Your first career home run is always going to be one you'll never forget, but when it's also a grand slam the memory will be that much sweeter.
Nineteen-year-old shortstop Hayato Sakamoto hit a bases-loaded home run in a six-run fifth inning and veteran Yoshinobu Takahashi clubbed his 250th and 251st career homers as the Yomiuri Giants trounced the Hanshin Tigers 9-1 Sunday afternoon at Tokyo Dome.
Right-hander Hiroshi Kisanuki (1-0) had a solid outing on the hill for Yomiuri, pitching eight innings of six-hit, one-run baseball, but this day belonged to Sakamoto, who also singled and was 2-for-4 on the day.
"Hitting a grand slam is the best feeling," said Sakamoto, whose home run was the first of his pro career. "I was just hoping to drive in a run but I got lucky and drove in four."
Sakamoto was pressed into service when regular shortstop Tomohiro Nioka suffered a leg injury in the Giants' season-opening series against Yakult.
The other hitting star for the Giants on Sunday was Takahashi. He smacked a two-run job in the third off Tigers starter Shinobu Fukuhara and added a solo shot in the eighth, his fourth of the young season, off reliever Kazuya Tsutsui.
"I got some good pitches to hit today," said Takahashi. "I've reached 250 homers but I still hope to hit a lot more."
Alex Ramirez had three hits for Yomiuri, including an RBI single in the fifth inning, and Shinnosuke Abe was 2-for-4, also driving in a run in the fifth on a bases-loaded check-swing single back up the middle.
Fukuhara (1-1) took the loss, allowing seven runs on 11 hits in four-plus innings of work. He left with the bases loaded in the fifth and reliever Kenta Abe came in and gave up the grand slam to Sakamoto, who golfed a low fastball just over the wall in left-center field.
Kisanuki, who was 12-9 last season with a 3.09 ERA, struck out five and walked one in a 110-pitch effort.
"My parents came to the game today and I really wanted to have a good outing in my first appearance of the season," Kisanuki said.
Daisuke Ochi worked the ninth for Yomiuri, giving up a double to Takahiro Arai before striking out Tomoaki Kanemoto and pinch-hitter Atsushi Fujimoto to end it.
Earlier, Tigers veteran outfielder Kanemoto moved one hit away from joining the 2,000 club. Kanemoto, a 17-year veteran who recently turned 40, got his 1,999th hit in Japanese baseball when he hit an opposite-field flare single to left-center in the first inning.
Thirty-six men have reached the 2,000-hit milestone in NPB, the most recent being Hiroshima Carp veteran Tomonori Maeda last year.
Pinch-hitter Ikuro Katsuragi drove in the only Hanshin run with an RBI double in the eighth and Lew Ford was 2-for-3 for the Tigers with a double.
The underachieving Giants improved to 2-7 with the win while the Central League-leading Tigers saw their record fall to 7-2.
The teams are off today. The Giants are in Yokohama for a three-game set beginning Tuesday while the Tigers play host to Chunichi.
(IHT/Asahi: April 7,2008)