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John E. Gibson

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Giants overcome faulty starter

by John E. Gibson (May 26, 2008)

Yomiuri's starting pitching continued to break down on Sunday, but Alex Ramirez has been a stopgap measure who looks like he's on pace to the fill Giants' record books.

Ramirez went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and a homer to power the Giants offense to a 6-4 comeback victory over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in interleague action before 43,813 at Tokyo Dome

Ramirez, who doubled high off the wall in left in the first inning to tie Warren Cromartie's 1990 record for the longest hitting streak by a foreign Yomiuri player, also scored the go-ahead run on a sixth-inning wild pitch.

"I feel very good to be able to accomplish something like this," said Ramirez, who admitted he has little idea of Cromartie and his career his with the Giants.

"I've never seen him play. I mean, people talk good about him and if you look as his numbers, they're great numbers. I'm pretty sure he did great things here in Japan," said Ramirez, who scored three runs.

His solo shot off the Kirin beer sign high above the seats in left in the eighth inning was his Central League-leading 17th homer, padding the lead for closer Marc Kroon, who tossed a perfect ninth for his 15th save.

But it was the 11th straight game in which a Giants starter failed to earn a win, and also halted a five-game winning streak for Nippon Ham, which had the best record last year in interleague action.

Right-hander Kentaro Nishimura (6-2) retired all four batters he faced to earn his sixth win out of the bullpen, moving him into a tie with three others for the most in the CL.

"Our bullpen at the moment is doing a nice job of allowing us to get back in games," said Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara. "The rest of the team is also doing a good job of covering for our starters, but they have to start stepping up. It's important to get our rotation back to the way it can pitch."

The Giants wasted no time putting a crooked number on the board. Michihiro Ogasawara started a first-inning rally with a two-out single to right.

Ramirez followed with a two-bagger to plate Ogasawara, and Shinnosuke Abe split the gap in right-center to score Ramirez.

The Fighters evened the score in their next at-bat, Shinji Takahashi singling in front of Terrmel Sledge's seventh longball of the season.

But Shugo Fujii tried to get ahead with a first-pitch fastball to Takuya Kimura in the bottom of the frame, and the infielder launched it for his second homer this year and a 2-2 tie.

"I just said, 'One, two, three,' and swung for a fastball," Kimura joked. "I got it on the sweet spot. No one was more surprised than I was--and the guys were pretty surprised."

Atsunori Inaba's two-run homer put the Fighters back in the lead 4-3. Inaba took a Hiroshi Kisanuki pitch the opposite way for his team-leading eighth longball in the fourth.

Kimura, though, struck again in the home half, yanking a smash inside third and down the line that rolled to wall as Yoshitomo Tani dug hard from first to tie the score at 4-4.

The Fighters helped the Giants take the lead in the sixth. Ramirez reached on a leadoff error on Yang Zhong-shou. Tani singled to left with one out and Kimura followed with a tailor-made double-play ball to second. But Kensuke Tanaka's bobble cost the Fighters the chance at the twin killing, and Fujii got the hook.

His successor, Ken Miyamoto, slipped up on his a first offering, firing a slider that bounced to the backstop for a wild pitch that allowed Ramirez to rush home with the go-ahead run.


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