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John E. Gibson

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Battery-powered Giants beat Eagles

by John E. Gibson (May 29, 2008)

Recording artist Mariah Carey threw and Yomiuri closer Marc Kroon caught to form a glitter-laden battery for the ceremonial first pitch on Wednesday. Tetsuya Utsumi and Shinnosuke Abe formed a dazzling battery during the game.

Utsumi tossed a complete game and Abe slugged a three-run homer, while Yoshitomo Tani had a two-run shot as Yomiuri took control early and cruised past Rakuten 6-1 in interleague action before 43,132 at Tokyo Dome.

The Giants, third-place in the Central League won their third straight to finally reach .500. They had lost the previous five times when they had a chance to even their record.

Utsumi (3-3) fanned a season-high 11 to become the Giants' first complete-game winner. He allowed four hits with no walks, and retired 22 of the last 23 batters he faced to collect his first win since April 22.

It was the second straight win from the starting staff, which had gone 11 straight games without a win.

"All we kept hearing about is our starters, our starters," said Utsumi, who lowered his ERA to 3.20. "I wanted to go out and pitch well and do something about that," said Utsumi, who said Abe called a great game.

Said Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara: "He pitched like he can tonight. It was a long-awaited win."

The Giants' Alex Ramirez extended his career-best hitting streak to 22 games in the sixth inning, a two-out bouncer that evaded first baseman Takeshi Yamasaki.

Ramirez struck out in the first and was hit by a pitch in the third before grounding out in the fourth. But he made the best of what turned out to be his final at-bat, sneaking a twisting grounder past Yamasaki.

Rakuten, in third place in the Pacific League, jumped on top with help from a surprise power source. Toshiya Nakashima took Utsumi deep to left for his first pro homer and a quick 1-0 lead--one pitch after Jose Fernandez got picked off first base.

But the Eagles couldn't hold the advantage. A left knee injury in the preseason delayed Rakuten rookie righty Kohei Hasebe's first start, but his departure from hit third outing was swift.

Tani used one swing to put Yomiuri on top. After Abe doubled to open the second inning, Tani unloaded on Hasebe (0-1), driving his first longball of the season over the wall in dead center to put Yomiuri in front 2-1.

"I got it right on the sweet spot," said Tani, who started the season as a reserve but has been pressed into action because of a rash of injuries. "I don't usually hit homers to straightway center, but it feels good when it happens. And that's my first one to center at Tokyo Dome, so I'm happy about it."

In the third inning, it was Abe's turn. Michihiro Ogasawara drew a walk to open the frame and Ramirez got plunked before Abe jumped on a belt-high slider and smoked a no-doubt-about-it line-drive to right for his fifth homer and a 5-1 lead.

"I haven't been hitting well lately, so I thought about bunting the runners over," Abe said. "But the skipper gave me the hit sign, and I just wanted to do my best to put a good swing on anything in the strike zone."

Hasebe was in the showers after four innings, and the Eagles were unable to get to Utsumi after the second.

Ramirez's single in the sixth plated Hayato Sakamoto to end the scoring.

"He got into trouble in the third inning with the walk and hit batter," said Rakuten manager Katsuya Nomura.

"Then he gave up the home run to Abe. He has to learn from that."


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