Luis Cruz thought he had a home run in his first game in a Yomiuri Giants uniform, but had to settle for a double following a replay review.
He didn’t leave any doubts this time.
Cruz connected on a three-run home run, Hisayoshi Chono added a two-run shot and the Giants jumped all over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ pitchers for a 10-5 victory in front of a crowd of 43,307 on Saturday afternoon at Tokyo Dome.
“I’m happy we were able to get some hits today and hopefully tomorrow we win again,” Cruz said.
Cruz, who joined the Kyojin as a free agent after two seasons with the Chiba Lotte Marines, hit a ball off the top of the wall in the season opener on Friday, narrowly missing a home run. On Saturday, he got a cutter that fell right over the plate from Yakult starter Masanori Ishikawa and deposited the ball deep into the stands in left field for a three-run homer.
“My timing feels good right now,” Cruz said. “I got a good pitch to hit and I didn’t miss it. I hit it OK.
“Yesterday, it was two strikes, I just tried to get a bat on it. Today, I wasn’t looking for that. I was looking for a changeup away, and that helped me stay close.”
Cruz also recorded a pair of singles and finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
“I know it’s not going to be like this every time,” he said. “I gotta prepare to hit the ball back to the middle and get my hits and whenever I have men in scoring position be able to concentrate more and hit the ball hard.”
He said he’s still learning the Central League, but that new manager Yoshinobu Takahashi, a player himself until last season, has eased the transition.
“He played for a really long time and he was a really good hitter, and he had a leg kick,” Cruz said. “I can ask him about the leg kick. I feel very confident and happy to be here. Hopefully we all have a good year and make it all the way to the final.”
Chono’s two-run blast in the sixth was his second in as many games. He also went deep in Yomiuri’s season-opening win.
Yoshiyuki Kamei didn’t homer, but inflicted some damage with a pair of run-scoring doubles on a 2-for-3 day. Seiji Kobayashi finished with two RBI singles and Shuichi Murata also drove in a run.
Yomiuri pitcher Hayato Takagi, buoyed by the wealth of run support, won in his first start of the season.
“I really have to thank the offense today,” Takagi said. “The hitters supported me with a lot of runs. It made my job easier.”
Takagi (1-0) allowed two runs on six hits, striking out one and walking two. He drew a walk at the plate in the sixth inning and later scored on Chono’s home run.
“I felt great today, but got a little tired in the seventh inning, when I gave up two runs,” Takagi said.
Ishikawa’s day was decidedly worse. The Yakult lefty allowed five runs on eight hits and lasted just four frames. Ishikawa (0-1) struck out one and walked one. Reliever Masato Furuno also had a rough day, allowing four runs. Takeaki Tokuyama also gave up a run.
Takahiro Araki, a defensive replacement for Kazuhiro Hatakeyama at first base, drove in three runs with a double in the ninth inning and finished 2-for-2 at the plate. Shortstop Keiji Obiki drove in a run with an RBI double in the seventh, one of his two hits. Pinch hitter Ryosuke Morioka drove in the Birds’ other run.
The Giants got things started early with Kamei and Kobayashi each driving in a run during the second inning. Cruz tacked three runs onto the lead with his homer in the third. The Yomiuri advantage ballooned to 7-0 in the fifth after Kamei’s RBI double and Murata’s run-scoring hit. Chono made it 9-0 with his homer in the sixth.
The Swallows finally got on the board in the seventh with Obiki and Morioka each driving in runs.
Kobayashi struck again in the seventh, hitting an RBI single to center that made it 10-2.
The Swallows loaded the bases against Chiaki Tone in the ninth, and Araki’s two-out bases-clearing double made the score 10-5. Tone was pulled after allowing a single by Yuhei Takai, and Tetsuya Yamaguchi retired Tomotaka Sakaguchi to end the game.
The teams will finish their season-opening series on Sunday at Tokyo Dome. Rookie pitcher Juri Hara will make his debut for the Swallows while the Giants will send Kazuto Taguchi to the mound.
Gomez powers Tigers
Hanshin’s Mauro Gomez slugged a three-run homer off Chunichi’s Daisuke Yamai (0-1) in the fifth and the Tigers earned a 7-3 victory over the Chunichi Dragons on Saturday.
Tigers ace Atsushi Nomi (1-0) allowed two runs — one earned — over six innings as rookie manager Tomoaki Kanemoto earned his first win.
Dayan Viciedo went 3-for-4 with his second home run of the season for the Dragons.
Carp 3, BayStars 1
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Takahiro Arai and Soichiro Amaya hit back-to-back RBI singles in the sixth to bring Hiroshima from behind against Yokohama’s Yasutomo Kubo (0-1).
Former big leaguer Hiroki Kuroda (1-0) allowed nine hits and a walk over seven innings, but held the visitors to a single run.
Eagles 3, Hawks 3 (12)
At Sendai’s Kobo Stadium, Ginji Akaminai tied it against Fukuoka SoftBank starter Rick van den Hurk with a two-out, two-run, eighth-inning single, while Tohoku Rakuten relievers Koji Aoyama and Radhames Liz each pitched out of a jam to keep the game tied until it was called after 12 innings.
Marines 6, Fighters 4
At Chiba’s QVC Marine Field, Chiba Lotte overturned a two-run deficit in the sixth in a win over Hokkaido Nippon Ham.
Alfredo Despaigne’s second RBI double of the game broke a 4-4 tie before Seiya Inoue singled home another run as the Marines improved to 2-0.
Lions 9, Buffaloes 5
At Tokorozawa’s Seibu Prince Dome, Orix stung Ken Togame for five runs in the first, but rookie starter Taisuke Kondo could manage only three innings as Seibu came from behind against the Buffaloes’ bullpen.
Submarine right-hander Kazuhisa Makita pitched six scoreless innings of relief to earn the win as the Lions improved to 2-0.
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