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John E. Gibson

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Eagles tag Giants with tough loss

by John E. Gibson (May 30, 2008)

The Rakuten Eagles stole one from the Yomiuri Giants on Thursday.

Actually, they preserved a lead by preventing a steal to pick up a 4-2 win and split a two-game set with the Giants in front of 41,106 at Tokyo Dome.

Yomiuri's Kenji Yano committed a cardinal sin, getting thrown out while trying to steal second with a two-run deficit and two outs in the ninth inning.

Rakuten skipper Katsuya Nomura was of course thrilled to get the win, but wasn't quite sure how to react.

"The Giants play some interesting baseball," the one-line king told reporters after the game.

Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara, on the other hand, had some choice words for Yano, who was activated earlier in the day for the first time this season after being sidelined with a right elbow injury.

"You cannot get thrown out in that situation if you run," said Hara, whose Giants fell back under back under .500, where they've lived this season.

Right-hander Hideki Asai gave the Eagles seven sharp innings before the bullpen took over. Shinichiro Koyama, who got the first two outs in the ninth before issuing a walk, picked up his fourth save when Akihito Fujii gunned down Yano out at second.

Asai (5-5) yielded two runs, both unearned, on five hits and a walk, while collecting nine strikeouts to halt Yomiuri's three-game winning streak.

"I just put all my strength into each pitch and let them fly," said Asai, who wiggled out of a two-on, no-out jam in the sixth, setting down the final six batters he faced.

Rick Short, who went 2-for-4 with a clutch two-run double in the sixth, said making the most of their scoring chances was essential.

"That's how you win--timely hitting and good pitching. Asai had an incredible start," said Short, who raised his average to .325.

"And what I like most about tonight's win is that our bullpen came in and held the lead. We've had a little bit of trouble with that and tonight they did a good job."

The Giants opened the scoring after loading the bases with no outs in the third inning. Asai allowed a leadoff single to Shigeyuki Furuki and walked Ryota Wakiya before an error hurt the Eagles.

Yomiuri starter Seth Greisinger (5-3) bunted right to a charging Takeshi Yamasaki, but the first baseman airmailed his throw to third and only a great job backing up by Short temporarily saved a run.

Asai fanned the next two batters and looked like he was going to escape the jam, but Michihiro Ogasawara worked an RBI walk to tie the score at 1-1.

Alex Ramirez then stretched his hitting streak to 23 games, smacking the first pitch to left for an RBI single and a 2-1 Yomiuri lead before Shinnosuke Abe popped out to end the threat.

Ramirez's hitting streak matches Ogasawara, who hit safely in 23 straight last season. Sadaharu Oh is next on the list of longest hit streaks in Giants' history, hitting in 25 straight in 1968, while Isao Harimoto holds the club record with a 30-game hitting streak in 1976.

Ramirez went 2-for-4 and is hitting .500 with 13 RBIs in interleague play.

Yamasaki somewhat made up for his error in the fourth inning by taking an 0-2 pitch to the seats in left for his 10th homer of the season.


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