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Takahashi-led Giants rally past Fighters

by Jason Coskrey

Yoshinobu Takahashi taught the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters a harsh lesson on Saturday night.

Slim leads don’t often get the job done against the Yomiuri Giants.

Takahashi hit a pair of homers, including a come-from-behind three-run blast in the seventh inning, and the Fighters’ bullpen fell apart for the second consecutive night in the Giants’ 6-5 win in front of a sold-out Tokyo Dome crowd.

Trailing by two, the Giants put their first two runners on base in the seventh against reliever Masanori Hayashi. Takahashi then took his former teammate deep to right-center on a first-pitch fastball to give the Giants the lead.

“I knew a home run in that situation would put us ahead,” Takahashi said. “I got a good pitch and put a full swing on it.”

The Giants came from behind to win for the second straight night after rallying in the ninth against Fighters closer Hisashi Takeda on Friday.

After being held to one run in their series against the Chiba Lotte Marines, the Giants unloaded against the Fighters, hitting eight homers in the two games.

Takahashi finished 2-for-4 with five RBIs at the plate. He spent the last two nights batting out of the two-hole for the first time in his career, finishing 3-for-7 with three homers and six RBIs.

“I’m just trying to do the best job I can regardless of where I’m hitting in the lineup,” Takahashi said.

Judging by his production in the last two games, Takahashi may want to get used to the idea of batting behind leadoff man Hayato Sakamoto.

“Takahashi is not normally the type of hitter to bat second in the lineup,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “But he is a good hitter and that’s where he fits in the lineup right now.”

Shinnosuke Abe hit his 15th homer of the season in the second inning and Alex Ramirez finished 2-for-4.

The Giants bullpen bailed them out for the second straight game as Yuya Kubo, Daisuke Ochi and Marc Kroon combined on three innings of scoreless relief. Kubo (3-0) earned the win while Kroon notched his 10th save of the season.

Starter Shun Tono avoided dropping his first decision since Opening Day, but was shaky through four innings. He allowed four runs on eight hits and struck out five in his shortest outing of the year.

“Overall my pitches were too high and it was easy to tell the good balls from the bad ones,” Tono said. “I tried to fix it by keeping my pitches low, but couldn’t get it done.”

Fighters catcher Shinya Tsuruoka hit a two-run homer and drove in three runs on a 1-for-3 night. Atsunori Inaba and Eiichi Koyano also recorded RBIs for Nippon Ham.

Keisaku Itokazu, involved in a peculiar situation a day earlier, got the start for the Fighters.

The right-hander reportedly was to start Friday’s contest, but supposedly manager Masataka Nashida neglected to register him on the active roster.

He did a decent job once he finally got on the mound, going six innings, allowing three runs — one earned — and striking out four. He did not factor into the decision. Hayashi (0-1) was charged with the loss after coughing up the lead in the seventh.

“It was my first start on the top team in a long time,” Itokazu said. “I’m relieved I could keep us in the game.”

Fighters ace Yu Darvish was expected to start the game, but was scratched due to trouble with his right knee. The team said the injury isn’t major, but is causing the 23-year-old hurler problems during his pitching motion.

Lions edge Swallows KYODO

Toru Hosokawa went 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs as the Saitama Seibu Lions beat the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 6-5 and moved into first place in the Pacific League standings on Saturday.

Hosokawa cleared the left-center wall for a two-run homer off Takehiko Oshimoto in the eighth inning, pushing Seibu’s lead to 6-3 at Jingu Stadium.

Dragons 7, Marines 6

At Nagoya Dome, Kazuhiro Wada went 4-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored and Hiroki Nakagawa hit his first career homer as Chunichi rallied past Chiba Lotte.

Buffaloes 9, Tigers 4

At Koshien Stadium, Mitsutaka Goto had a tiebreaking RBI single and Takahiro Okada followed with a two-run double with two outs in the seventh as Orix beat Hanshin.

Hawks 9, Carp 3

At Mazda Stadium, Tsuyoshi Wada allowed three runs over eight innings and got plenty of run support as Fukuoka Softbank routed Hiroshima with a season-high 18 hits.

Eagles 5, BayStars 4

At Yokohama Stadium, pinch hitter Randy Ruiz had a go-ahead, two-run homer in the ninth inning as Tohoku Rakuten rallied to down Yokohama, sending the BayStars to their seventh loss in eight games.