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Brazell’s long homer propels pesky Tigers

by Jason Coskrey

Craig Brazell hit a home run so deep, it flew beyond the playing field, beyond the flight of steps behind the center-field fence and ricocheted off a wall underneath the Tokyo Dome scoreboard.

It was probably the most normal moment in what turned out to be a wild game.

The lead changed three times from the seventh inning, and Brazell’s come-from-behind tape-measure blast provided the difference for the Hanshin Tigers in a 10-8 victory over the Yomiuri Giants in front of a crowd of 44,176 on Friday at Tokyo Dome.

“He threw two real good forkballs and got me 0-2,” Brazell said, referring to his eighth-inning at-bat against Daisuke Ochi. “After that, I kept battling and finally was able to put a good piece of wood on the ball and drive it out of the ballpark.”

The shot puts Brazell on pace to hit 55 homers and tie Sadaharu Oh, Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera for the NPB single-season record.

“I don’t set goals or I’ll jinx myself,” Brazell said. “I don’t care how many home runs I hit as long as we keep winning.”

The Tigers trailed 4-0 entering the seventh, then rallied into the lead with a six-run inning ignited by a two-run triple from Matt Murton. Unfazed, the Giants put together a three-run frame in the bottom half and looked to be in the driver’s seat after a go-ahead RBI double by Edgar Gonzalez.

Ochi retired Murton to start the eighth, but gave up a single to Takahiro Arai.

Brazell followed with his 27th home run of the season, tying him with Yomiuri’s Shinnosuke Abe, who also homered, for the most in Japan.

Brazell had minutes earlier made an error at first on a grounder hit by Abe, that loaded the bases for the Giants in the seventh and helped fuel their big inning.

“I felt relieved, after making the error the inning before,” Brazell said. “It was nice to redeem myself.”

The Tigers added two more runs in the ninth and closer Kyuji Fujikawa allowed the Giants to pull one back before nailing down his 14th save of the season.

Tomoyuki Kubota (4-2) won in relief and Ochi (2-3) took the loss.

Offensive fireworks were expected in the matchup between the Central League rivals, the first contest of their three-game series didn’t disappoint.

The Tigers pounded out 17 hits with Arai finishing 5-for-6 and Keiichi Hirano going 4-for-5. Murton had an off night, finishing 1-for-6, but had a pair of RBIs and extended his hitting streak to 17 games.

Yomiuri had a good night at the plate as well, cranking out 11 hits, and had three players (Hayato Sakamoto, Michihiro Ogasawara and Hisayoshi Chono) finish with at least two hits.

Besides Brazell, Takashi Toritani hit his eighth homer of the season for the Tigers while Sakamoto hit his 16th, Abe hit his 27th, and Chono hit his 11th for the Giants. There were also five errors, three hit batters and a failed squeeze play in a contest that lasted just over four hours.

Carp edge BayStars

HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) Yoshiyuki Ishihara doubled in the go-ahead run in the seventh as the Hiroshima Carp needed just one hit to beat the Yokohama BayStars 2-1 on Friday.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Marines 7, Lions 1

At Chiba Marine Stadium, Yoshihisa Naruse outpitched Hideaki Wakui to chalk up his fifth complete game of the season as Chiba Lotte beat Saitama Seibu for its third straight win.

Eagles 5, Fighters 2

At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Randy Ruiz hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the eighth as Tohoku Rakuten snapped Hokkaido Nippon Ham’s winning streak at six games.

Buffaloes 5, Hawks 2

At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Alex Cabrera hit his third homer in two games and Shogo Yamamoto limited the damage to two runs in 5 1/3 innings as Orix beat Softbank.