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Jim Allen

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Giants strike early, top Carp

by Jim Allen (May 19, 2008)

After dying of self-inflicted wounds for two nights, the Giants were more than happy to let Hiroshima suffer on Sunday.

Three errors, and one bad pitch by the Carp's Colby Lewis torpedoed an otherwise impressive start as Yomiuri salvaged the final game of their three-game series at Tokyo Dome with a 6-3 victory as the Central League shut down and prepared to enter interleague mode for the next 24 games.

The Giants laid into Lewis for four first-inning runs, one thanks to an error by the pitcher.

With no outs after Lewis' throwing error on a sacrifice bunt put runners on the corners with no outs Michihiro Ogasawara singled to draw first blood. Perhaps stunned to be down by a run, Lewis' first-pitch to Alex Ramirez came down the pipe and the cleanup hitter put it in the seats for his 13th home run of the year and a 4-0 lead.

"I was very happy to put a good swing on it," said Ramirez, who surpassed fellow Venezuelan Roberto Petagine for the most CL homers by a foreign-registered player with 224.

"It was huge. He is a very good pitcher, one of the best in the Central League."

After that, however Lewis (5-4) was extremely tough, while the Carp cut away at the Giants lead with single runs in the second, third and fifth off Giants starter Hiroshi Kisanuki. The right-hander lasted just 4-2/3 innings before the bullpen took over and sent the Carp away losers.

Kentaro Nishimura (4-2), who usually comes in after the sixth, kept the Carp from tying it in the fifth and finished with 2-2/3 scoreless innings.

"It was early but I was ready," said the 23-year-old. "It doesn't matter what inning they want me or how many innings, I'm out there."

When he first took the mound with runners on the corners, the normally laid-back right-hander got a pep talk from pitching coach Takao Obana.

"He said there were two outs so go after the batter," said Nishimura, who retired cleanup Carp Kenta Kurihara on a liner that shortstop Hayato Sakamoto speared for the third out.

"He's probably the most reliable guy in our pen at the moment," said manager Tatsunori Hara.

On Saturday, Nishimura pitched a 1-2-3 seventh and was in position to get the win until the Carp rallied in the ninth to tie it against closer Marc Kroon.

Nishimura was followed for the second straight night by a solid eighth inning from set-up guy Kiyoshi Toyoda.

After Ramirez led off a two-run eighth inning with a single, Kroon retaliated for Saturday's embarrassment by striking out the side in the ninth for his 12th save.

"We wouldn't have made it without the Carp's three mistakes," Hara said. "We were able to take advantage, but Kisanuki I don't know what to say about that.

"We've given him time to sort things out, but I don't know how much more time he's got. He's got good stuff, but so do lots of other guys in the pen."

Hara said the victory was important before the start of interleague on Tuesday.

"It's nice to go in with a win," Hara said. "These are 24 important games for us. We have to see what chances we can make and take advantage of them."


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