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Ramirez, Ishikawa carry BayStars past Swallows

Rami-chan gets 2,000th hit on sixth-inning solo blast

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The Yokohama BayStars had their day brightened by a pair of home runs that must have looked like rays of sunshine on a gray, rainy afternoon.

Alex Ramirez recorded the 2,000th hit of his storied NPB career with a solo home run to lead off the sixth inning and Takehiro Ishikawa added a go-ahead, three-run shot later in the frame as the BayStars rallied for a 6-3 victory over the Swallows on Saturday at Jingu Stadium.

“When I hit it, I didn’t think the ball was going to go out,” Ramirez said. “I though it was going to hit the fence. I heard people clapping and yelling, and I realized it was a home run.

Ramirez became the first foreign player to reach 2,000 hits in Japan, though others have 2,000 when their NPB and MLB numbers are combined.

He grounded out to short in his first at-bat against former teammate Masanori Ishikawa and drew a walk his next time up. Ramirez worked the count to 3-2 in his third trip to the plate, ending a 10-pitch at-bat with his solo shot to left, his first of the season.

Ramirez’s blast cut Yakult’s lead to 3-2, and Ishikawa added a three-run shot of his own later in the frame to put the BayStars on top.

“That was the key in that inning,” Ramirez said of his home run. The whole team just responded.”

Yokohama’s Kenji Tsuchiya picked up the win in relief and Shun Yamaguchi delivered a scoreless ninth for the save. Yakult reliever Kenichi Matsuoka was charged with the loss.

Yakult’s Kazuhiro Hatakeyama went deep to left to start the scoring with a solo home run in the second.

The Birds tacked on another run on an error in right field by Nyjer Morgan, on a single by Shinya Miyamoto, that allowed Hatakeyama to score from second in the fourth. Catcher Ryoji Aikawa followed Miyamoto with an RBI double to make the score 3-0.

Yokohama’s Sho Aranami led off the fifth with a triple and was driven home on a double by catcher Kazunari Tsuruoka.

Ramirez and Ishikawa put Yokohama ahead to stay with their home runs in the sixth, and Yokohama bullpen held the Swallows at bay the rest of the way.

Giants remain unbeatenKYODO

Marquee rookie Tomoyuki Sugano earned his first win as a pro on Saturday as the Japan Series champion Yomiuri Giants improved to 6-0 this season with a 6-4 win over the Chunichi Dragons at Tokyo Dome.

The right-hander, who did not play baseball in 2012 so that he would be eligible to re-enter last fall’s draft, held his Central League rivals hitless until a pair of two-out singles in the fourth. Sugano allowed four runs in eight innings in a game that saw all four foreign position players homer.

Former Seattle Mariners regular Jose Lopes made it a 3-1 game with a two-run, fourth inning shot for Yomiuri, while former San Francisco Giant John Bowker hit a solo homer in the sixth. It was the third homer for each player, while Bowker’s was his third in three games.

The Dragons new foreign duo of Hector Luna and Matt Clark drove in all four of Chunichi’s runs. Luna, who spent seven seasons in Triple-A, got the first hit off Sugano, and belted a three-run shot in the sixth. Clark, whose pinch-hit single put him on base before Luna’s blast, hit a solo shot in the eighth. It was the first homer in Japan for each player.

Sugano (1-0) allowed four runs on six hits. He struck out seven without a walk. Right-hander Kentaro Nishimura struck out two in a perfect ninth for his third save.

The Giants took the lead in the first on a one-out RBI double by shortstop Hayato Sakamoto, who went 3-for-4.

Tigers at Carp — ppd.

PACIFIC LEAGUE


Hawks 6, Fighters 0

At Sapporo Dome, the Hawks bombarded Hokkaido Nippon Ham starter Brian Wolfe (0-2) with a three-home run salvo from Kenta Imamiya, Tomoaki Egawa and Yuki Yanagita as Fukuoka Softbank reached double digits in hits for the first time this season with 13.

Hawks southpaw Daiki Yamada (1-0) worked five scoreless innings, allowing three hits and three walks, while striking out four.

Eagles 3, Marines 2

At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Kazuo Matsui doubled in Tohoku Rakuten’s first run and his RBI ground out broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth. Teammate Akihisa Makida scored two runs and helped set up the third as Chiba Lotte suffered its third straight defeat.

Jim Heuser (1-0), the Eagles’ third pitcher, earned the win after throwing two pitches in the top of the eighth inning. With two on and one out, Josh Whitesell hit Heuser’s second pitch into a double play.

Lions 4, Buffaloes 1

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Seibu’s Mitsugu Ishikawa drove in his first career run with a game-tying single in the eighth inning, and Jose Ortiz put the Lions in front with an RBI single in the ninth in a win over Orix.

Former Hiroshima Carp closer Dennis Sarfate earned a precarious first Pacific League win. After a pair of one-out walks, Takahiro Okada was thrown out on the bases after a single to keep the game tied 1-1 going into the ninth.

Tateyama update

KYODO

Tokyo Yakult Swallows right-hander Shohei Tateyama, the winner of 63 games over the past five seasons, was diagnosed with ligament damage in his right elbow on Saturday. The club has also lost catcher Ryoji Aikawa for two months.

The 32-year-old Tateyama left Friday’s start against the Yokohama BayStars in the fourth inning, complaining of discomfort in his pitching elbow. On Saturday an examination at the same hospital in Gunma Prefecture where he underwent ligament reconstruction surgery in March 2004 revealed ligament damage.

Although further tests will be needed to determine whether Tateyama will need surgery, it appears he will be away from the team for a prolonged spell.

Meanwhile, Aikawa, who has played for Japan at two World Baseball Classics, suffered damage to a joint in his left shoulder in a home plate collision on Saturday and is expected to miss two months.