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Hoashi, more HRs carry Lions past Giants

by Jim Allen (May 25, 2008)

Home runs and solid starting pitching got the job done for the Saitama Seibu Lions once more on Saturday.

Kazuyuki Hoashi pitched into the eighth inning and the Lions' 15th three-plus homer game of the season propelled the hosts to a 4-2 victory over the Yomiuri Giants.

The Lions, who hit four home runs in Friday night's 10-1 rout of the Giants, improved to 3-1 in interleague play, while two straight losses at Seibu Dome left the Giants even at 2-2.

Hoashi (5-0) struck out two, walked one and hit a batter en route to joining teammates Hideaki Wakui, Kazuhisa Ishii and Takayuki Kishi at five wins.

"It's a nice rivalry within the team, each of them will be going all out to get that next win," Seibu skipper Hisanobu Watanabe said. "They'll enjoy it, I'll enjoy it."

Hoashi's pitches went everywhere but the fat part of the plate as he allowed two runs, one earned, in 8-1/3 innings.

"His pitches move unpredictably, that's his style," Watanabe said. "When his pitches are going this way and that, that's when he's getting one ball after another to his infielders. And the fielder did their jobs."

Hoashi gave up a few line drives and seriously smashed balls, but his fielders helped carry the day despite a pair of dangerous outfield errors.

After surrendering a first-inning run, the Lions tied it up quickly. Leadoff man and Pacific League stolen base leader Yasuyuki Kataoka was on third base after three pitches. He singled on the first pitch, stole his 21st base on the second and advanced on the third on a groundout to second base.

Kataoka then sped home when Giants starter Takahiko Nomaguchi (1-2) popped up Craig Brazell to left.

G.G. Sato put the Lions ahead when he led off the fourth with a home run, his PL- leading 15th. Yoshihito Ishii followed with his first of the season. Hiroyuki Nakajima made it 4-1 in the fifth with another solo shot that gave both Nakajima and Sato three homers in the series.

Sato went 3-for-3 and hit two doubles; he also leads the PL in that category with 18. The only time he failed to hit was when reliever Daisuke Ochi hit him in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on second.

As Sato stepped to the plate in the fourth, Giants catcher Shinnosuke Abe stood and repositioned his fielders toward left. But when Sato turned on an inside, thigh-high fastball, left fielder Alex Ramirez would have had to have shifted into the stands to catch it.

Ishii, who doesn't look like he'd be able to drive one of Nomaguchi's high heaters, did just that. Ishii fouled off the first three pitches, all fastballs high and away. On a 2-2 pitch away, the left-handed- hitting utility infielder hit a 147-kph delivery into the left-field stands.

In the fourth, Nakajima lined a low breaking ball over the left-field fence.

"It's hard to praise a pitcher who gave up three home runs," said Giants manager Tatsunori Hara of his starter. "The credit goes to their lineup.

"We just have to get over it and bounce back tomorrow."

The Giants scored in the sixth with the help of an error by center fielder Hiram Bocachica. With one out and a runner on first, Yoshitomo Tani lined a flat fastball to center for a single. When Bocachica gave up on catching the ball, the hard-hit ball handcuffed him with a strange hop and rolled to the fence.

Abe, who had walked on four pitches, scored easily and Tani cruised into third. With no one warming up in the Lions bullpen, Hoashi hit the next batter.

"If we had blown the game, it would have been my fault, but my guys came up big and made me look good," Watanabe said.

Bocachica made a superb throw on a fly to center to turn Tani back to third, and first baseman Brazell leaped to bring down a high chopper and end the inning.

The Lions bullpen finished the job as Shinya Okamoto stranded a man on third with one out in the eighth and Alex Graman worked the ninth for his 10th save.


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