Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Dragons complete three-city series sweep of Giants

Fukuda lifts Chunichi with two-run double in seventh

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

The Chunichi Dragons beat the Yomiuri Giants here, they beat them there and, for this series at least, they beat them everywhere.

Nobumasa Fukuda capped a seventh-inning rally with a two-run double and the Dragons held on for a 3-2 victory over the Giants in front of 45,125 on Thursday night at Tokyo Dome.

“I just did my best,” Fukuda said of his eight-inning hit.

“Sakurai had pitched a good game,” he added, referring to Giants starter Toshiki Sakurai.

The Dragons swept the Kyojin in a series that took place in three different cities. Chunichi won the opener 4-3 on Tuesday in Niigata and then took the second game 8-4 in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture. It’s been three years since the Dragons took three straight from the Giants in the same series anywhere.

“I’m really happy,” Fukuda said.

In the finale of this series at the Big Egg, the Dragons’ backs were against the wall after the Giants broke a scoreless tie with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh.

Chunichi got to work quickly in the top of the eighth. Atsushi Fuji began the frame with a single to left off reliever Kota Nakagawa. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and reached third when Naomichi Donoue grounded out. Yohei Oshima then drew a walk to put runners on the corners with two outs.

Masami Ishigaki took advantage with a pinch-hit double that made the score 2-1 and ended Nakagawa’s night. Nobumasa Fukuda did even more damage, swinging at Scott Mathieson’s first pitch and connecting on a two-run double that gave the Dragons 3-2 lead.

“My intention was to be aggressive and I got a hit,” Fukuda said.

Neither starting pitcher factored into the decision despite both having decent nights. Chunichi’s Takumi Yamamoto allowed a pair of runs, both in the seventh, over six-plus innings before his teammates took him off the hook in the eighth. He struck out five and walked four.

“He still at an early stage,” Fukuda said of the Chunichi starter, who is in his third season. “Even though he gave up some runs, he didn’t give up hits easily and stayed focused until the end.”

Sakurai tossed seven scoreless frames, striking out four and walking one while allowing one hit.

“This was his best game this season,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.

Hiroto Fuku (2-0) retired three of the four batters he faced to get out of the seventh and earned the win in relief. Nakagawa (4-3) was charged with the loss.

The game was scoreless until Alex Guerrero hit a pinch-hit solo home run to lead off the seventh for the Giants. Yoshihiro Maru drove in another run with a sacrifice fly later in the inning to make it 2-0.

“We scored two runs, but we couldn’t protect a two-run lead for two innings,” Hara said.

The Kyojin, who are in first place in the Central League and trying to hold off the Yokohama BayStars, have lost five straight games.

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