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Rami-led Giants regain power in rout of Tigers

by Jason Coskrey

Moving a step closer to 40 home runs was the easy part for Alex Ramirez. Getting teammate Yoshitomo Tani to join him onstage for a post-game performance during the hero interview? Now that took some effort.

Ramirez drove in three runs and was one of four Yomiuri Giants to go deep, and the Yomiuri offense snapped out of a funk with a 12-5 rout of the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers on Friday at Tokyo Dome.

Ramirez homered to straightway center in the fifth to bring his Japanese baseball-leading total to 39 and is now four RBIs shy of 100 for the season. He ended the night 3-for-4.

“Today was a special day,” Ramirez said. “I hope tomorrow I can get some more RBIs, help the team win again and get close to 100 RBIs.”

Ramirez always does one of his patented “Yorokonde (with pleasure)” celebrations after home runs and whenever he’s a part of the hero interview after the game.

After Friday’s interview was over, Ramirez managed to coax the usually stoic and reserved Tani onto the stage to perform together, even though the latter initially refused.

“I think the hardest part was getting him to do the ‘Yorokonde’ together after the game,” a grinning Ramirez said. “He’s not used to doing that sort of thing. But it was good we could do that together and win as a team.”

Hayato Sakamoto and Edgar Gonzalez both hit two-run home runs, each finishing with three RBIs, while Hisayoshi Chono scored on Tigers catcher Kenji Johjima’s throwing error in the fifth.

Shinnosuke Abe homered and drove in two runs, while Tani ended the night 3-for-5.

“I hadn’t started a game in a long time,” Tani said. “So I went all out to make the most of it.”

The Giants also got a big assist from the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, who shut out the Chunichi Dragons 3-0, a result which moves the Giants back into second place in the CL standings.

The offense was a welcome change of pace for the Giants, who were a ninth-inning Sakamoto home run away from being no-hit on Wednesday and were shut out Thursday.

“Today was good for us,” Ramirez said. “The last three games have been tough for us. To be able to get those hits in those situations, it gives us back our confidence.”

Beating the Tigers pulls them within two games of the CL leaders, who lost for the first time in six games.

Kodai Sakurai and Kentaro Sekimoto each had pinch-hit RBI singles for Hanshin, and Lin Wei-zhu went 1-for-4 with an RBI. Outfielder Matt Murton was hitless in three at-bats but drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Keiichi Hirano singled home another run for Hanshin in the ninth.

Dicky Gonzalez (4-9) labored through five innings to earn the win, allowing a pair of runs on six hits and striking out three. The win was his first in more than three months.

“It’s huge he came through for us and got the win today,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “I hope he keeps pitching well for us.”

Tigers starter Tatsuya Kojima took the loss, falling to 0-3 after giving up four runs on six hits in 1 2/3 innings.