Alex Ramirez did the one thing no one else could at Tokyo Dome on Saturday night.
He drove a runner — himself actually — in to score.
Ramirez’s solo homer to center in the second inning off Hiroshima Carp ace Kenta Maeda provided the offense, and Tetsuya Yamaguchi and Yuya Kubo came up big out of the bullpen as the Yomiuri Giants edged the Carp 1-0 at the Big Egg in front of 40,361 fans.
“It’s a great feeling just to be able to win today,” Ramirez said. “This was an important game for us, especially with us facing Mae-Ken, and I’m glad that we won.”
Ramirez’s 18th homer of the season led off the second inning and extended the Yomiuri star’s current hitting streak to 10 games.
“I had a perfect swing and I hit it good,” Ramirez said. “I knew it was gone when I hit it.”
The occasion gave Ramirez a chance to do one of his patented home run performances.
This year, he’s used a special performance as a tribute to the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and he hadn’t forgotten them on the eve of the six-month anniversary of that tragedy.
“I came up with that performance because of what happened,” Ramirez said. “Hopefully I can come tomorrow and do it again. We’re trying to do our best to help the community by playing baseball and doing what we can to help.”
Yamaguchi entered the game with runners on the corners and two outs in the seventh and proceeded to walk the bases loaded. He retired the next batter to end the inning. The Giants lefty pitched himself into another jam in the eighth, only to escape unscathed.
Kubo closed things out in the ninth for his 17th save.
“Today it was totally a team effort,” Ramirez said. “The pitching staff did great. Those guys, Yamaguchi and Kubo, just came in and shut the door. It was huge for us. Of course, the home run was good, but these guys did a great job for us today.”
Kentaro Nishimura got the start for the Giants and allowed eight hits over 6⅔ shutout innings. The win was his seventh of the season, a new career high.
“He’s done well since he’s been in the starting rotation,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “I just hope he will keep up his fine pitching.”
The win put the Giants back into third place in the Central League standings. Yomiuri is a half-game behind the second-place Chunichi Dragons and trails the league-leading Tokyo Yakult Swallows by 5½. The Giants have 30 games left to try to make up ground.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time and we hope we can keep playing winning baseball,” Hara said.
Maeda (8-9) allowed one run on three hits in six innings on the mound in the loss.
The Carp had a plethora of chances to tie or take the lead, leaving 14 runners on base and ending the fourth and seventh innings with the bases loaded. They had another chance in the eighth after Masato Akamatsu hit a one-out single and advanced to third on a pinch-hit single Brian Barden.
That chance fell by the wayside like all the others when Yamaguchi caught Akihiro Higashide’s line drive to the mound and threw to first for an inning-ending double play.
Not that things were much easier for the Giants at the plate. The Kyojin only managed four hits, with Ramirez the only runner to advance past second.