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Ramirez leads Giants' sweep in Chiba

by John E. Gibson (May 22, 2008)

With all the practice Alex Ramirez is getting on his home run jig lately, he might be able to earn a tryout on "Dancing With the Stars."

Ramirez belted a pair of home runs and drove in five runs as the Yomiuri Giants topped the Chiba Lotte Marines 8-5 in interleague action before 26,778 at Chiba Marine Stadium on Wednesday.

It was the third straight game in which he has homered, and the power surge has accounted for 11 runs.

"It's good to start out [interleague] by winning, but right now we just have to continue playing the way we're playing and we'll be OK," said Ramirez, who has helped the Central League's third-place team move to within a game of .500.

"I came here to help the team win games and I'm ready to play every day."

He cracked both shots off loser Hiroyuki Kobayashi (1-6), who was less than impressive coming off a no-decision last week in which he threw 150 pitches.

Kobayashi allowed seven runs on eight hits and three walks, while fanning three in 4-1/3 innings.

Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara had high praise for Ramirez, but spent a lot of time shaking his head over another poor performance from a starter that forced him to use six relievers.

"He has really been huge for us and he is getting his hits in big situations," Hara said of Ramirez.

"As far as winning and losing, this was a good way to start interleague. But I have expectations for our pitchers and that's at least five innings," said Hara, who had to yank starter Tetsuya Utsumi in the fifth.

"I wanted him to get through the fifth and get a win, but it's my job to make sure the team wins, and [pulling him] is what I had to do."

Kentaro Nishimura (5-2) earned the victory with a scoreless inning in relief of Utsumi to tie him for the team lead. Five relievers followed Nishimura with Marc Kroon closing it out in the ninth for his 14th save.

Meanwhile, the Marines, in last place in the Pacific League, are 4-13 in May, and have lost at least three straight for the fifth time this season.

The Giants opened the scoring in the first inning, thanks in part to a defensive hiccup by the Marines.

Yoshiyuki Kamei led off the game with a single and was sacrificed to second. With two down, Ramirez lined a shot to the hole at short that Tsuyoshi Nishioka dove to his right to glove.

He jumped to his feet and fired to first, but the throw bounced past Jose Ortiz for a two-base error that allowed Kamei to trot home for a 1-0 Giants lead.

Yomiuri created some breathing room in the third inning, thanks to Ramirez. A single, a walk and an error loaded the bases with no outs.

Michihiro Ogasawara pushed home a run with a groundout before Ramirez jumped on the first pitch, giving the Lotte fans in right field an unwanted souvenir for his Japan-leading 16th round-tripper and a 5-0 Giants advantage.

Ramirez picked on Kobayashi for another longball, taking him deep to center for a two-run shot in the fifth for a 7-0 lead.

"It's disappointing that I wasn't able to keep us in the game and I feel lousy. I also feel awful for the team and the fans," Kobayashi said.


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