Despite all the big names and big bucks in their lineup, the Yomiuri Giants are just .500 against the little-name Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
Third-year pro Shinichi Takeuchi helped make sure of that with a two-out, tiebreaking triple in a three-run fifth inning that lifted Yakult to a 7-4 win over Yomiuri before 37,112 at Tokyo Dome on Tuesday.
Takeuchi found the gap in right-center off reliever Daisuke Ochi (0-2) and the ball made its way to the wall past a drawn-in outfield.
After the Giants elected to intentionally walk Hiroyasu Tanaka, Wilson Valdez hit a dunker down the right-field line that landed inches fair to score a pair and give Yakult a three-run cushion.
Takeuchi said he just wanted to make contact.
"In that situation, I was behind in the count so I just wanted to try to get the bat on the ball and put it in play," said Takeuchi.
"I figured something good would happen if I could do that, and it did. I really wanted to get a hit there."
The Central League's fifth-place Swallows, who are 5-5 against the third-place Giants, closed it out with four scoreless innings from their bullpen, Lim Chang Yong shutting the door in the ninth for his 19th save.
"We got this first game and I hope we can come back the next two days and sweep the series," Takeuchi said.
The Swallows, who swept the Giants at Jingu Stadium to open the season, relish the idea of beating Yomiuri.
"A win is a win, but it's nice to get one against the Giants," Yakult skipper and former Giant Shigeru Takada said.
The loss spoiled Alex Ramirez's all-star performance for the Giants. Ramirez, who went 4-for-4, homered and had four RBIs in his first two at-bats. The longballs gave him three consecutive at-bats with homers over two games, and an eye-popping eight RBIs.
"As you can see, Ramirez is just awesome," said Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara, who then ripped starter Takahiko Nomaguchi, who lasted just three innings and allowed four runs.
"Maybe he's not cut out to be a starter," Hara said. "He didn't even get anyone to swing and miss today. He got some half-swings, but they got their bats on everything else."
The Swallows got on the scoreboard thanks to some help from Yomiuri's Yoshitomo Tani.
After Shinya Miyamoto singled with one out, Norichika Aoki laced what looked like a standard single to center. But Tani decided to dive to try to make an impossible shoestring catch. The result: the ball got past him for an RBI triple, and Aoki came home on Kazuhiro Hatakeyama's groundout to short for a 2-0 Swallows lead.
The Swallows made it 3-0 in the second as newcomer Valdez, who joined the club on June 9, executed the hit-and-run with Tanaka on first.
Tanaka zipped to third on Valdez's basehit to right, and came home on Ryohei Kawamoto's sacrifice fly.
The Giants shaved the lead to two runs in the second when Ramirez went deep the opposite way, depositing a 2-2 offspeed pitch in the seats in right for his league-leading 21st homer that cut Yakult's lead to 3-1.
Aoki, though, answered by lining the first pitch of the third inning over the wall in right for a 4-1 advantage. It was his ninth homer of the season and the first time in his career he has homered in three consecutive games.
"I went into the batter's box with the idea of aggressively going after the first pitch, and that's exactly what I was able to do," Aoki said.
But Ramirez evened things with one swing, blasting his 22nd homer with two aboard to make it 4-4 in the fourth.