With Hideki Asai of the Eagles and Giants ace Seth Greisinger going toe-to-toe on the mound Thursday night at Tokyo Dome, it was Rakuten who came up short--but in a good way.
Rick Short ripped a two-run double to left in the sixth inning, snapping a 2-2 tie and leading Asai and the Eagles to a 4-2 win over Yomiuri in interleague play.
Asai (5-5) threw 101 pitches in seven innings of work, allowing two runs (none earned) on five hits. The right-hander whiffed nine and walked a pair.
Relievers Kanehisa Arime and Tsuyoshi Kawagishi combined to work a hitless eighth for Katsuya Nomura's club and Shinichiro Koyama pitched a hitless ninth to pick up his fourth save of 2008. Koyama did walk pinch-hitter Kenji Yano, but he was thrown out trying to steal second by Rakuten catcher Akihito Fujii to end the game.
"I was able to follow Fujii's lead," Asai said. "I got into a good rhythm early and had confidence in my pitches."
Greisinger, meanwhile, also lasted seven innings, tossing a shade under 100 pitches. He gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits as his record dropped to 5-3. He struck out eight and issued one base on balls.
Greisinger was rebounding from his worst start of the year, a 10-1 loss to Seibu a week ago in which the American right-hander gave up seven runs on 10 hits through five innings.
Eagles veteran Takeshi Yamasaki made a throwing error in the bottom of the third that opened the door for Yomiuri's first run, but the 39-year-old slugger atoned for that when he clubbed a towering solo shot to left off Greisinger the following frame. It was the 10th homer of the season for Yamasaki, a 22-year veteran of the NPB wars who is hitting .331.
Rakuten's Teppei Tsuchiya drove in the first run of the game in the top of the first with an RBI single that scored leadoff hitter Naoto Watanabe, who was on second after drilling a ball through the wickets of Giants third-baseman Ryota Wakiya, who was charged with an error on the play.
Free-agent acquisition Alex Ramirez continued his torrid hitting this month for the Kyojin. Rami, who leads Japanese baseball with 17 homers, went 2-for-4 to boost his already lofty batting average to .340.
Yomiuri won the opener of the two-game set 6-1 Wednesday, also at Tokyo Dome.
Rakuten improves to 6-2 in interleague play and 28-25 overall. The Giants, meanwhile, saw their record fall to 5-3 in games against Pacific League clubs and 25-26-1 overall.
It's been a tough week for the already injury-depleted Giants. While some of the boys did have a chance to get up close and personal with pop star Mariah Carey on Wednesday when she threw out the ceremonial first pitch, the Giants lost outfielder/leadoff hitter Yoshiyuki Kamei to an ankle injury and infielder Luis Gonzalez was banned for a year after failing a drug test.
Elsewhere, the Orix Buffaloes defeated the Chunichi Dragons 5-1 at Nagoya Dome, and at Hiroshima Stadium, the Carp slapped the Lions 3-1. At Koshien Stadium, the Hanshin Tigers beat the Lotte Marines 8-4, and at Kitakyushu Stadium in Fukuoka, the Softbank Hawks outlasted the Yokohama BayStars 6-5. The Nippon-Ham Fighters edged the Yakult Swallows 3-2 at Jingu Stadium.
(IHT/Asahi: May 30,2008)