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Swallows sweep Giants out of Jingu

by John E. Gibson (Mar 31, 2008)

The Giants were hungry for a win in the finale of their three-game opening series, but the Swallows ate everything and stuck Yomiuri with the bill.

Masakazu Fukukawa's grand slam in the seventh blew the game open as Tokyo Yakult swept the Giants out of Jingu Stadium with a 10-2 win on Sunday.

It was the first time the club has swept Yomiuri to start the season since 1958--Shigeo Nagashima's rookie season--when the Kokutetsu Swallows took three from the Giants.

"It's nice to beat the Giants like this in the first series," said Yakult skipper Shigeru Takada, whose team didn't back down from the club that lured away former No. 4 hitter Alex Ramirez and righty Seth Greisinger in the offseason.

"No one believed we could do it. I can't believe we did it. But you know, I'm glad we started the season against the Giants."

Takada has reason to smile after his Swallows scored 22 runs in the series, while holding the Giants to seven.

The Swallows are not power-dependent and Takada praised his players for being patient at the plate and doing the little things.

"If we don't play this style of baseball, we're not going to compete. The players all seem to understand that and they're doing what they have to do."

Norichika Aoki did what he does best in the finale, going 4-for-4 with a double and an RBI, while Hiroyasu Tanaka collected three more hits to give him eight in the series.

The Swallows banged out 11 hits, but it was Fukukawa's big blast that left the visitors staggering.

"I wasn't really trying to hit a home run, I just wanted to make good contact," Fukukawa said. "It just happened to go out.

"I'm just very happy to get three straight from the Giants because we were looking forward to this series since camp."

The Giants were saving some of their top pitchers, including Koji Uehara and Tetsuya Utsumi, for their home opening series against the defending Japan Series champion Chunichi Dragons, which starts on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome. Now they'll need them to get their first win.

"We lost three games in a row [at times] last year, too," said Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara.

"We'll go back to the dome and start over. The lineup is battling but this is where we are right now. We just have to regroup."

But Hara also said roster moves involving hurlers are in store.

"We have to figure something out. And that might mean making some changes with our relievers."

In the sixth inning, the Swallows broke a 2-2 tie. Aaron Guiel drew a bases-loaded walk to force home one run, and Yasushi Ihara split the gap in left for a two-run double to make it 5-2 Swallows.

The Swallows opened the scoring in the bottom of the first. Tanaka continued his hot streak with a double to left-center field, and Aoki followed by hitting a shot to the same spot for an RBI double that made it 1-0.

Aoki moved to third on a flyout and scored when Yomiuri starter Masafumi Togano uncorked a wild pitch.

The Giants picked up a run in the third and got even in the fifth inning. Yoshinobu Takahashi led off with an infield single off Adam Riggs' glove at first base.

Two outs later, Lee Seung Yeop reached out and poked a slider into the gap in left-center field for a double that plated Takahashi.

In the seventh inning, the Swallows' Shinya Miyamoto drove in a run with a single before the Swallows loaded the bases with one out.

In other Central League games:

Tigers 7, BayStars 0: Takahiro Arai went 3-for-3 with a walk and five RBIs for his new team and Shinobu Fukuhara threw a shutout as host Hanshin completed a three-game sweep of Yokohama.

Dragons 4, Carp 0: Takashi Ogasawara and three relievers combined on a shutout as Chunichi beat Hiroshima in Nagoya.

Tyrone Woods' RBI double opened the scoring in the first, while Masahiko Morino's fourth-inning homer made it 2-0. Norihiro Nakamura hit a two-run shot in the sixth.

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Pacific League

Buffaloes 4, Marines 1: Hidetaka Kawagoe allowed a run in seven innings and Orix rocked Chiba Lotte starter Shunsuke Watanabe for three runs in the eighth inning in Chiba to snap a four-game losing skid.

Lions 5, Hawks 1: Shota Oba's second pro start was a tough one. After throwing a shutout in his pro debut, the Fukuoka SoftBank rookie allowed three home runs in a five-run fourth inning as Seibu won at Seibu Dome.

Eagles 3, Fighters 1: Jose Fernandez's two-out, two-run single broke a fifth-inning tie and Hideki Asai allowed a run in 6-2/3 innings as Tohoku Rakuten beat Hokkaido Nippon for a sweep of their two-game series in Sendai.


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