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John E. Gibson

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Tough to Swallow High-powered Giants suffer 2nd straight beating at Jingu

by John E. Gibson (Mar 30, 2008)

Just two days into the Central League schedule, it might be time for the Yomiuri Giants to look for the panic button.

The Tokyo Yakult Swallows, meanwhile, look like they can fly.

Aaron Guiel broke a tie with a bases-loaded single in a three-run seventh inning as the Swallows came back from an early three-run deficit to beat the defending Central League champions 6-3 on Saturday before 24,427 at Jingu Stadium.

The Swallows set the stage for the win by scoring three runs off their 2007 pitching star Seth Greisinger, who was making his Yomiuri debut after an offseason move.

"It was a little bit strange to see him in a different uniform," said Guiel, who was 3-for-4 with a double and the game's two biggest RBIs. "Each guy knows how good he was last year, and we knew we had to bring a good performance.

"It was nice to see the guys have good at-bats--battle him really hard with his changeup working really good, as usual. But one through nine battled him tonight."

The righty departed after laboring through 98 pitches over six innings, allowing three runs on 10 hits and a walk, while fanning three.

Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara praised Greisinger (last year's CL wins leader) but showed concern for his offense, which was shut out over the final eight innings.

"[Greisinger] worked hard to hang in there, throwing almost 100 pitches," Hara said. "We needed to find a way to score another run."

Hara went to the bullpen in the seventh and the first five Swallows reached base.

"The relievers have to bring their best in that situation," Hara said, grinding his teeth. "There was an error, but you have to work through those things."

The collection of high-priced Yomiuri players, including Alex Ramirez--Yakult's cleanup batter the past seven years--couldn't hold their three-run lead and folded by failing to cash in on numerous scoring opportunities. They stranded 11 runners and made two errors.

The Swallows pestered Yomiuri's bullpen with walks and rollers that snuck through the infield in the seventh.

Guiel came up with the infield in and bounced a ball into center to score Hiroyasu Tanaka and Norichika Aoki, who both reached off loser Kentaro Nishimura (0-1).

Shinya Miyamoto, who went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, then rolled one through the left side that stopped cold on the outfield turf.

A day after presenting skipper Shigeru Takada with his first win since Oct. 15, 1988 (when he managed the Nippon Ham Fighters) the Swallows can now sweep the series.

"There's enthusiasm at the beginning of the year," Guiel said. "We believe in ourselves and we did a lot of this exciting style of baseball in spring training.

"When the regular season hits, you expect the [Hanshin] Tigers, the Giants and the [Chunichi] Dragons to have their topnotch game.

"I'm not saying that we're going to go and take this division by storm, but I think with this new...style of play that we're implementing, there's maybe more chances for a team like us to scrap out some wins."

Takehiko Oshimoto, acquired in an offseason trade with Nippon Ham, earned the win in relief, and new South Korean addition Lim Chang Yong recorded his first save with a perfect ninth for his first save in Japan.

The Giants got bad news earlier in the day, when Tomohiro Nioka was diagnosed with a muscle tear in his right calf. The shortstop had surgery on his left knee over the winter.

In other Central League games:

Tigers 4, BayStars 3: Tomoaki Kanemoto went 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs, and lefty Minoru Iwata worked six innings for his first pro victory as Hanshin beat Yokohama at Kyocera Dome Osaka.

Kanemoto moved within nine hits of 2,000 in his career as the Tigers opened a season with back-to-back home wins for the first time since 1967.

Kanemoto also needs just five home runs to reach the 400 mark for his career.

Iwata allowed one run on six hits in six innings. The 24-year-old struck out five and walked two.

Dragons 5, Carp 3: Masahiko Morino started a three-run outburst with a third-inning solo homer as Japan Series champion Chunichi beat Hiroshima at Nagoya Dome for its first win of the season.

After opening the season with a 12-inning tie, the Dragons knocked Carp starter Colby Lewis for four runs in four innings.

Lewis tied a Japan record by being called for three balks in the game.


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