After ripping it up during a 10-game stint down on the farm where he hit .421 with 13 RBIs and three home runs, Hiram Bocachica is picking up right where he left off with the big club.
Bocachica hit a pair of homers and drove in four runs Sunday at Seibu Dome as the Lions trampled the Orix Buffaloes 10-3 in a Pacific League tilt between two clubs at opposite ends of the standings.
"I'm feeling pretty good right now and that trip to the minors really taught me a lot," said Bocachica, a former major-leaguer in his first year with Seibu. "I feel physically and mentally ready to go."
Hitting in the No. 9 slot, Bocachica smacked a two-run homer to left off Orix starter Kazuki Kondo in the second inning, lined an RBI single to left in the fourth and finished off a very productive day at the plate with a solo shot on the first pitch of the eighth inning from reliever Tsuyoshi Kikuchihara.
On Saturday, in his first game back up with the Lions' ichi-gun squad, the Puerto Rico native connected for a two-run homer in Seibu's victory over the Buffs.
Sunday's win allowed the front-running Lions to sweep the three-game set, handing the struggling Buffaloes their fourth straight loss.
Toru Hosokawa also went deep for Seibu, drilling a three-run shot in the fifth inning. Hosokawa was 2-for-4 on the afternoon and scored three runs to help make a winner of left-hander Kazuyuki Hoashi, who went eight quality innings for the Lions. Hoashi (2-0) limited the Buffaloes to two runs on five hits through eight innings. He struck out five, walked one and hit one batter.
Seibu skipper Hisanobu Watanabe brought in reliever Tetsuya Iwasaki for the ninth inning. Iwasaki looked shaky, giving up a run on four hits, but he got Orix leadoff hitter Shinji Shimoyama to fly out to center to end it.
Seibu DH Takumi Kuriyama stroked a two-run double over left-fielder Tuffy Rhodes in the fourth inning to make it 6-0 and that was the end of Kondo's outing.
"The team is playing good right now," Bocachica said. "Hoashi-san pitched great tonight and we're winning some games. The team is really getting it together on defense and offense and we're playing some good baseball."
Buffs veteran slugger Rhodes belted his 10th home run of the season, a two-run opposite-field shot to left off Hoashi in the sixth. The homer moved Rhodes, a former PL home-run king, into a tie for the league lead with Scott Brazell of the Lions.
But the day belonged to Bocachica.
"Our staff in the minors told me that Boca was really getting accustomed to Japanese pitching and all the breaking balls they throw here," said Watanabe. "He's been able to see the ball well and, as a result, he's getting hits."
Kondo (2-3) took the loss, allowing six runs on six hits through 3 1/3 innings. He struck out one, walked three and hit a batter with a pitch. Buffaloes manager Terry Collins used four men in relief of Kondo as the Lions out-hit Orix 12-9.
Bocachica's second home run Sunday was the 13th of the three-game series. Interestingly, Seibu slugger Brazell and the man he replaced as the Lions' cleanup hitter, Orix first baseman Alex Cabrera, both failed to go yard in the series.
(IHT/Asahi: April 28,2008)