/ |

Quick start has Rami thinking big for Giants


Alex Ramirez hit home runs in consecutive at-bats during last year’s All-Star series, which sparked an amazing late season performance, during which he won back-to-back monthly MVP awards in August and September.

He’s gotten things going a little earlier this year.

Just one week removed from the end of a 27-game hitting streak, one that tied for the sixth longest in Japanese baseball history, Ramirez is putting up league MVP-type numbers for the Yomiuri Giants.

“I think I’m playing better now than I did last year after the All-Star break,” said Ramirez, who was named the Central League’s monthly MVP in May. “If you look at my numbers, what I did last year for the last three months, I almost have that this year in two months. So it’s way better.”

The Yomiuri star’s numbers have been staggering during the early part of the season.

Through Thursday’s games, Ramirez is batting .326 and currently leads Japanese baseball in home runs (18), and is the Central League leader in RBIs (53), slugging percentage (.620) and is tied for the league lead in doubles (17).

He’s one of the league’s most reliable batters with runners in scoring position as well, batting .411 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs.

“I feel pretty good,” Ramirez said. “The first two months of the season I never really do good. I’ve always started slow. Hopefully I continue playing the way I’ve been playing.”

Ramirez also put up big numbers last season as a member of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. Ramirez hit .343 with 29 home runs and 122 RBIs.

Ramirez has given some credit for his play to his hitting coach, who the slugger says hasn’t tried to change his style at the plate since he joined the Giants as a free agent this season.

“Being with a new team, sometimes they say you gotta change this, you gotta change that,” Ramirez said.

“But we didn’t really change anything. We just worked on things I brought over from the Swallows. He just helped me maintain that. He just tells me things like ‘watch your hands’ which is good for me.”

Ramirez feels like great hitters simply need a reminder from time to time, rather than constant poking and prodding at their approach, when they get off track.

“Like this guy,” Ramirez said gesturing to reigning CL MVP Michihiro Ogasawara, “you can’t teach this guy anything about hitting. Just every now and then just tell him ‘remember your hands.’ That’s enough.”

Turning back the clock: The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks took a stroll down memory lane (although not a very long one) on Thursday night, taking the field against the Chunichi Dragons in throwback uniforms.

The Kyushu club was decked out in Fukuoka Daiei Hawks garb during the 3-2 win at Yahoo Dome. The result mirrored the outcome of the 1999 Japan Series in which Daiei defeated the Dragons to win the title.

The Hawks, who are celebrating the double anniversary of their 70th year as a franchise and 20th in Fukuoka, have also worn uniforms from their time as the Nankai Hawks (from 1938-1988 when the club was based in Osaka) this season.

Close call: Submarine hurler Shunsuke Watanabe threw his first shutout of the season in the Chiba Lotte Marines’ 1-0 victory over the Hiroshima Carp on Wednesday.

The 1-0 result was a margin of victory that was a bit narrow by Watanabe’s standards in his seven career shutouts.

The Lotte hurler is used to a little more breathing room, having tossed shutouts in a 26-0 game, an 18-0 game and an 8-0 game during his career.

Confidence booster: If the recent tilt between baseball’s top two teams was indeed a Japan Series preview, the Hanshin Tigers will be feeling pretty good on Nov. 1 when the title series begins.

The Central League-leading Tigers lost 6-3 to the Seibu Lions on Thursday but still won the season series against the PL leaders 3-1.

The Tigers had outscored the Lions 13-6 in the teams’ first three meetings, before being held in check by Seibu ace Hideaki Wakui in the final game on Thursday at Seibu Dome.

Leadoff men for both clubs had productive series, with Hanshin’s Norihiro Akahoshi, who recorded a hit in all four games, going 6-for-18 (.333) with two RBIs and Seibu’s Yasuyuki Kataoka finishing 8-for-19 (.421) with five RBIs.

Hanshin’s Tomoaki Kanemoto, who was the only other player to hit safely in all four games, was the only player with at least one RBI in each game of the series. Kanemoto was 4-15 (.267) with a home run and four RBIs against Seibu.