/

Timely hits carry Tigers

by Jason Coskrey

When you’re hot, you’re hot. Pretty much sums up Craig Brazell’s week.

Brazell hit a towering come-from-behind two-run home run in the fourth inning, Takashi Toritani added a three-run shot in the same frame, and the Hanshin Tigers coasted to a 8-2 win over the Yomiuri Giants in front of a crowd of 45,118 on Saturday at Tokyo Dome.

“Again today we used the home run ball and that style of play is working well for us right now,” Tigers manager Akinobu Mayumi said after watching his Tigers combine to hit five homers in two wins over the Giants.

Brazell now leads the NPB with 28 home runs and has been on fire all week. The Hanshin slugger hit three homers against the Chunichi Dragons on Tuesday and had a monstrous come-from-behind two-run blast in Friday’s 10-8 win over the Giants.

“I’m just focusing on trying to hit the ball well,” Brazell said. “That’s the big thing. I’m not trying to do too much. Just see the ball, hit it.”

Toritani homered for the second time in as many nights, hitting his ninth of the season. Teammate Kenji Johjima also homered, leading off the eighth with his 14th of the year.

“Everybody’s putting in, it’s not just one person doing it,” Brazell said. “Everybody is playing well.”

The Tigers climbed to within two games of the Giants in the standings, and Hanshin is an impressive 8-3 (4-1 at Tokyo Dome) against the Central League’s top team this season. Hanshin has won the last five games between the CL rivals.

“We’re hitting well now and since we’re only two games behind the Giants, tomorrow’s game will be big for us,” said Mayumi, referring to the final game of their three-game set.

Tigers outfielder Matt Murton was hitless through four at-bats before lining a double into right-center field in the ninth to extend his hitting streak to 18 games.

“I wasn’t thinking about that,” Murton said. “Not really focusing on personal goals. But if you’re getting hits in consecutive games, you’re probably helping your team win.”

Hanshin starter Naoto Tsuru lasted 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on six hits while striking out five to pick up the win. Tsuru (2-1) aided his own cause with an RBI bunt single in the sixth.

It was Tsuru’s second career win, the first coming earlier this year against Yu Darvish and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

“It doesn’t matter which team we play as long as we win,” Tsuru said. “But I guess it’s always special when we win over a pitcher such as Darvish and then beat the Giants.”

Ryo Asai had a busy night at the plate for Tigers, finishing 3-for-5, while Johjima finished 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs.

Edgar Gonzalez led the way for the Giants, going 2-for-3 with a solo homer. Pinch hitter Yoshinobu Takahashi drove in the team’s only other run.

Giants starter Shugo Fujii allowed five runs on seven hits over five innings and fell to 6-2 with the loss.

Swallows triumph

AKITA (Kyodo) Josh Whitesell had a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth inning, lifting the Tokyo Yakult Swallows to a 4-2 victory over the Chunichi Dragons on Saturday.

The Swallows have won five straight games.

BayStars at Carp — ppd.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Fighters 2, Eagles 1

At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Yu Darvish pitched his fourth complete game of the season as the surging Nippon Ham Fighters edged the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Darvish (8-4) allowed just five hits, struck out 10 and walked two in a 132-pitch outing.

Lions 7, Marines 2

At Chiba Marine Stadium, Hiroyuki Nakajima, Dee Brown and Hiroshi Hirao each homered in a four-run fifth inning, Kazuyuki Hoashi limited the damage to two runs in 7 1/3 innings and Saitama Seibu snapped its losing streak at four games in a win over Chiba Lotte.

Hawks 3, Buffaloes 1

At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Tsuyoshi Wada earned his Japanese baseball-leading 11th win with one-run ball over seven innings and Hidenori Tanoue and Jose Ortiz homered as Softbank snapped its three-game losing streak.