuki Hoashi, one of the few players to attend Seibu’s practice session, is expected to get the call for the Lions on Saturday.

Hoashi didn’t factor into the decision in Game 2 after tossing five innings of one-run ball and striking out two.

The Giants, meanwhile, can take solace in the fact that a loss on Saturday would still leave them with one last chance to clinch the title in a deciding Game 7 on Sunday.

Hisanori Takahashi is widely expected to take the mound on Saturday for Yomiuri, which is attempting to win the franchise’s 21st Japan Series title.

Takahashi opposed Hoashi in Game 2, allowing two runs and striking out three over 5 1/3 innings in the Giants’ 3-2 win. He downplayed the significance of Saturday’s contest, saying he felt little pressure.

“I feel normal,” Takahashi said as he was swarmed by media members while coming off the field. “It’s best if we can win tomorrow, but we still have Sunday.”

Takahashi got off to a strong start in Game 2, retiring the first nine batters he faced before running into trouble in Seibu’s two-run fourth inning. He didn’t give up another run and was bailed out of a sticky situation by reliever Kentaro Nishimura after putting two runners on base in the sixth.

The Yomiuri hurler, who was the winning pitcher in the team’s Japan Series-clinching game in 2002, said knowing he has help waiting in the bullpen helps take some of the pressure off him. He’s also confident after his performance against Seibu in Game 2.

“I don’t think I have to complete the game,” Takahashi said. “So I just have to do my best and go as far as I can.

“I have a good image from my last start. So there’s nothing special I have to change.”

Flirting with history: Seibu’s Takayuki Kishi struck out at least one batter in every inning of his 10-strikeout complete-game shutout in Game 4 on Wednesday. Kishi is the second pitcher to achieve the feat in the Japan Series. Former Yomiuri hurler Takashi Nishimoto was the first, fanning at least one in every inning in the opening game of the 1981 Japanese Fall Classic.

“I threw with my heart,” Kishi said of his gutsy performance that tied the series at 2-2.

Kishi also became the 12th pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout in his first career Japan Series start. Chiba Lotte’s Shunsuke Watanabe was the last, tossing a shutout against the Hanshin Tigers in Game 2 of the ’05 Series. Tomio Watanabe is the only other Lions pitcher to notch a shutout in his debut, doing so against the Giants in 1990.

How the other half lives: As the Japan Series winds down, a couple of players are looking for another championship at the expense of a former club.

Yomiuri reliever Kiyoshi Toyoda’s last title came in 2004 when he was a member of the Seibu Lions squad that beat the Chunichi Dragons in seven games. Toyoda earned three saves in that series and was the last of four Lions hurlers to pitch in Game 7 at Nagoya Dome, taking the ball from Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Lions veteran Akira Eto won a championship with the Kyojin in 2000 and won another in 2002 as a part the Giants team that swept the Lions in four games.

The 20-year veteran started at first base in Game 2, but otherwise hasn’t seen much action in this year’s series.

Fancy meeting you here: Yomiuri Giants slugger Alex Ramirez and Seibu Lions pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii took the field together in the Japan Series for the second time in Game 3 on Tuesday at Seibu Dome, this time on opposing sides.

The two former Tokyo Yakult Swallows won a title together in 2001, when the Swallows defeated the Kintetsu Buffaloes in five games.

Ramirez went 2-for-4 in the Giants’ 6-4 win and hit a home run off Ishii in sixth. Ishii took the loss in that contest, allowing five runs and striking out four in six innings.

“I wish him all the best,” Ramirez said. “I’m going to try to do my best and he’s going to try to do his best. It just happened to go my way this time.

Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.

Ichiro honored

NEW YORK (Kyodo) Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki won his eighth straight American League Gold Glove award Thursday, together with the club’s third baseman Adrian Beltre, who won his second.

Ichiro has won the award for fielding excellence every year since he arrived from Japan as a free agent in 2001.

The 35-year-old, who began his career with the Mariners as a right fielder, started the season in center field and moved back to right field midway through the season. He finished tied for fifth in the AL with 11 outfield assists, increasing his MLB total to a league-high 78 during his eight-year career.