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BayStars exhibit gumption in comeback triumph over Swallows

by Jason Coskrey

The 2010 Yokohama BayStars are out to show the NPB they can’t be knocked around anymore.

So when the Tokyo Yakult Swallows shoved them into a corner on Friday, Shuichi Murata and company pushed back.

Terrmel Sledge hit a game-tying two-run homer in the sixth inning, Murata singled in the go-ahead run in the seventh, and the BayStars rallied from six down to beat the Swallows 7-6 in the series opener at Jingu Stadium.

“We weren’t able to close out games last season,” BayStars first baseman Seiichi Uchikawa said. “I think this year, we’re better at finishing games and it’s giving the fans something to cheer about.”

Yokohama has been the Central League’s punching bag for most of the last three years, but has shown a lot of fight in winning five of its last six games.

“Winning is contagious,” Sledge said. “Hopefully we can keep it going, because winning is contagious. But then again, so is losing.

“We’re not trying to do too much. Just take it one series at a time. There’s not too much pressure on this team right now.”

The BayStars trailed 6-0 after three ineffective innings from starter Daisuke Miura, but regrouped during a four-run fifth.

Sledge began the inning with a single, with the next batter, Jose Castillo, drawing a walk. An RBI double by Tatsuya Shimozono drove in one run before Shingo Takeyama cleared the bases with a three-run homer.

Murata led off the sixth with a single and Sledge tied the game with his homer to right off Swallows starter Shoei Tateyama.

“I had two strikes, so I was just protecting myself,” Sledge said. “I think he’ll tell you, he didn’t have good location today. I don’t think he meant to throw it there.”

Yokohama’s Takehiro Ishikawa opened the seventh with a single and later scored the go-ahead run on Murata’s timely hit.

Sledge finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs for the BayStars. Ishikawa also finished with three hits and Murata was 2-for-5.

Atsushi Fujimoto capped the Swallows’ five-run first inning with a two-run homer and ended the night 2-for-4, one of six Swallows with a multi-hit night. Shinichi Takeuchi had a solo homer in the third and finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Miura was knocked out of the game after three innings, allowing six runs on 10 hits.

Futoshi Kobayashi took the ball from him, keeping Yokohama in the game with two innings of scoreless relief.

Reliever Hiroki Sanada (1-0) tossed a scoreless sixth and earned the win. BayStars closer Shun Yamaguchi retired the side in the ninth for his seventh save.

Tateyama got through four innings unscathed, but couldn’t protect the lead. Tateyama allowed six runs on seven hits over five-plus innings. Kenichi Matsuoka (0-1) took the loss after allowing Murata’s go-ahead hit.

The loss sends the Swallows into May on a sour note, having dropped five straight games.

Carp rout Dragons

HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) Yoshikazu Kura hit a grand slam in a six-run third inning and Takahiro Aoki threw his first career shutout, leading the Hiroshima Carp to a 9-0 win over the Chunichi Dragons on Friday.

Kura’s first career grand slam and also his first hit of the season, off Takashi Ogasawara (1-3), pushed Hiroshima’s lead to 6-0. Eishin Soyogi added a two-run homer in the big inning.

Tigers 4, Giants 3

At Koshien Stadium, Takashi Toritani singled in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning as Hanshin beat Yomiuri for its third straight win.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Hawks 7, Marines 5

At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Jose Ortiz homered twice and drove in three runs as Fukuoka Softbank rallied to beat Chiba Lotte for its fourth straight victory.

Kim Tae Kyun hit a three-run homer to cap a four-run first for the Marines.

Fighters 3, Lions 2 (10)

At Sapporo Dome, Yoshio Itoi singled with the bases loaded and two outs in the 10th, giving Hokkaido Nippon Ham a “sayonara” win over Saitama Seibu.

Itoi also hit a solo home run in the fifth. Kensuke Tanaka’s RBI triple tied it at 2-2 in the sixth.

Eagles 2, Buffaloes 1 (11)