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Dragons ride Wada, Nori to victory

by Jim Allen (May 10, 2008)

The third time was no charm for Tetsuya Utsumi as a pair of Dragons veterans drove in three runs apiece to beat the young Giants southpaw for the third time this season.

In a victory of experience over youth, Chunichi's Kazuhiro Wada, 35, and Norihiro Nakamura, 34, plated three runs apiece on Friday at Tokyo Dome as the Dragons came from behind to beat the Yomiuri Giants 7-4 and move to within a game of the Central League-leading Hanshin Tigers.

Utsumi (2-3), coming off his best start of the season, had an early two-run lead but allowed six runs in five innings--matching his season-worst totals on April 16 at Nagoya Dome. The lefty also lost his season debut to the Dragons 3-0 here on April 2.

With Chunichi chasing by a run in the top of the fifth, Wada's two-out, two-run single put the Dragons in front for good, and Nakamura followed with his seventh homer of the year.

Utsumi wasn't going to give either anything good to hit, but him they did. Wada with two on and two outs, Wada fouled off a pair of changeups outside before lining a very low slider very hard up the middle.

"He's tough because he has so many out pitches," said Wada who went 4-for-5. "I wasn't looking for that one. Since he got ahead of me, I just had to swing at anything close."

On a night in which two of the Dragons' big hitters ended bases-loaded chances on called third strikes, the tactic paid off.

"I figured with his breaking stuff he wasn't going to come with anything straight or hard," Wada said. "But other than that, I was just ready to swing."

Nakamura, who made a trio of solid stops at third base, also went after a borderline pitch. He pulled an inside fastball into the left-field stands for a two-run knockout blow.

Dragons reliever Takashi Ogasawara (4-2) allowed just two hits, both solo home runs, in 3-2/3 innings to get the win.

Both managers pulled out the stops early and often. With a chance to take the lead in the fourth, Dragons skipper Hiromitsu Ochiai pinch-hit for starter Susumu Kawai--only for veteran Kazuyoshi Tatsunami to strike out looking with the bases loaded.

"It was pretty early, and though I thought we'd have more chances later, our bullpen was rested," said Ochiai, who used five pitchers.

Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara used his entire bench, with his last position player, pinch-hitter Takenori Suzuki, making the last out of the game with three pinch-runners on base against Hitoki Iwase.

The lefty survived two hits and a two-out intentional walk to record his 11th save.

Utsumi, who threw seven scoreless innings last Saturday but got no decision in the Giants' 5-0 victory against the Swallows, allowed nine hits and a walk. The 26-year-old struck out five.

The Giants took the lead in the second with two runs off Kawai, who had allowed a run in six innings to beat Utsumi on April 16. One-out singles and a wild pitch brought in one run and backup catcher Ken Kato doubled in another.

The Dragons tied it in the fourth on four straight one-out singles. After a leadoff lineout to second, Masahiko Morino got the Dragons headed toward the scoreboard with a line single up the middle. Tyrone Woods singled to left and Wada cut Utsumi's lead in half.

Nakamura's single tied it, although Ochiai's shot with Tatsunami proved to be a dud.

The Giants regained the lead in the bottom of the inning on Takuya Kimura's solo homer. Michihiro Ogaswara reached the seats for a solo homer with his team trailing 6-3 in the sixth to make the deficit two.

The Dragons, though, added a run in eighth after pinch-hitter Kazuki Inoue's smash hit the first-base bag and rolled for a leadoff double. Following a sacrifice, Hirokazu Ibata singled home pinch-runner Atsushi Fujii.


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