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John E. Gibson

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Giants still searching for 1st win of season

by John Gibson (Apr 2, 2008)

The Yomiuri Giants planned a number of celebrations to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Big Egg. After the song and dance, they came out and laid an egg.

Norihiro Nakamura's ninth-inning home run gave Chunichi the lead, and the Dragons held on to keep the Giants winless in four games with a 4-3 comeback victory in Yomiuri's home opener at Tokyo Dome on Tuesday.

The defending Central League champion Giants are still searching for answers, while the defending Japan Series champion Dragons have yet to lose.

Nakamura, who joined the Dragons before last season, hit his second homer in as many games and collected his first career hit off Yomiuri starter Koji Uehara, who had faced him six times in 2007. The loss sent most of the 42,357 home disappointed, but the Dragons were all smiles.

"I just wanted to go after the first pitch and make something happen," Nakamura said of his solo homer.

"He got me in the previous at-bat, so I just had to shrug that off and come back, and that's what I did. I knew it was gone the moment I hit it."

Kenichi Nakata (1-0) toughed out eight innings to earn the victory. Nakata, who finished off the Giants in the second stage of the CL Climax Series here last year, gave up two runs in the first and one in the second, but battled through seven hits and two walks with the help of nine strikeouts.

"Kenichi had done a great job and he deserved the win," Nakamura said.

Uehara (0-1), making his first start since Oct. 5, 2006, went the distance--even though he put two runners on after giving up Nakamura's homer--to take the loss.

He allowed nine hits and two walks while striking out seven. Only a double play on a hard-hit ball saved him from allowing more than a run in the ninth inning.

"I thought he had thrown a lot of pitches, but he said he wanted to go [out for the ninth], so I let him go," Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara said.

"It's just that we couldn't come up with that fourth run. It was just like at Jingu [Stadium]," said Hara, whose club lost three straight on the road to Tokyo Yakult before coming home.

The Giants, who went on an offseason spending spree that has yet to pay off, have lost the lead in three of their four games.

The Giants took advantage of Nakata's wildness in the zone early, hitting him hard for four hits and two runs in the first inning. Michihiro Ogasawara's single up the middle drove in Yoshinobu Takahashi, who had doubled. With two outs, Shinnosuke Abe pulled a forkball down the line in right to plate Ogasawara.

In the second inning, Hayato Sakamoto led off with a double and came home on a one-out sacrifice fly by Takahashi for a 3-0 advantage.

Chunichi got a run in the fourth inning. With runners on first and second and no outs, Tyrone Woods singled up the middle to cut the deficit to 3-1. In the seventh, Lee Byung Kyu connected with a hanger with one on and drove it deep into the seats in right to tie the score at 3-3.

After Nakamura's homer, Hitoki Iwase took over for Chunichi in the ninth and allowed a two-out basehit before inducing a groundout from Takahashi to end the game.

In other Central League games:

TIGERS 5, CARP 3: Tomoaki Kanemoto went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs as Hanshin won at Hiroshima.

Kanemoto slugged a three-run shot in the first inning, and doubled and scored in a two-run fifth as Hanshin kept its record perfect after four games.

BAYSTARS 9, SWALLOWS 6: Former Giant Toshihisa Nishi's bases-clearing double in the eighth inning powered host Yokohama to its first win and stopped Tokyo Yakult's three-game winning streak.

===

Eagles soar to 5th straight win

The once-lowly Eagles are flying high these days.

Jose Fernandez cracked a three-run, tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning and Rakuten posted a franchise record-tying fifth straight win, 7-4 over the Chiba Lotte Marines in Pacific League action on Tuesday afternoon at Kleenex Stadium Miyagi.

Yosuke Takasu hit a two-run homer and Shinichiro Koyama (1-0), the fourth of five Rakuten pitchers, allowed one hit over two scoreless innings to pick up the win.

In other Pacific League games:

FIGHTERS 6, HAWKS 0: Shinji Takahashi clubbed a two-run homer in a three-run eighth inning to blow open a tight game, and Masaru Takeda (2-0) went seven scoreless innings as Hokkaido Nippon Ham blanked Fukuoka SoftBank at Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome.

BUFFALOES 9, LIONS 6: Osamu Hamanaka's fifth-inning grand slam gave Orix the lead as the Buffaloes bounced back after allowing five runs in the first inning to beat Saitama Seibu at Skymark Stadium.


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