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Giants' Kajimae debuts with historic homer

by Jim Allen (Jun 7, 2008)

Giants rookie Ryuichi Kajimae had a Tokyo Dome debut to remember on Friday, becoming the first player in Japan pro history to hit a sayonara home run in his first at-bat.

After being told by his manager to go for it, the 23-year-old hit the third pitch he saw to lift Yomiuri to a 4-3 interleague victory over the Chiba Lotte Marines.

"It's unbelievable," said Kajimae, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the top of the 10th.

He made a good catch on a foul fly for the first out before Marc Kroon (1-1) struck out the next three batters. The first strikeout victim reached on an uncaught third strike.

Before going to the plate with one out in the 10th, Kajimae received some encouragement from his skipper.

"I told him to give it his all," Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. "Is that really the first time it's ever been done?

"He's quite a prospect, but whether he gets a good result or not, the most important thing is to go all out. It's a big thing for the team; it's a big thing for him as a player."

Kajimae, who was selected in the fourth round of the draft for non-high school players, came out of Tokai University and said he was surprised his chance came so soon.

"He's got big potential," Hara said. "But you can say that about every guy who turns pro. What matters is how he polishes and refines it."

The rookie hit a high 1-1 changeup from Yusuke Kawasaki (0-2) to end the game played in front of 43,102.

"I've never played before so many people and it really motivated me," Kajimae said.

Asked what he was thinking when he rounded the bases, he said: "I just tried not to get hurt [in the celebration]."

The loss saw the Marines, in last place in the Pacific League, once more fail to win back-to-back games. The last time they won their second straight game was on May 13.

Still, things started well for the visitors. The Marines achieved a three-run bridgehead in the third inning against Giants starter Takehiko Nomaguchi on a two-out solo homer by Shunichi Nemoto and a two-run double by Saburo Omura.

The Giants scored single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth off Marines ace Naoyuki Shimizu.

Michihiro Ogasawara hit his ninth home run of the season in the fourth. In the fifth, Shinnosuke Abe walked, went to third on Shigeyuki Furuki's double. Pinch-hitter Takayuki Shimizu plated Abe with a sacrifice fly caught foul down the right field line.

The Giants tied it in the sixth when Takuya Kimura singled and scored from third on a groundout after Ogasawara doubled him to third with no outs. Alex Ramirez got credit for the RBI, but he went 0- for-4, snapping the Giants' second longest batting streak ever at 27 games.

Both bullpens then proved superb until Kawasaki's lapse in the 10th. Nomaguchi worked three innings, but lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi, and righties Daisuke Ochi and Kentaro Nishimura each threw two scoreless innings.

The Marines bullpen got into the act after the sixth, with Yasutomo Kubo carrying the load for two innings and Kawasaki sending the game into extra innings with a 1-2-3 ninth.

The Marines opened the game with a two-out threat in the first, but they were unable to carry it out until the third.

With two down, Nemoto smashed one over the wall in right center for his second career homer and his second at Tokyo Dome.

Tomoya Satozaki and Julio Zuleta, who had created the first-inning scoring opportunity, were at it again in the third. After Nemoto's homer, Satozaki walked and Zuleta doubled to bring up left-handed- hitting Shoitsu Omatsu. Pitching coach Takao Obana came to the mound, Nomaguchi walked Omatsu on four pitches and Omura came to bat.

If the plan had been for Nomaguchi could go righty-on-righty against Omura, it was ill- considered. Omura hits right-handers better than Omatsu, and right-handed hitters have hit Nomaguchi better than lefties throughout his career.

Omatsu was the Giants' best chance to escape further trouble, and they flushed it. Omura doubled in two and forced the Giants to play catch up--which they fortunately were able to do.


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