Back to the old drawing board.
If the Yomiuri Giants were hoping that Roberto Petagine would make a smooth transition to his new position in the outfield, they were probably disappointed Friday night.
Petagine, a two-time Golden Glove first baseman with the Yakult Swallows before joining Yomiuri this season, made at least one damaging throwing miscue as the Chunichi Dragons romped to a 7-3 Opening Night victory over the Giants at Tokyo Dome.
The trouble started in the seventh inning. With the Giants leading 3-2, Yomiuri starter Koji Uehara gave up two consecutive singles to Kazuki Inoue and Masahiro Araki before pinch hitter Koichi Sekikawa drilled a single to right field, allowing Inoue to score.
Kosuke Fukudome followed up with a single to Petagine in right field that allowed Araki to come home and put the Dragons ahead 4-3.
Uehara, perhaps frustrated by losing his lead so quickly, walked Dragons shortstop Hirokazu Ibata on four pitches before Giants manager Tatsunori Hara sent lefty Yukinaga Maeda to the mound.
Maeda didn’t fare much better as Kazuyoshi Tatsunami knocked his third pitch into right field. This time Petagine attempted to throw home but instead sent the ball sailing several meters wide of catcher Shinnosuke Abe as Tatsunami reached second and the Dragons scored three more runs.
Those five runs in the seventh made a winner out of Chunichi starter Kenshin Kawakami, who surrendered a home run to Giants leadoff batter Takayuki Shimizu in the first inning then settled down and scattered four hits over the next four scoreless frames.
“I could sense that Uehara was fired up so I went out there and gave it everything I had,” said Kawakami.
“We had lost four straight games against Uehara so I really wanted us to win this one. I’m not really happy about how I pitched tonight but I am pleased with how the team backed me up. I really feel this may be our year to get the pennant.”
The Dragons roared back in the fourth inning on Alex Ochoa’s 146-meter solo shot over the center field fence and took a 2-1 lead on Fukudome’s home run in the fifth.
Daisuke Motoki and Abe hit back-to-back RBI singles in the sixth inning as the Giants briefly regained the lead.
Uehara was saddled with the loss after giving up seven runs — six earned — on eight hits and a pair of walks in 6 1/3 innings.
Petagine, batting fifth in the lineup despite being widely considered the best home run hitter in the league now that Matsui has gone to the New York Yankees, went hitless in four at-bats.
Prior to the season opener, the decision to place Petagine in the outfield, where he had not played since arriving in Japan four years ago, and having him bat fifth were widely questioned by critics outside the Giants’ clubhouse — particularly since Kiyohara’s injury prevents him from playing first base.
To his credit, Petagine showed good range in the outfield cleanly fielding several line drives and pop flies.
Hara didn’t place the blame for the Giants’ loss on any one player, nor did he give any indication after the game that he was thinking of moving Petagine back to first base.
“Uehara was a little tense, but I understand that since this is the season opener,” Hara said. “But I think we should take today’s game and try to learn from it. They didn’t give up any walks and we gave up three, and we had an error. That’s what made the difference today.”
Chunichi manager Hisashi Yamada said he wasn’t surprised by how his team played.
“We just kept on playing the way we did during the preseason and that’s what made the difference,” Yamada said.
BayStars 4, Tigers 2
At Yokohama Stadium, Tyrone Woods went 2-for-3 — including a solo homer in the eighth — and starter Yuji Yoshimi (1-0) tossed seven solid innings as Yokohama beat Hanshin to give new skipper Daisuke Yamashita his first career win.
Yoshimi allowed two runs on four hits and struck out four.
Matt Whiteside worked a perfect ninth for the save.
Carp 3, Swallows 1
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Hiroki Kuroda scattered seven hits over the distance, striking out five and walking none as Hiroshima downed Yakult.
Trailing 1-0 in the third, Jimmy Hurst and Kenjiro Nomura hit back-to-back RBI singles and the Carp added another run on Akinori Iwamura’s error to take a 3-1 lead.
Jason Hodges took the loss, allowing one earned run on four hits over seven innings.
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