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Ramirez moves closer to 2,000 hits as BayStars edge Swallows

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Alex Ramirez said before the game that it felt good to have a chance to achieve his 2,000th hit at Jingu Stadium, where he started his career in Japan with the Yakult Swallows.

The 38-year-old Venezuelan got a little closer to making it happen on Friday.

Yokohama star Ramirez, seeking his 2,000th hit in Japan, came up a little short of history but had a pair of hits to put himself one away from the milestone in the BayStars’ 2-1 victory over the Swallows in the first game of their three-game series.

Ramirez, who played for the Swallows for seven years from 2001, had an RBI single in the fourth to give Yokohama a 1-0 lead and another single in the eighth. Overall, he went 2-for-3 with a walk.

Right-hander Kentaro Takasaki (1-0) was sharp and pitched one-run ball over seven innings to get a win in his first start of the season. He allowed four hits, one run and fanned five batters.

“It feels very good,” Ramirez said after the game. “Today’s game was a very good game. Takasaki-san pitched a great game today. It was totally a team effort today. I feel pretty good.”

With Yokohama up 1-0, Yakult tied the game with a Keizo Kawashima solo homer in the fifth. But the BayStars’ Sho Aranami drove in the go-ahead run with his bases-loaded RBI single in the sixth.

Aranami had three singles on that night.

After Takasaki left the mound, Teruaki Yoshikawa worked in the eighth and Shun Yamaguchi ended the game to get his third save of the year.

“Frankly speaking, I’m so pleased,” said Takasaki, who was once thought to be the club’s Opening Day starter but was scratched due to an leg injury. “Our coaches told me to give everything I got after the third inning, so I did, and it worked.”

Swallows starter Shohei Tateyama left the mound after just 3⅓ innings. He apparently hurt his right elbow.

Ramirez is now one hit shy of becoming the first foreign-born player to get to 2,000 hits.

But while everybody else is making fuss about the milestone, Ramirez isn’t in a rush to get there.

“Of course everybody expects me to hit and I expect myself to hit,” Ramirez said. “Like I said, hits will come no matter what. I still got plenty of time.”

Ramirez was more pleased that he chipped in for the team by coming through at the right time in the fourth inning.

“Just being able to hit in those situations, that’s where the team needs me to hit, so I’m just glad I was able to produce in that kind of a situation.”

Nevertheless, Jingu would still be a great place for him to get hit No. 2,000.

“Of course I’ve got good memories,” he said. “I played here for seven years at this stadium. It’s just good feeling that I was able to be back at this stadium and now I got a chance to make a history in front of my fans here.”

The second game of the BayStars-Swallows series will begin at 2 p.m. at the same venue on Saturday.