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Giants’ Takahashi delivers pinch-hit single in ninth to end thriller against Swallows

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Yoshinobu Takahashi’s single in the ninth inning felt like one of the few hits that remained in the park in a game that at times resembled a home run derby.

Takahashi’s hit may not have gone as far as some of the night’s big blasts, but it certainly made the biggest impact.

Takahashi blooped a pinch-hit sayonara single into center in the ninth to record his first walk-off hit in two seasons and lift the Yomiuri Giants to a 6-5 win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on Thursday night at Tokyo Dome.

“It’s been a long time sine I got a sayonara hit,” Takahashi said. “It feels great.”

Hisayoshi Chono led off the ninth with a single off Swallows reliever Tony Barnette and advanced to second on Itaru Hashimoto’s sacrifice bunt. He went to third on a groundout by Hayato Sakamoto, who finished 4-for-5, and remained there when Shinnosuke Abe was intentionally walked.

Takahashi then stepped to the plate and delivered the winning blow for the Kyojin, much to the delight of most of the 44,508 in attendance.

The Giants have won seven of their last eight games and extended their current winning streak to six.

“Our team is playing great right now and we’ll try to keep the winning streak going,” Takahashi said.

The Central League leaders also stretched their advantage over the second-place Hanshin Tigers to 7 1/2 games ahead of the teams’ three-game series, which begins Friday at the Big Egg.

“It should be a great series with the Tigers,” Takahashi said. “I’m sure there will be a lot of Hanshin fans here and it will be really exciting.”

Thursday’s contest between the Tokyo rivals was pretty exciting in its own right.

The two teams had a big night at the plate, combining to hit five home runs.

Kazuhiro Hatakeyama and Tsuyoshi Ueda each had a two-run homer for Yakult, while Wladimir Balentien’s solo drive in the sixth was his NPB-leading 35th of the season.

Abe celebrated “Shinnosuke Abe Player’s Day” with a two-run shot, his 25th of the year, in the fifth, and Shuichi Murata hit a solo homer.

The Giants went ahead 1-0 on Daisuke Nakai’s RBI single in the second inning and extended their lead when Murata singled in a run in the third.

Hatakeyama tied the game with his two-run home run in the top of the fifth, but Abe broke the tie with a two-run shot that made the score 4-2 in the bottom half of the inning. The next batter, Murata, added a solo homer that put Yomiuri ahead 5-2.

The fireworks continued in the top of the sixth with Ueda bringing the Swallows within a run with his two-run blast, and Balentien tying the score with his solo home run.

Kentaro Nishimura (3-3) pitched a scoreless ninth and ended up the winning pitcher after Takahashi’s heroics. Barnette (0-6) was charged with the loss.

The Swallows return to Jingu Stadium to face the Hiroshima Carp on Friday, while the Kyojin will send Hirokazu Sawamura to the hill against the Tigers’ Jason Standridge at Tokyo Dome.

Lewis lifts Carp

Kyodo
HIROSHIMA

Former San Francisco Giant Fred Lewis hit a tie-breaking two-run home run in the seventh inning as the Hiroshima Carp won a seesaw game, 7-6, and sent the Yokohama BayStars to their second straight defeat on Thursday in the Central League.

Ryuhei Matsuyama tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the first with a sacrifice fly and Lewis doubled in a run to give the Carp their first lead.

Trailing 5-4 in the seventh, another sac fly from Matsuyama tied it before Lewis went deep for the fourth time this year.

Dragons 6, Tigers 4

At Koshien Stadium, 19-year-old Shuhei Takahashi drove in five runs with two singles and a grand slam to power Chunichi past Hanshin.

Lefty Masahiro Yamamoto, Japan’s oldest active player at age 47, started and allowed three runs in four innings for the Dragons and left trailing 3-2. Chunichi’s bullpen, however, held Hanshin to a run over five innings, and Takahashi’s sixth-inning slam was a key moment in the victory.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Hawks 11, Buffaloes 3

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Nobuhiro Matsuda had a happy homecoming with his 100th career homer, a three-run shot that helped Fukuoka Softbank record a 11-3 rout of Orix.

Matsuda, a native of Kansai, made himself at home at the Buffaloes’ home park, with his milestone home run. He hit his first career home run in the same park.

“I’m happy it contributed to a win,” Matsuda said. “This is the park closest to my home, and a lot of friends were here. It’s great to hit my 100th here.”

The Hawks took a three-run, first-inning lead and lefty Kazuyuki Hoashi (7-4) held the Buffaloes to a run over six innings and left with a 3-1 lead.

Fighters 4, Marines 3

At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Hokkaido Nippon Ham’s Michel Abreu went 3-for-4 with a tie-breaking solo homer off Chiba Lotte starter Yuki Karakawa (5-8).

The visitors overcame a two-run deficit to tie it in the fourth inning. In the sixth, Abreu hit his 22nd homer of the season and PL home run leader Sho Nakata followed with his 23rd blast.