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Blanco delivers bold reminder that dedication is key to success

by Jason Coskrey

Tony Blanco’s game-tying home run to right field was the result of hard work during batting practice.

His go-ahead blast to left? That just came naturally.

Blanco homered twice, including a tie-breaking three-run shot in the ninth, and the Chunichi Dragons outlasted the Yomiuri Giants 7-4 on Saturday afternoon at Tokyo Dome.

“That’s what I needed to come up,” Blanco said. “I needed that to get my confidence back. That’s what I needed to do, to help the team.”

Prior to the game, Blanco worked on driving more balls to right field. His efforts paid off in the eighth with his home run to right.

“That was just reaction,” Blanco said. “Today in BP, I was trying to use both sides of the field.”

With the score tied and two away in the ninth, he sent the first pitch he saw screaming toward the seats in left, driving in Masahiko Morino and Kazuhiro Wada, who had doubled and walked earlier in the inning.

Blanco finished the game 3-for-5 with four RBIs. He struck out in his first two at-bats before recording three straight hits.

“I don’t remember that,” Blanco joked after the game. “You’re going to put that back in my mind? I just wasn’t seeing the right pitches. When you strike out, it’s because you didn’t see the right pitch.”

Morino also recorded three hits for Chunichi, going 3-for-4 with an RBI.

Giants captain Shinnosuke Abe starred for the home team, keeping up his torrid play of late with two solo home runs. Teammate Alex Ramirez also hit a home run.

Yomiuri starter Dicky Gonzalez did not factor into the decision and is still looking for his first win since May 4. He allowed two runs on five hits and struck out four over five-plus innings.

Dragons hurler Kazuki Yoshimi, winless in his last three starts, gave up three runs on eight hits over six innings. Yoshimi also did not factor into the decision.

Takuya Asao (6-2) won in relief for Chunichi despite allowing a home run to Abe in the eighth. Hitoki Iwase picked up his 17th save of the season after a tense ninth during which he allowed the first two batters to reach base.

Giants reliever Marc Kroon (1-1) was charged with the loss.

The Dragons loaded the bases against Gonzalez in the first inning and went ahead 1-0 after Kei Nomoto drew a walk. Naomichi Donoue doubled the lead with an RBI single to right later in the inning.

Yomiuri’s Ryota Wakiya hit a triple in the bottom half of the inning, then came home on a single from Michihiro Ogasawara to make the score 2-1.

Abe tied the game with his first homer of the night, a solo drive to center in the fourth.

Ramirez broke the tie with his home run in the sixth but the Dragons rallied against relievers Kiyoshi Toyoda and Tetsuya Yamaguchi to retie the score in the top of the seventh.

Blanco put the Dragons ahead with his solo homer in the eighth, but Abe answered in the bottom half with his 20th homer of the year to tie the score 4-4.

Carp top Swallows

HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) Kenta Maeda threw seven shutout innings and Shigenobu Shima, Justin Huber and Masato Akamatsu each homered as the Hiroshima Carp beat the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 5-1 on Saturday to win their fourth in a row.

Maeda (9-2) gave up five hits, all singles, struck out five and walked none at Mazda Stadium.

Tigers 7, BayStars 3

At Yokohama Stadium, Yasutomo Kubo held the damage to three runs in six innings and got support from a potent offensive attack from the Hanshin lineup, which had its fourth consecutive game of double-digit hits in a win over the hosts.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Eagles 3, Marines 0

At Chiba Marine Stadium, Hisashi Iwakuma picked up his first win since May 1 with seven shutout innings as Tohoku Rakuten snapped its three-game losing streak with a win over Chiba Lotte.

Fighters 3, Buffaloes 1

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Yu Darvish threw one-run ball over eight innings and Tomohiro Nioka drove in two runs as Hokkaido Nippon Ham downed Orix.

Darvish (6-4) allowed seven hits, all singles, and walked one. He retired 14 straight batters in one stretch. Hisashi Takeda worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth, getting Takeshi Hidaka to hit into a game-ending double play.

Lions 5, Hawks 1

At Seibu Dome, Toru Hosokawa homered and drove in four runs and Kazuyuki Hoashi allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings as Saitama Seibu beat Fukuoka Softbank.