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Ramirez, Giants deny Dragons again

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Are the Chunichi Dragons really the hottest team in the Central League?

Maybe. But the Yomiuri Giants look just as hot as the first-place Dragons and might cause them a problem in the upcoming postseason.

MVP slugger Alex Ramirez led the Giants’ 12-hit attack with a three-hit, four-RBI performance as Yomiuri completed a sweep of the Dragons in a three-game series with a 12-4 win at Tokyo Dome on Sunday afternoon.

With the overwhelming victory, Yomiuri has extended its winning streak to five, its longest streak since early August when it won seven consecutive games.

“It was a good three-game series for us,” Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara said after the game. “We’ve always played close games with Chunichi, so I think we earned a good result.”

The Giants put four runs on the board on a pair of RBI singles by Shinnosuke Abe and Ramirez, and a sacrifice fly by Daisuke Fujimura off Chunichi starter Daisuke Yamai in the third inning.

After escaping a bases-loaded pinch by Chunichi in the top of the fourth, Yomiuri extended its lead to 7-0 with a line-drive three-run homer by Ramirez in the bottom half.

“I was looking for something in the strike zone, early in the count,” Ramirez said of his 23rd dinger of the season. “I was able to put a good swing on that ball.”

The Giants’ relentless attack would not stop there. They racked up five more runs to inflict further damage on the Dragons, whose magic number to win the league pennant remains at one.

The Dragons scored two in the fifth, one in the sixth and another in the eighth. But it was too little, too late, although they ended up collecting 10 hits in the end.

Ramirez has been red hot lately. Sunday’s home run was his fourth in as many games.

“I always say it’s not how you start but how you finish,” Ramirez said. “I always do well at the end of the season. This is the most important time for the Tokyo Giants and I’m glad I could produce at this time.”

With Sunday’s win, the Giants clinched a playoff berth and wrapped up the season against Chunichi 12-10-2. Yomiuri will play its final regular season game on Saturday.

Tigers shut out Carp

KYODO

Atsushi Nomi and Kyuji Fujikawa combined on a two-hit shutout, leading Hanshin to a 2-0 win over Hiroshima at Koshien Stadium on Sunday.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Eagles 2, Fighters 0

At Sapporo Dome, Masahiro Tanaka pitched his sixth shutout of the season to become the first 19-game winner in Japan this year as Tohoku Rakuten beat Hokkaido Nippon Ham.

Lions 4, Hawks 4 (9)

At Seibu Dome, Jose Fernandez hit a game-tying double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning as Seibu battled to a tie with PL champion Softbank.