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Chono making most of starting chance with Giants

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Yomiuri Giants rookie Hisayoshi Chono stays low-key no matter how he performs and whether he is in the starting lineup or not. All he cares about is how the team does.

The 25-year-old outfielder gave Yomiuri a big boost in its first game of three-game series against the Chunichi Dragons, who handed the Giants a series sweep a week earlier in Nagoya, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs in a 6-4 win at Tokyo Dome on Tuesday.

Chono drove in a run with a single to left to break a scoreless tie in the fourth inning, during which the Giants would end up notching four runs.

“I just tried to set the table for the batters after me,” a humble Chono said of the hit after the game.

Later, Chono, a right-handed batter, came up with another big hit that gave the team a two-run lead in the eighth.

But he did not bask in the glory, dwelling instead on a defensive mistake he made earlier in the game.

Chono said he needed the hit to make up his throwing error that eventually led to a tying run for the Dragons in the fifth.

“I had to throw to Hayato (Sakamoto at shortstop),” he said of the play. “So I wanted to do something there.”

Chono, last fall’s No. 1 draft pick by the Giants, lost opportunities to start in August, partly because of the return of Tetsuya Matsumoto, who had been injured since April.

But since the team’s last series against the Hanshin Tigers at home, manager Tatsunori Hara has put him in the starting lineup for four consecutive games (Chono had started just four games this month).

Hara, who had always spoken harshly of Chono, appeared to finally begin to express some positive thoughts about the first-year pro.

“He’s got wider vision now,” Hara said of Chono, who is hitting .297 with 16 homers and 44 RBIs. “He’s made enormous progress in terms of various things including how to read pitches.”

Chono seems thrilled with the chance he is being given with the Giants, who have arguably the deepest pool of talent in the NPB.

“It’s a privilege to be used as a starter in such an important series like this,” said Chono, who had twice turned down draft designation (to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and Chiba Lotte Marines) before he was chosen by Yomiuri. “So I’d like to play well.”

Yet for him, the priority still lies with the team, not himself.

Asked if he felt it was a shame he did not have a chance to start in the aforementioned three-game series sweep by the Dragons, Chono half-angrily responded that was not the point.

“When we lose, it’s always a shame,” he said. “If I’m in the game or not in the game, it doesn’t matter.”

Dragons burn Giants

Kyodo News

Masahiko Morino hit a tiebreaking RBI double in the seventh inning, Daisuke Yamai threw two-run ball over six-plus innings and the Chunichi Dragons downed the Yomiuri Giants 5-2 on Wednesday.

The front-running Giants saw their winning streak end at four games.

Alex Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth after Michihiro Ogasawara’s one-out triple, bringing him to 99 RBIs this season — one short of matching Sadaharu Oh’s mark of eight consecutive seasons with at least 100 RBIs.

Yamai (6-4) allowed four hits and struck out five while walking three. Hitoki Iwase escaped a two-on jam in the ninth for his 34th save. Shun Tono (12-6) took the loss.

Atsushi Fujii and Kazuhiro Wada added RBI doubles in the ninth to give Chunichi some breathing room.

Tigers 22, Carp 8

Swallows 7, BayStars 6

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Buffaloes 4, Hawks 2

At Fukuoka’s Yahoo Dome, Chihiro Kaneko (13-7) pitched two-run ball over eight innings for a personal-best ninth straight win and Alex Cabrera had an RBI single in a 2-for-4 outing as Orix beat Softbank.

Tsuyoshi Wada (14-7) lost his second in a row.

Fighters 11, Eagles 4

Marines 3, Lions 2