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Abe powers Giants past Lions

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

It takes a lot to stop the Yomiuri Giants once they get on a roll.

A whole lot more than Ryoma Nogami and the Seibu Lions had Friday night.

Shinnosuke Abe put the Giants ahead with a three-run home run in the third inning, and the Kyojin just kept piling on in a 7-2 win over the Lions in front of a crowd of 43,204 at Tokyo Dome.

“Abe is our cleanup hitter, so that’s his job, and tonight he did it well,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said of Abe’s home run.

The Giants improved to 2-1 during interleague play, which began earlier this week. The Kyojin lost to the Chiba Lotte Marines on the first night of NPB’s annual midseason competition, but have since won two straight.

“We are the defending interleague champions and if we keep playing like this, we can win it again,” Abe said.

Abe’s homer was his second in as many games and his 11th of the season, which leaves him behind only Yokohama BayStars slugger Tony Blanco (18) and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ Wladimir Balentien (12) in the Central League.

“I hope I can keep hitting the home runs at an opportune time,” Abe said.

Shuichi Murata also homered for Yomiuri, connecting on a solo shot in the sixth for his seventh of the season.

“It’s been a while since I was able to put the bat on the ball like that,” Murata said. “It felt good.”

Jose Lopez accounted for the Giants’ other runs with a three-run double in the seventh that was a few feet short of being a grand slam. Hisayoshi Chono, who has been slumping since a poor showing for Japan at the World Baseball Classic, had one of his best nights of the season, finishing 4-for-5 with a stolen base.

Giants starter D.J. Houlton gave up a two-run home run to Takumi Kuriyama in the first, but kept the Lions caged for the remainder of his seven-inning outing to earn the win. Houlton (4-1) allowed six hits and struck out a pair.

“Houlton’s start was a little shaky, but he settled in and pitched well from the second inning,” Hara said.

Kuriyama’s homer was the best the Pacific League’s second-place team could muster at the plate. The Lions recorded six hits on the night, with Hideto Asamura and Jose Ortiz each finishing with two and Ryo Sakata adding another.

Nogami took the loss to fall to 3-2. He was charged with four runs on eight hits and struck out six.

Asamura singled to begin the game and later went to second on an error by Houlton, who bounced a pickoff attempt to first. Shogo Akiyama tried to advance the runner, but Abe was able to field his sacrifice bunt attempt and fire to third to put out Asamura. Kuriyama followed with his two-run shot to right to give the Lions an early lead.

Chono and Soichiro Tateoka opened the third with singles, and were driven home by Abe’s go-ahead, opposite-field home run to left.

The Giants added an insurance run in the sixth on Murata’s solo shot, and Lopez’s bases-clearing double in the seventh put the game out of reach.

The teams will meet in the finale of their two-game series on Saturday night at the Big Egg. Takayuki Kishi (1-4) will be charged with helping the Lions get back on track, while rookie Tomoyuki Sugano (5-1) is scheduled to get the start for the Giants.

“Sugano has done well against the Central League teams, so I have no doubt he can continue his good pitching during the interleague season,” Hara said.

Yamasaki lifts Eagles

Nagoya
Nagoya

Chunichi’s Takeshi Yamasaki, a 44-year-old veteran, came off the bench and delivered a two-run, pinch-hit single off Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles closer Koji Aoyama (0-2) to lift the Chunichi Dragons to a 4-3, sayonara win on Friday.

The Dragons remained perfect in interleague, while the Eagles lost for the first time.

Chunichi overcame a 1-0 deficit in the fourth on Matt Clark’s fifth home run of the season, a two-run shot. It was his second home run in two games and marked the fourth straight game in which he had driven in a run. Rakuten, however, recaptured the lead on Ginji Akaminai’s two-run homer in the seventh.

Hawks 4, Tigers 2

At Koshien Stadium, Fukuoka Softbank’s Katsuki Yamazaki opened the scoring with a two-run, second-inning double off Randy Messenger (5-1) and Seiichi Uchikawa went 4-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI in a win over Hanshin.

Side-arm lefty Kazuyuki Hoashi (2-1) allowed a run in five innings to earn the win. Messenger lost for the first time since Sept. 11, snapping a string of eight straight winning decisions.

Carp 12, Buffaloes 1

At Hiroshima Prefecture’s Kure Stadium, right-hander Yusuke Nomura (1-2) allowed one run in his first career complete game as host Hiroshima hammered Orix for a season-high 12 runs on 17 hits. The Carp won their fourth straight game, while the Buffaloes saw their own six-game winning streak end.

Shota Dobayashi’s two-run double with no outs in the second inning opened the scoring against Buffaloes starter Tomoyuki Kaida (1-4), who gave up six runs in two innings. Dobayashi and teammate Tetsuya Ogikubo each drove in three runs for the Carp.

Swallows 6, Marines 5

At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Kazuhiro Hatakeyama hit a sayonara grand slam as Yakult came from behind to beat Lotte, which blew a ninth-inning lead for the second straight game.

Itsuki Shoda, the Swallows’ fourth pitcher of the game, retired the Marines in order in the top of the ninth to earn his first win in eight seasons. Two-time CL home run champ Wladimir Balentien hit his 12th homer of the season for Yakult, a two-run shot.

Fighters 6, BayStars 5

At Yokohama Stadium, Hokkaido Nippon Ham overcame five errors to snap a nine-game losing streak with two ninth-inning runs against Yokohama closer Shun Yamaguchi (4-2).

The BayStars lost their fifth straight game.

Fighters left fielder Sho Nakata made a costly error, but went 4-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs. Takahiro Imanami led off the top of the ninth with a double and Yang Dai-kang singled him home. Yang then stole a base and scored the go-ahead run on Yamaguchi’s second wild pitch of the inning.