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Cool-headed Muranaka fells Giants in return to mound

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Kyohei Muranaka made his return to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows under the bright lights at the Big Egg.

If that affected him at all, he never let it show.

Muranaka threw six innings of one-run ball, and Hiroyasu Tanaka provided the winning margin with a solo home run to lead off the sixth inning as the Swallows beat the Yomiuri Giants 2-1 on Friday night at Tokyo Dome.

“Muranaka’s return and pitching so well is huge for us,” Swallows manager Junji Ogawa said. “I am counting on him for a lot of wins in the second half of the season.”

An earthquake briefly stopped play in the bottom of the ninth inning, when the Giants were down to their last strike. Announcements were made over the PA system to calm fans and the game resumed without incident soon after.

The contest ended almost as soon as it re-started, with Hisayoshi Chono swinging and missing the next pitch from Lim Chang Yong.

With the win the Swallows have won eight straight against the Giants and improved to 8-2-2 against their crosstown rivals.

Muranaka (1-0) hadn’t started since May 1, when he suffered a right oblique tear. He said his speed wasn’t quite up to par, but he was still able to hold the Giants to a single run on four hits.

“I was a little nervous,” Muranaka said. “But I was able to focus on (catcher Ryoji) Aikawa-san.”

Relievers Kenichi Matsuoka and Takehiko Oshimoto worked the seventh and eighth innings respectively, and Lim threw the ninth for his 19th save of the year.

“I would have liked to pitch a complete game, but our bullpen is strong,” Muranaka said. “I am just happy I could pitch so well and get the win.”

The Yakult offense only managed four hits but made them count.

Wladimir Balentien was 1-for-4 but drove in the first run of the game with a RBI-double in the first.

“My approach was to look for something in the strike zone and hit it,” Balentien said.

Yoshiyuki Kamei pulled a run back with an RBI single to left for the Giants in the third, before Tanaka put Yakult ahead to stay in the sixth with his first homer of the year.

“I’m not a home run hitter, but was disappointed I had none this season,” Tanaka said. “Now I have one.”

Giants slugger Alex Ramirez did not compete in the loss, signaling the end of his consecutive games streak at 985. A bruised foot limited him to a pinch-hit appearance on Thursday and kept him out of the starting lineup again on Friday.

Manager Tatsunori Hara said he was aware of the situation, but couldn’t find a good place to get Ramirez in the game.

Rookie pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura (5-7) was solid in defeat for Yomiuri, giving up two runs on four hits and striking out six. He also allowed four walks.

Carp rip into Dragons

KYODO
Sapporo

Takamitsu Io went 3-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs, Bryan Bullington (9-4) threw eight shutout innings and Hiroshima beat Chunichi 6-0 at Nagoya Dome on Friday.

BayStars 4, Tigers 0

At Yokohama Stadium, Shuichi Murata hit a solo home run in the sixth and Naoyuki Shimizu (1-2) pitched seven scoreless innings.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Fighters 10, Lions 2

At Sapporo Dome, the Fighters roughed up struggling Seibu ace Hideaki Wakui early.

Eagles 4, Buffaloes 0

At Kleenex Stadium, Takashi Kawai (1-3) and four relievers combined on a seven-hit shutout.

Hawks 6, Marines 4