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Jim Allen

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Giants win in 12th, push interleague race to final day

by Jim Allen (Jun 22, 2008)

The Yomiuri Giants remained alive for their first interleague title on Saturday but will need a second straight win over the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks today if they are to have any chance of claiming it.

The Giants pulled out a dramatic 3-2 come-from-behind victory on Saturday in 12 innings on Takuya Kimura's two-run sayonara single. The win lifted the Giants into a tie for the interleague lead with the Hawks, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and Hanshin Tigers at 14-9 with one game to go.

The Giants came back from the brink of defeat before a season-high crowd of 45,875 when Noriyoshi Omichi homered with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to tie it 1-1.

The Hawks reclaimed the lead in the top of the 12th on Nobuhiro Matsuda's solo homer. However, Kimura's no-out single in the bottom of the 12th lifted the Giants to victory against right-hander Makoto Sato (0-1).

The former Giant gave up a soft ground single to Shigeyuki Furuki and a double to Takanori Suzuki. Both scored easily when Kimura's looper got past the outfield.

"It was life or death [regarding the interleague title]," said Kimura, who had struck out three times already with a runner in scoring position.

"You simply get over that kind of thing, you just have to suck it up and go on. I think I made up for it in the end.

Ties for the 50-million yen interleague first prize will be settled based on last year's interleague standings, won by the Fighters, with the Giants, Hawks and Tigers following behind in that order. Earlier, the Fighters helped create the four-team logjam by beating the Tigers.

The game at Tokyo Dome was a superb pitchers' duel, with both starters missing bats left and right.

SoftBank's Toshiya Sugiuchi, who entered the game leading both leagues with 116 strikeouts and reached his season-high of 12 for the fourth time.

Seth Greisinger, who was coming off two straight bad starts, allowed a first-inning run and then survived a couple of two-out threats to go seven innings. The 32-year-old struck out a season-high nine, while walking one and surrendering six hits.

The Hawks drew first blood, getting things started with Yuichi Honda's first-inning double. The leadoff man just beat the throw to the bag, beat another throw to third to advance on a fly to right and scored on Nobuhiko Matsunaka's sacrifice fly.

The score would remain 1-0 until veteran Omichi homered on a 3-2 pitch with two out in the bottom of the ninth to tie it off his old team. The 38-year-old improved to 3-for-3 in his career against the Hawks since SoftBank sold him in October 2006.

Sugiuchi finished the ninth but soon left for a pinch-hitter, snapping his complete game string at three.

Honda, who went 2-for-4 with his third straight multihit game, lined a high 2-2 fastball off the wall in right to open the game. Right fielder Yoshinobu Takahashi took the ball off the wall cleanly and a good release nearly allowed him to nail the speedster at second.

Honda's speed allowed him to go to third despite another good throw from Takahashi and score easily on Matsunaka's fifth sac fly of the season.

Takahashi put the Giants in position to retaliate in the bottom of the first with a leadoff double to the gap in right center. Sugiuchi, however, struck out the next two batters, Kimura and No. 3 man Michihiro Ogasawara, and got cleanup hitter Alex Ramirez to end the inning on a groundout.

After that both clubs traded threats but both pitchers were up to the task.

In the third inning, Sugiuchi singled with one out but never got past first base. When he returned to the mound from running the bases, Sugiuchi gave up a leadoff double to the Giants' No. 8 hitter, Takayuki Terauchi.

Greisinger bunted the runner over and Takahashi walked giving the Giants a prime scoring chance. But once more, Sugiuchi stepped up. With the infield in, the southpaw again struck out Kimura and Ogasawara.

"Obviously, we have some questions considering the way our core regulars batted tonight," Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. "But we won thanks to some superb efforts from the bench. It was their night."


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