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High-powered Giants, Tigers renew fierce rivalry

by Jason Coskrey

Fans of low-scoring pitching duels would do well to avoid the Tokyo Dome this weekend.

You won’t like what you see.

The Big Egg figures to be a powder keg of offensive activity when the first-place Yomiuri Giants host the second-place Hanshin Tigers in a three-game set beginning Friday.

The series between the storied rivals will bring together a host of Japanese baseball’s offensive leaders, who figure to send pitchers running for the hills in the Giants’ offensive-friendly stadium.

Leading the way for the visiting Tigers is slugger Craig Brazell, hitting .309 through 69 games. Brazell had 26 home runs, tied with two others for the most in the NPB, and was second in the Central League with 56 RBIs.

Brazell showed the Giants what they can expect with a three-homer performance against the Chunichi Dragons on Tuesday.

The Tigers have two other players with 10 or more homers, Kenji Johjima (13) and Takahiro Arai (10). Three-hole batter Matt Murton can also help the team light up the scoreboard, hitting a CL-leading .355, with nine homers and 43 RBIs.

Hanshin will need all its offensive prowess to keep up with Giants.

Yomiuri has the NPB’s other two co-home run leaders, Alex Ramirez and Shinnosuke Abe.

Ramirez leads Japan with 70 RBIs and matched Brazell with his own three-homer night on Tuesday against the Hiroshima Carp.

Yomiuri has five players with double-digit homer totals this season: Ramirez, Abe and Michihiro Ogasawara (16), Hayato Sakamoto (15) and Hisayoshi Chono (10).

The Giants have hit an NPB-best 117 home runs this year, and the Tigers are second with 85.

Both teams can score in bunches, and the Tokyo Dome is a hitter’s paradise. Adding spice to what may be an explosive series as the Giants attempt to pad their lead over the Tigers in the CL standings.

Oh brother: Chunichi Dragons siblings Naomichi and Takehiro Donoue both played in the Dragons’ 11-5 loss to the Hanshin Tigers on Tuesday alongside brothers Takahiro (Hanshin) and Ryota (Dragons) Arai.

It represented the first time two pairs of siblings appeared in the same game since Leon and Leron Lee (Lotte Orions) and Hirohisa and Masayuki Matsunuma (Seibu Lions) all appeared in a game on Aug. 19, 1981.

Home run derby: Home runs took center stage on Tuesday night with the Yomiuri Giants’ Alex Ramirez and the Hanshin Tigers’ Craig Brazell each hitting three homers.

There were two instances of separate players hitting three homers on the same night last season, both involving the Tigers.

Tigers slugger Tomoaki Kanemoto, in the midst of a scorching start, hit three homers against the Hiroshima Carp on April 8, 2009, the same night as Hokkaido Nippon Ham’s Atsunori Inaba did the same against the Chiba Lotte Marines.

Kanemoto had another three-homer game two days later, that time sharing the spotlight with Orix Buffaloes infielder Greg LaRocca.

Ramirez’s three blasts came on a night when the Giants connected on eight home runs for the first time June 28, 1985.

Elsewhere, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks hit five out of the park in a 19-1 drubbing of the Chiba Lotte Marines on Tuesday at Chiba Marine Stadium.