Alex Ramirez is getting paid big bucks this season and on Thursday night he paid some pretty big dividends.
Ramirez, a free-agent acquisition in the offseason, jacked a two-run homer to straightaway center in the eighth inning off Tigers reliever Tomoyuki Kubota to give the Yomiuri Giants a 6-5 win over Hanshin, averting a three-game sweep by the visitors at Tokyo Dome.
Ramirez's homer, his Central League-leading 10th of the season, came one batter after Michihiro Ogasawara had doubled off Kubota, who took the loss.
"I wanted to go opposite field and move the runner over but I got a good swing on it and was able to put it out of the park," said Ramirez, a former Yakult Swallow. "It was a great feeling when it went out of the park."
The timely tater made a winner of Tetsuya Yamaguchi (2-1), who worked two scoreless innings in relief.
Closer Marc Kroon earned his ninth save, striking out Takahiro Arai on three pitches, getting Tomoaki Kanemoto on a groundball to second and whiffing Ikuro Katsuragi to seal the victory.
Right-hander Ryan Vogelsong got the start for the Tigers, allowing four runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. Vogelsong also had one of Hanshin's 11 hits on the night.
Hanshin opened the scoring in the top of the third. Speedster Norihiro Akahoshi hit a two-out double off Giants starter Masafumi Togano and Keiichi Hirano followed with a run-scoring triple to straightaway center over the outstretched glove of outfielder Takayuki Shimizu, who was playing far too shallow.
But the Giants leapfrogged into the lead in their half of the third when Ryoto Wakiya led off with a triple off the wall in left-center and pinch-hitter Tomoya Inzen stroked an RBI single down the left-field line.
Inzen was thrown out at second on the play, but a subsequent double by Yoshiyuki Kamei and a Hayato Sakamoto single set the table for Ogasawara, who lined an RBI single of his own over shortstop to give the Kyojin a 2-1 lead.
In a game in which no team seemed willing or able to hold a lead, the Tigers erupted for four runs in the fifth. Hanshin loaded the bases off reliever Daisuke Ochi, prompting Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara to bring in lefty Shoichi Fujita to face Katsuragi with one out. Katsuragi, who drove in the game-winner in Wednesday's 5-4 victory by the Tigers, had come up with the bases loaded earlier in the game and had flown out to center to end the inning. This time he struck out, but Takashi Toritani stepped into the batter's box and delivered a two-out, two-run single to right. The next batter, catcher Toshihiro Noguchi, slammed a two-run double to left to put Hanshin up 5-2.
In the bottom of the sixth, Ramirez singled with one out and a man on first. Hanshin skipper Akinobu Okada went to his bullpen, replacing Vogelsong with Hirotaka Egusa. A wild pitch allowed the Giants' baserunners to move up 90 feet each before Luis Gonzalez knocked a two-run single into left field to cut the margin to one run.
Ogasawara had three hits for the Giants.
Akahoshi had three hits and a stolen base for the Tigers and Arai was 2-for-3 with a double and a pair of walks.
The Giants improved to 16-18-1 with the win, while the CL-leading Tigers are 23-10-1. Starting tonight, the Giants host the Chunichi Dragons for three games at Tokyo Dome. Hanshin plays the Yokohama BayStars at Koshien Stadium.
Elsewhere in the CL, the Yakult Swallows defeated the BayStars 5-3 at Yokohama Stadium, and at Nagoya Dome the Chunichi Dragons clobbered the Hiroshima Carp 7-0.
There were no Pacific League games scheduled for Thursday.
(IHT/Asahi: May 9,2008)