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Ford drives Giants crazy / Homers, has 3 RBIs in 3-for-4 effort to keep Hanshin on top of CL

by John E. Gibson (Apr 5, 2008)

It figures a player named Ford would drive the Yomiuri Giants crazy.

New import Lew Ford went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs to lead the Hanshin Tigers past the Giants 6-1 in the opener of the three-game Shigeo Nagashima Series at Tokyo Dome on Friday night.

To honor the Giants legend who debuted at Korakuen Stadium on April 5, 1958, Yomiuri hung Nagashima's retired No. 3 jersey in the dugout. Its hurlers also hung a few too many pitches.

Ford collected his first three RBIs and Makoto Imaoka and Takashi Toritani also homered to lead the hot-hitting Tigers.

"It feels good to finally help the team win a game here. Hopefully we can continue like this the rest of series," said Ford, who came into the game hitting .158.

The Tigers, who won their first five before losing on Thursday, stayed hot while the Giants have dropped six of seven to open the season.

"We thought after winning the way we did last night with three home runs [in a five-run seventh inning], it would spark us," Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara said of his team, which fell into the Central League cellar with the loss.

"But you saw the offense. That's the way it is for us right now."

Yuya Andoh (2-0) tossed seven sharp innings to get the win. The righty allowed four hits and a walk, while fanning eight.

Hanshin's Tomoaki Kanemoto, who entered the game four hits shy of 2,000 in his career, went 1-for-4, and Toritani was 3-for-4 to lead an 11-hit attack.

Yoshinobu Takahashi picked up where he left off the previous night, smacking home run No. 2 to lead off the bottom of the first inning. It was his 10th career homer from the leadoff spot in the opening inning, and his first this season.

He went the opposite way with a 3-1 slider that jumped out of the park and gave the Giants a 1-0 lead.

The Tigers erased the deficit in their next at-bat. Kanemoto led off with a sharp single up the middle and Toritani sent him to third with a single to right.

Michihiro Ogasawara dove for Ford's hot smash down the line, but couldn't glove it cleanly. The ball bounced off his glove for an infield single and Ford's first RBI in Japan.

The Tigers took the lead in the fourth inning when Imaoka jumped all over a Hisanori Takahashi offering, launching it over the fence in left-center field for his first longball this year.

One out later, Ford cracked his first homer, turning on an inside fastball and sending it deep to left for a 3-1 advantage.

"We'd seen him before in spring training. He pitched pretty good, it's just that we had some big hits," Ford said.

Ford had an RBI single and Akihiro Yano added a sacrifice fly in the sixth to make it 5-1 Hanshin, and Toritani homered in the eighth to close out the scoring.

Takahashi (0-2) took the loss, becoming the first Giants Opening Day starter to lose his first two decisions since Masumi Kuwata went 0-2 to start the 1988 season.

Hara had some strong words for the lefty, who was the ERA leader in the CL last season.

"We want our Opening Day starter to keep us in the game. That's what you expect out of a guy who starts off your season," Hara said.


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