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John E. Gibson

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Surprising Kimura KO's Fighters

by John E. Gibson (May 27, 2008)

The Giants put 18-year veteran Takuya Kimura in the No. 3 hole and he helped force-feed Nippon Ham a second straight interleague loss.

Kimura was just one of the unlikely heroes who stepped up in Monday's 4-3 win over the Fighters before 39,728 at Tokyo Dome.

Kimura homered for the second straight night and had a double and two RBIs to lead the offense.

"I was able to get it right on the head of the bat," Kimura said of his first-inning two-run blast. "It has been a long time since I've batted in the heart of the order, but I didn't worry about what spot I was batting in."

Offseason pickup Adrian Burnside got the start and helped repair the staggering rotation, allowing two runs over five-plus innings, and Alex Ramirez went 4-for-4 as the Giants swept both games from Nippon Ham, which won last season's interleague title.

It was Yomiuri's first win by a starting pitcher since Seth Greisinger beat Chunichi on May 11.

Burnside, making his Central League debut after posting a 2-0 record with three holds and a sparkling 0.86 ERA in the Eastern League, fanned the first two batters he faced and looked sharp through three innings.

The Australian southpaw yielded two runs on five hits and a walk, while fanning three. His tank was obviously empty when he opened the sixth inning, but Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara and pitching coach Takao Obana tried to squeeze every last drop out of the 1.90-meter hurler, who seemed to tire after running the bases in the fourth.

"We had some great defensive plays behind me, and the hitting was great. I'm just glad we could pick up a win," Burnside said.

The Giants put together just enough offense even without Michihiro Ogasawara, who was out of the starting lineup with a bad left knee. Ogasawara drew an intentional walk in a pinch-hitting appearance in the eighth inning but the rally came up short.

No matter, Marc Kroon made sure of the lead. He became the fourth foreign pitcher to earn career save No. 100 in Japan, coming on in the eighth inning after Kiyoshi Toyoda surrendered a solo homer, a single and a walk.

Kroon, who spent three years with Yokohama before moving to Yomiuri in the offseason, fanned Eiichi Koyano to end the eighth after Toyoda created a two-on jam. Kroon allowed a double in the ninth before nailing down his 16th save of the season.

"This is probably the biggest accomplishment that I have achieved from a personal standpoint," Kroon said of his 100 saves. "And I'm happy I could do it in a Giants uniform."

Ramirez has been looking great in a Giants uniform, too. He upped his average to .337 and took his first opportunity in the batter's box to extend his hitting streak to 21 games. He singled after Kimura's homer to surpass Warren Cromartie's 1990 record for the longest hitting by a foreign-born Giants player.

The streak ties Ramirez's longest since coming to Japan in 2001. He hit in 21 straight in 2004 with the Yakult Swallows.

Yomiuri jumped in front just four outs into the game. Hayato Sakamoto singled and Kimura roped a fastball into the seats in right for his second homer in as many nights and his third of the season for a 2-0 lead.

Nippon Ham came back with a run in the fourth, Shinji Takahashi rifling a two-out single to right. Kensuke Tanaka snuck around Shinnosuke Abe's attempt to block the plate on a throw from right fielder Yoshiyuki Kamei.

The Giants made it 3-1 when Burnside helped his own cause, lining a two-out single to left in front of a drawn-in outfield to plate Takahiro Suzuki.

The Giants tacked on another run in the fifth, thanks to Kimura's second extra base hit.

Kimura took a Ryan Glynn (2-7) pitch off the wall in left-center field for a leadoff double and went to third on Ramirez's third single of the night. Abe grounded into a double play, but that allowed Kimura to score the fourth run, which proved to be the difference.

Glynn was last season's interleague MVP.


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