There’s a stuffed Giabbit doll headed Lillianne Mikolas’ way. If things go her father’s way, there’ll be whole lot more coming.
Miles Mikolas threw seven solid innings, Shinnosuke Abe and Hayato Sakamoto hit two-run home runs, and the Yomiuri Giants made a winning start to the 2017 NPB season with a 6-2 opening day victory over the Chunichi Dragons in front of a crowd of 45,331 on Friday night at Tokyo Dome.
Yomiuri players selected as “heroes” after home games receive toy replicas of team mascot Giabbit. Mikolas was deserving on opening day, allowing two runs — one earned — on six hits over seven innings to earn the win. Mikolas struck out four.
“I hope it will be a great season and that I can win many Giabbit mascot dolls for my daughter,” he said.
It’s been a busy, life-changing period for the Giants hurler. He was in the U.S. when wife Lauren gave birth to the couple’s daughter on March 20. He returned to Japan earlier this week and found out he would get the opening day start, something he called a “highlight of my career.” He kept his focus and held his emotions in check during the contest, which helped him keep the Chunichi lineup under wraps.
“Baseball’s my job, it’s my job to kind of control those emotions,” Mikolas said. “I think it’s something I’ve always worked on. Once I step out there on the mound, I’m just focused on the game. When I had time before the game, I was taking some video of the lights (from the pregame ceremony) and kind of soaking in that opening day feeling. That way, once the game started, it was just another baseball game.”
Abe drove in the first two runs of the 2017 Japanese baseball season with his two-run shot to right in the bottom of the first. The Giants veteran later hit an RBI single in the third and finished 2-for-4.
“I wanted to make sure to give us a lead so there would be no pressure on us to have to come from behind,” Abe said.
Sakamoto, who represented Japan during the World Baseball Classic, homered with a man aboard in the fifth and finished 2-for-3 with a stolen base.
“I was tired from the WBC, but I’m OK now,” Sakamoto said. “It’s too bad we (Samurai Japan) couldn’t win, but I’m glad we (the Giants) won tonight.”
Casey McGehee was 1-for-3 with an RBI double in his first game with the Giants. McGehee, who spent the last three seasons in MLB, was playing his first game in NPB since helping the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles defeat Yomiuri in Game 7 of the 2013 Japan Series.
“McGehee struggled through the preseason, but I decided to start him tonight and he came through with a big hit for us,” Giants manager Yoshinobu Takahashi said.
Chunichi’s Shota Sugiyama recorded his team’s only RBI with a sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth. The Dragons’ other run came later in the inning, when rookie when Yota Kyoda scored from second on an error by second baseman Daisuke Nakai.
Yudai Ono was charged with the loss after allowing six runs on nine hits in six innings. He struck out five and walked two.
The Dragons’ Alex Guerrero began his NPB career with a double and a single, while Kyoda was 1-for-4.
The teams return to the Big Egg on Saturday afternoon for the second game of the season. Kazuto Taguchi, a 10-game winner in 2016, will get the start for the Giants. The Dragons will counter with Raul Valdes in a matchup of left-handers.
“We have the first win under our belts,” Takahashi said. “It’s always good to start with a victory.”
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