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Little Giants come up big / Inzen leads crop of young players who help Yomiuri rout Chunichi

by Jim Allen (May 12, 2008)

Giants manager Tatsunori Hara called it "the best possible start."

Rookie Tomoya Inzen, making his debut in Yomiuri's starting lineup, shook off a second-inning strikeout to help spark the Giants to a 9-3 victory over the Chunichi Dragons 9-3 at Tokyo Dome on Sunday.

Inzen went 3-for-4 with a double, a stolen base, a run and three RBIs. The 23-year-old outfielder, who was signed from the Giants developmental roster in March, found out he was playing at 2:30 in the afternoon.

"I was half happy and half anxious," said Inzen. "Every one on the team told me to just go out and go for it."

Seth Greisinger (5-1) allowed three runs in seven innings, despite walking a season-high three batters. The right-hander allowed four hits and struck out five in posting his eighth straight quality start.

After striking out in his first at-bat, Inzen went up determined to wait for a good pitch to hit as he led off with his team trailing 3-2 in the fifth inning.

"The first time, I fell behind in the count and swung at a pitch out of the zone," Inzen said. "I thought, 'That won't do,' and I was determined to go up the next time and hit my pitch."

Inzen got ahead 2-0 before smacking a high inside fastball into right. With two outs, he stole his first career base and scored on a double by 25-year-old Yoshiyuki Kamei.

After the Giants took a 4-3 lead on Michihiro Ogasawara's leadoff homer in the sixth, Inzen singled home the second of Yomiuri's three runs in the inning. His two-run double in the eighth put the game on ice.

Chunichi starter Kenichi Nakata (4-3) gave himself little reason to celebrate on his 26th birthday. The right-hander got blasted for his second straight start, allowing six runs, five earned, in 5-2/3 innings. Nakata, who gave up nine runs in three innings to the Hanshin Tigers on May 5, struck out eight batters and walked one, but made a costly throwing error and gave up nine hits.

The Giants scraped out a first-inning run on an infield single, Nakata's two-base throwing error and a sacrifice fly by 19-year-old Hayato Sakamoto.

The Dragons, however, took a three-run, third-inning lead with the help of two walks, a wild pitch and a stolen base.

Masahiko Morino led off with a single. A walk and a sacrifice by Nakata put two men in scoring position. A high pitch to the backstop tied it, and a walk put runners on the corners, but not for long. Masahiro Araki, who led the CL last season with 31 steals, stole his eighth of the year. Hirokazu Ibata plated both runners by lining a changeup below his knees into center.

Alex Ramirez cut the Dragons' cushion to a run in the bottom of the fourth, belting his Central League-leading 11th homer.

The Giants cleanup hitter took a slider away for a strike. Nakata pitched him away again, but his 0-1 forkball didn't get down. Ramirez hammered it over the fence in right for his first opposite-field homer of the year.

With it tied 3-3 in the top of the sixth, Greisinger pitched his second straight 1-2-3 inning, and Ogasawara gave Greisinger the lead in the bottom of the inning. Ogasawara waited on a low curve and blasted it into the seats in right for his eighth homer.

Ramirez walked on five pitches, went to second on a wild pitch and to third on Luis Gonzalez's single.

For the second straight at-bat, Inzen got ahead in the count before smoking a high 2-2 slider past Nakata and into center field.

After falling behind 0-2, 26-year-old Ryota Wakiya worked the count full before singling to left with the runners moving.

The Giants put it away in the seventh, when Ramirez singled with one out. On a would-be double play ball to the pitcher, shortstop Ibata let the ball go into center for an error and Gonzalez singled in a run.

Inzen followed with a double that iced it as the Giants' youngsters made a difference against the Dragons.

"It is fresh baseball," Hara said. "It reminds me of the feeling I had as a player, the excitement when we were all kids starting out."


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