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Giants' Sakamoto realizes heroic ambition

by John E. Gibson (Apr 24, 2008)

Yomiuri Giants teen Hayato Sakamoto went into the batter's box in the seventh inning on Wednesday night at Tokyo Dome thinking more about stardom than BayStars.

The 19-year-old produced a go-ahead RBI single as the Giants rallied for four runs in the seventh and beat Yokohama 6-2 before 37,542.

"I thought if I got a hit in this situation, I'd be able to be on the podium for the [postgame] hero interview," Sakamoto quipped after the Giants sent the Central League's last-place team to its fourth straight loss.

"I just wanted to be aggressive and get the job done," said Sakamoto, who played his fifth game in the leadoff spot and is 6-for-21 since the moving up from the No. 8 hole.

For the second straight night, the Giants came up with big hits with runners in scoring position. Pinch-hitter Takuya Kimura followed Sakamoto with a two-run double to pad the lead, and Yomiuri shut the BayStars down over the final three frames.

Sakamoto, though, has done everything asked of him, from starting the season at second base and to moving to short, to producing in the leadoff spot, including dropping down a sacrifice bunt in the sixth inning when the Giants evened the score 2-2.

"Playing for one run is important sometimes, and I wanted to get the game even," Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara said about Sakamoto's sixth-inning bunt. "He helped set up the whole [seventh inning] with what he did."

Reliever Kentaro Nishimura (2-2) got the win with a perfect seventh after Seth Greisinger surrendered a pair of runs in the sixth inning.

Marc Kroon, who traveled to the States over the weekend for his grandmother's funeral and came back to Japan on Tuesday night, tossed a perfect ninth to close it out.

Both Greisinger and Yokohama starter Hayato Terahara were razor sharp to start the game.

The Giants had one baserunner through the first three frames, and the BayStars--who came in with the highest team average in Japan at .278--struggled to make contact with eight Ks over five innings.

Yokohama, though, solved Greisinger in the sixth. Former Giant Toshihisa Nishi led off with a line single, extending his hitting streak to nine straight games, and moved to second on a sacrifice.

Tatsuhiko Kinjo kept battling until getting a changeup and muscling it into center to make it first and third with one out.

Shuichi Murata only needed one pitch to give Yokohama a 1-0 lead, lining a shot high off the wall in right for an RBI double.

Larry Bigbie followed by lifting a lazy fly to left-center field that was deep enough to let Kinjo cruise home for a 2-0 advantage.

Greisinger, who allowed six hits and a walk while fanning eight, walked his only batter, Yuki Yoshimura, before getting Takahiro Saeki to foul out to end the inning.

Hara gave Greisinger the hook, sending Yoshitomo Tani to bat for him in the home half of the sixth. Tani singled to right on the first pitch and was sacrificed to second before Michihiro Ogasawara, who was 5-for-10 with two homers last season against Terahara, lined a hard single to center to cut Yokohama's lead to 2-1.

With one out in the seventh, Terahara (1-3)--who is 0-5 against Yomiuri since last season--headed to the showers after walking Shinnosuke Abe and hitting Luis Gonzalez. Tani's two-out roller off Atsushi Kizuka crawled through the left side of the infield. The ball was hit slowly enough to allow Abe to scorefrom second and tie it.

"I wanted to be aggressive with the first strike I got," Tani said. "I was jammed a little, but that turned out to be a good thing."


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