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Late heroics carry Giants

Ogasawara belts game-changing home run in eighth for hosts

by Jason Coskrey

Chunichi Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai didn’t watch Michihiro Ogasawara’s last at-bat from the dugout. He didn’t need to either. The cheers of the Yomiuri faithful told him all he needed to know.

Ogasawara hit a go-ahead solo home run in the eighth — long after Ochiai was ejected for arguing a close play at first — and the Yomiuri Giants earned their fourth consecutive win with a 6-4 victory on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome.

“I didn’t do much in my first few at-bats, but that one swing made my night,” Ogasawara said.

Ogasawara led off the eighth by connecting on a 2-2 forkball from reliever Akinobu Shimizu to put the Giants in front. The homer was his 26th of the season.

Closer Marc Kroon did the rest, retiring the side in the ninth for his 19th save.

Minutes after the Giants finished their hero interviews, the Hiroshima Carp finished off the Hanshin Tigers, a result that put the Giants back into first place in the Central League.

The win snaps the Giants’ four-game losing streak against the Dragons — including a three-game sweep in Nagoya last week — and is their second victory in the teams’ last 10 meetings.

“We wanted to gain some momentum and we took today’s game,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.

Yomiuri rookie Hisayoshi Chono drove in a pair of runs on a 3-for-4 night and Hayato Sakamoto was 1-for-4 with two RBIs. Ryota Wakiya also recorded an RBI.

Giants reliever Daisuke Ochi (3-3) pitched a scoreless inning to earn the win. Shimizu (1-1) was charged with the loss.

Both starting pitchers were sharp at the outset, but neither factored into the decision after throwing one bad inning apiece.

Yomiuri’s Seth Greisinger made his fourth start of the year, yielding four runs — three earned — on seven hits with a pair of strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.

Greisinger is still working his way back from elbow surgery during the offseason. He breezed through the first four innings before running into trouble in Chunichi’s four-run fifth.

“It was a difficult decision to replace Greisinger,” Hara said, referring to relieving his starter with Yuya Kubo in the fifth. “We’re in a tight pennant race and I thought it was the right call after the Dragons tied the game.”

Chen Wei-yin struck out nine for Chunichi, allowing four runs on seven hits over six innings. Chen entered the game having won his last three starts against the Giants but ran into trouble in the fourth.

“We were up against a tough pitcher tonight,” Hara said. “So we were fortunate to score four runs against him early.”

The Giants loaded the bases against Chen in the fourth and got a pair of one-out RBI singles from Chono and Wakiya to go up 2-0. Chen struck out Greisinger for the second out, then gave up a two-run single to Sakamoto.

“I went into the batter’s box knowing a hit would give us the lead,” Chono said. “So I just concentrated on getting a hit.”

Chunichi began the fifth with a home run by Tony Blanco that cut the Yomiuri lead to three runs. The next batter grounded out, but the Dragons put runners on first and second with singles by Naomichi Donoue and Motonobu Tanishige.

Chen moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt, but was nearly safe at first on a slightly off-target throw by Greisinger that pulled Wakiya off the bag. Replays showed Wakiya made the catch with his foot still on the base.

Ochiai wasted little time coming out to argue the call, then wasted a lot of time voicing his opinion, eventually getting tossed from the game after the allotted five minutes managers have to argue expired.

The Dragons completed the rally in his absence with Masahiro Araki driving in a pair with a double and Atsushi Fujii tying the game with an RBI single.

The two teams meet for the second game of their three-game set on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome.

Shima sparks Carp

OSAKA (Kyodo) The Hanshin Tigers dropped out of first place with their fourth loss in a row as closer Kyuji Fujikawa (3-2) coughed up a game-winning home run to Hiroshima’s Shigenobu Shima. The Carp defeated the Tigers 5-4 in a Central League game on Tuesday.

Hiroshima’s Junpei Shinoda was ejected in the seventh inning for throwing at the head of Keiichi Hirano.

Swallows 13, BayStars 5

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Tokyo Yakult roughed up last-place Yokohama for 14 hits, returning to the .500 mark for the first time in four months.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Hawks 5, Buffaloes 4

At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Hitoshi Tamura’s first-inning grand slam set the tone for Fukuoka Softbank as D.J. Houlton (7-6) won for the first time since July 19.

Marines 9, Lions 2

At Chiba Marine Stadium, Bill Murphy worked six hard innings to pick up his 11th win of the season for Chiba Lotte, which rode a five-run fifth inning en route to victory.

Eagles 4, Fighters 1

At Akita Komachi Stadium, Hisashi Iwakuma scattered four hits over eight innings as Tohoku Rakuten rode a four-run first inning past Hokkaido Nippon Ham.