With starter Dicky Gonzalez dealing, the Central League-leading Yomiuri Giants looked as strong as ever.
The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks simply looked like they’d been dealt a bad hand.
Gonzalez took care of things on the mound, Michihiro Ogasawara, Shinnosuke Abe and Alex Ramirez each homered, and the Giants cruised to an 8-2 win over the Hawks in front of 42,218 fans on Thursday at Tokyo Dome.
“Softbank had been doing so well in the interleague,” Abe said. “So we wanted to finally give them a loss. I feel great I could contribute with the home run.”
Gonzalez turned in another impressive start for the “Kyojin,” keeping the Hawks from putting up much of a fight for most of the night. Gonzalez held Softbank to two runs on nine hits and struck out four in 6 2/3 innings.
“I know they have a pretty good team,” Gonzalez said. “The lineup, (Yuichi) Honda, (Munenori) Kawasaki, but if you keep the ball down, they can swing, but it’s going to be a ground ball.
“I knew I had seven people behind me. When you’ve got that defense, it’s easier. So all I wanted to do was make them swing today and get a ground ball.”
The Yomiuri hurler has won all five of his starts this season and has given up just six runs and no walks in 34 2/3 innings pitched. Gonzalez is the first foreign pitcher to win his first five starts for the Giants.
“I feel very proud and found out yesterday I had a chance to break that record,” Gonzalez said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Gonzalez did a little damage at the plate as well, picking up a single and scoring a run. Gonzalez, who is batting .375 (3-for-8), has recorded a hit in three of the four CL games he has started this year.
Ogasawara, who the press dubbed “Mr. Koryusen” (Mr. Interleague) earlier this week, continued to tear up Pacific League pitching, going 2-for-2 with a walk, a home run and two RBIs. Ogasawara, a former PL MVP, is batting .536 with three home runs and 11 RBIs during the interleague season.
Right fielder Hitoshi Tamura was one of the few bright spots for the Hawks, finishing 4-for-4 with an RBI. But even that achievement was dimmed by the fact that all four hits came with two outs.
The night didn’t end as well for Softbank starter Tsuyoshi Wada. The Hawks hurler surrendered seven runs on seven hits before being chased in the fifth after 4 1/3 innings.
Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto got things rolling with a leadoff single up the middle in the first. After Tetsuya Matsumoto, attempting to sacrifice, popped out to first, Ogasawara put the game’s first points on the board with a two-run homer to left.
Gonzalez aided his cause with a leadoff single to begin the third inning, then advanced to third on a Sakamoto’s double into left center. Gonzalez later scored on a wild pitch and Sakamoto crossed home on a fielder’s choice, making the score 4-0.
The Hawks recorded two quick outs to start the fourth but showed signs of life after a Yuya Hasegawa double. Tamura cut into the Giants’ lead with an RBI single before a Hidenori Tanoue single and Lee Seung Yeop error loaded the bases.
Gonzalez retired Honda on a harmless grounder back to the mound to end the threat.
Giants outfielder Yoshiyuki Kamei led off the fourth with a hit, then came home when Abe sent a ball into the right field seats to put Yomiuri ahead 6-1.
The Giants added another run in the fifth with Matsumoto scoring on Ramirez’s sacrifice fly to left, making the score 7-1.
Ramirez drove in his third run of the night with a towering solo homer to center to put the home team ahead 8-2 in the seventh.
Yomiuri return to action Saturday when they face the Seibu Lions in a Japan Series rematch at Seibu Dome. They’ll stay on the road for the following series as well, against the Chiba Lotte Marines.
“We’ll see what happens at Seibu and Chiba,” Abe said. “I hope we can win all four of those games and come back to Tokyo Dome.”
Shohei Tateyama pitched seven shutout innings to win his 12th straight decision dating back to Aug. 15, 2008, as the Yakult Swallows beat the Orix Buffaloes 4-0.
Dragons 2, Golden Eagles 1
Carp 4, Marines 3
Lions 6, Tigers 4
Fighters at Bay Stars — PPD.