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Nomaguchi comes up big as Giants down Swallows

by Jim Allen (May 5, 2008)

It wasn't anything like his last victory, but the Giants' Takahiko Nomaguchi was still thrilled about starting and winning for the first time this season.

The right-hander, whose last victory came in Yomiuri's 2007 pennant-clincher on Oct. 2, allowed two runs in five innings in a 7-2 romp over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows at Jingu Stadium on Sunday.

"This win was big, too," said Nomaguchi who came on in relief against the Swallows to win last year's big game. "Because it was my first."

But the win was also large because it was a team effort. On a day in which starting right fielder Yoshinobu Takahashi was added to the list of deactivated stars, every member of the starting lineup either scored a run or drove one in. Takahashi, who came out of Saturday's game with lower back pain, joined first baseman Lee Seung Yeop and ace Koji Uehara at the club's Eastern League facility.

"We don't have any choice but to go with the guys who are here," said captain Shinnosuke Abe, who reached base four straight times with three singles and a walk.

Although the Giants won for the second straight night, the club's 12 hits were a welcome relief from Saturday's struggle, won 5-0 only after the team went without a hit for the first 8-1/3 innings.

Yoshiyuki Kamei, who broke up the no-hit bid the night before, tripled in two runs in the second inning, moments after Nomaguchi singled to open the scoring with his first career RBI.

"After coming back the way we did last night, everyone seemed very relaxed today," Kamei said.

Nomaguchi (1-0), taking the mound for the fourth time this season, had not allowed a base runner in his last four innings of relief. Given the chance to start, the 24-year-old right-hander surrendered seven singles, four of which never left the infield. He struck out three without issuing a walk.

Swallows starter Ryo Kawashima should have been out of the second inning unscathed after he robbed the Giants of a hit with an athletic stop and cut down the lead runner in the process for the second out. But first baseman Yuichi Matsumoto lost the handle on a hard grounder to first, and Nomaguchi's second career hit opened the scoring.

The Swallows' first run was also driven in by their starting pitcher. With one out and the bases loaded, Ryo Kawashima squeezed in a run, when catcher Abe failed to hold onto Nomaguchi's throw home. Kawashima was credited with a hit, raising his career average to .261.

With the bases still full of birds, leadoff man Norichika Aoki's chopper to short made it 3-2.

The Giants padded the lead with Michihiro Ogasawara's solo homer in the top of the fifth.

Kawashima, whose poor spring form caused him to start the season on the farm, allowed four runs on five hits in his five-inning 2008 debut. The right-hander struck out three and walked one. Three of the runs were unearned.

The Giants added a run against reliever Jun Hagiwara in the top of the sixth on a Ryota Wakiya's RBI single. Luis Gonzalez's sacrifice fly off Hagiwara made it 6-2.

Gonzalez, who had two sacrifice bunts in the game, drove in his run after three straight one-out singles from the three guys in the middle of the order.

Alex Ramirez' ninth-inning RBI double completed the scoring.

"It's always good to win," said Giants manager Tatsunori Hara. "But the way we won made it even better.

"Those bunts by Gonzalez helped us create runs. That's the way we put them together when we were playing at our best last season."

Hara had no worries about this club spinning out of control the way the Giants did in 2005, when they started strong but finished fifth.

"Although we are hurting at several spots, I think we have guys eager to play," Hara said. "This club is not going to fall apart the way it did three or four years ago."


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