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Clutch hitting ignites Dragons to win over Giants

by Jason Coskrey

The Yomiuri Giants had planned to honor catcher Shinnosuke Abe during their game against the Chunichi Dragons on Friday.

What they didn’t plan for was Kazuyoshi Tatsunami and Masahiko Morino stealing the spotlight.

Tatsunami crashed the Abe love-fest with a game tying homer to lead off the eighth and Morino drove in the game-winner with a two-run triple in the 10th as the Dragons edged the Giants 3-2 in front of 42,262 fans on “Shinnosuke Abe Player Day” at Tokyo Dome.

“We lost three in a row to the Giants in Nagoya,” Morino said. “So there is no way we could lose this game.”

Masahiro Araki got things rolling in the 10th for Chunichi with a one-out single, then moved to third after Hirokazu Ibata bounced a single over third baseman Takayuki Terauchi.

Morino followed with a hit to center that just eluded a diving Takahiro Suzuki, allowing both runners to score.

“I was thinking of moving the runners along,” Morino said. “So I was just looking to make good contact.

“Our number 1 and 2 hitters (Araki and Ibata) are doing their job, so I felt I had to do mine as well.”

The victory ended Yomiuri’s winning streak at six games.

Dragons starter Daisuke Yamai didn’t factor into the decision, but was the driving force behind the victory.

Yamai held the Central League’s top team to one run and one hit over seven innings to keep his team in the game. The right-hander struck out eight.

“He’s unbelievable,” Chunichi pinch hitter Tomas De La Rosa said of Yamai. “That’s why we wanted to do something. Because Yamai, today, he was on fire.

“He kept us in the game all the way until the seventh inning, and Tatsunami helped him out with the pinch-hit home run.”

The outing was much better than Yamai’s previous start against the Giants on April 19. He took the loss in that contest after giving up four runs — one earned — on four hits in two innings of a 6-5 Chunichi loss.

Giants starter Satoshi Fukuda was just as good, allowing three hits and striking out four in six scoreless innings.

“Both pitchers were good,” De la Rosa said. “You saw the score, 3-2. Both pitchers, ours and the Giants pitcher, had real good control and pitched well.”

Masato Kobayashi (1-0) earned the win in relief, while Daisuke Ochi (2-1) was charged with the loss. Hitoki Iwase picked up his fifth save despite giving up a run in the 10th.

Abe, the man of the hour, homered off Iwase in his final at-bat in the 10th, but the solo drive was too little, too late for the Giants. The Yomiuri captain finished 1-for-4 at the plate and threw out a pair of runners attempting to steal second base.

Miscues cost the Dragons early, starting with Yamai’s four-pitch walk to Michihiro Ogasawara in the first inning. Yamai then threw a wild pitch to Alex Ramirez, which allowed Ogasawara to advance to third.

Ramirez followed with a high-hopper to the left of the mound, which Yamai misplayed, enabling Ogasawara to score.

The Dragons tied the score seven innings later on a leadoff homer by Tatsunami in the eighth.

Nomi sparks Tigers

HIROSHIMA (Kyodo)

Atsushi Nomi scattered eight hits on the way to throwing his first shutout in two seasons, striking out 10 batters in the Hanshin Tigers’ 4-0 victory over the Hiroshima Carp on Friday in Central League action.

BayStars 3, Swallows 0

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Daisuke Miura came within one out of tossing a complete-game shutout as Yokohama beat Yakult.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Fighters 11, Buffaloes 0

At Kobe’s Skymark Stadium, Yu Darvish struck out 11 in his first shutout of the season and Terrmel Sledge hit a grand slam as Hokkaido Nippon Ham routed Orix.

Darvish (3-1) scattered four hits, all singles, and three walks without allowing a runner to reach third base in a 133-pitch outing.

Lions 3, Marines 1

At Seibu Dome, Takeya Nakamura and Hiram Bocachica each hit solo homers to back a complete game effort from Hideaki Wakui as Seibu beat Chiba Lotte for its first win in three games.

Wakui (3-1) struck out 12 and allowed only four hits and two walks. Tomoya Satozaki homered for the Marines in the fifth.

Eagles 3, Hawks 2