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Early outburst ignites Giants in series opener against Tigers

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The Yomiuri Giants must have had somewhere to be after their game on Friday night. Because they didn’t waste any time putting the Hanshin Tigers away.

The Giants put together a four-run first inning against Tigers starter Randy Messenger and never looked back in a 6-3 win at Tokyo Dome.

“We had a real good inning there and pretty much put the game away early,” Giants outfielder Yoshinobu Takahashi said.

The old Central League rivals continue to go in opposite directions as the first-place Giants won for the seventh time in eight games, and the fifth-place Tigers lost for the eighth time in nine.

Takahashi finished with an RBI single and RBI double, while Yoshitomo Tani drove in a run with a towering homer deep to left in the second.

“I knew it was gone as soon as I hit it, but was surprised it carried that far,” Tani said of his blast into the second deck.

Edgar Gonzalez was 2-for-3 with an RBI and Shinnosuke Abe, recently named the CL Monthly MVP for hitters for June, drove in a run with his only hit in four at-bats.

Sawamura improved to 6-7 after allowing two runs — one earned — in 6 2/3 innings. Sawamura struck out six and walked two. The second-year hurler has pitched well against the Tigers, having allowed just four runs — three earned — in 28 1/3 innings against Hanshin this year.

“He’s not really making many mistakes,” Tigers first baseman Craig Brazell said of Sawamura. “He’s throwing a lot of good pitches. He’s getting of out jams when he has to; that’s the big thing. We got some hits off him, but he got of jams when he needed to.”

Messenger (4-8) had a decidedly rougher outing, allowing six runs on seven hits and walking four — one intentional — in two innings on the mound.

“Giving up six runs in two innings, that’s awful,” Messenger said. “Just an inconsistent and off-night.”

He walked Hisayoshi Chono to lead off the game and later, after a sacrifice bunt by Tani, walked Hayato Sakamoto. Messenger retired Shunichi Murata for the second out, but gave up consecutive RBI singles to Abe and Takahashi, and an RBI double to Gonzalez. He later walked Sawamura with the bases loaded to give the Giants a 4-0 lead.

Messenger gave up Tani’s towering solo shot and Takahashi’s RBI double in the second.

“You just have to put it behind you,” Messenger said. “It’s over, it’s done with, move on to the next start.”

Hanshin’s Takashi Toritani led off the fourth with a single, went to second on a single by Takahiro Arai and later scored on a Sakamoto throwing error to put Hanshin on the board.

Toritani drew a bases-loaded walk in the seventh, which made the score 6-2. In the ninth, he lined a single up the middle against reliever Scott Mathieson to score Keiichi Hirano from second.

Toritani finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs.

Hanshin, which has lost four straight, simply wants to get things turned around as quickly as they can. The Tigers will send Atsushi Nomi (5-5) to the mound on Saturday, in hopes the left-hander can help get things on the right track.

“We just have to keep playing,” Brazell said. “Don’t put our heads down, relax, not get all uptight, and we just gotta go out and play. You can’t worry about what’s going on. It’s part of baseball. Good teams go through funks.”

The Giants left encouraged by their strong start to the three-game series.

“It is always big when we beat the Tigers,” Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara said. “I hope we can grab another victory tomorrow.”

They’ll try to keep it going with southpaw Toshiya Sugiuchi (9-2) on the hill.

“We were able to win today’s game, but today is today and tomorrow is another day,” Takahashi said. “We hope to repeat tonight’s performance tomorrow.”

Dragons edge BayStars in 10th
Nagoya
KYODO

Three pitchers combined on a three-hit shutout and Kazuhiro Wada hit a one-out walkoff solo homer in the bottom of the 10th inning as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Yokohama BayStars 1-0 on Friday.

The Dragons, who had allowed 12 runs in each of their last two games, got eight solid innings at Nagoya Dome from Shinji Iwata, who allowed just three singles and one walk to help Chunichi snap a five-game losing streak.

Lefty Enyelbert Soto and right-hander Jorge Sosa (3-0) each worked a perfect inning of relief for the Dragons, who threatened throughout the game but could not reach the scoreboard until Wada’s sixth homer of the year, off right-hander Hitoshi Fujie (1-1).

Fujie, the fourth reliever after Kentaro Takasaki gave the visitors eight gritty innings, struck out Yohei Oshima on six pitches to open the inning. A 1-0 delivery to Wada, however, ended it as the Dragons improved to 12 wins and three ties since they last lost at home on May 16.

Swallows at Carp — ppd.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Eagles 6, Lions 2

At Seibu Dome, first-time All-Star Ryo Hijirisawa went 3-for-3 with a sacrifice fly while emergency starter Takahiro Shiomi (6-8) allowed two runs in five innings as Tohoku Rakuten defeated Seibu.

Shiomi got the start when Masahiro Tanaka felt discomfort in his right shoulder before the game. Seibu right-hander Fumiya Nishiguchi (5-2), who became the 45th player to reach 2,500 career innings pitched, allowed five runs in three innings of the loss.

Buffaloes 11, Marines 7

Fighters 5, Hawks 5 (9)

Eagles acquire Harper

Sendai
KYODO

The Tohoku Rakuten Eagles have signed former BayStars first baseman Brett Harper, the Eagles announced on Friday.

The 193-cm, 112-kg Harper, who played the past two seasons for Yokohama, will receive ¥15 million, including a signing bonus to play for the Pacific League club for the remainder of the season.

The 30-year-old hit .343 in 85 games this season in the Mexican League for Acereros. He ranks ninth in the league in on-base percentage (.425) and fourth in slugging average (.645).

Acquired midway through the 2010 season, Harper batted .294 with 28 home runs and 95 RBIs in 167 games for Yokohama but was not re-signed after the season.