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John E. Gibson

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Giants' Furuki slugs Swallows

by John Gibson (Jul 3, 2008)

If the Yomiuri Giants are going to come back and catch Hanshin atop the Central League, they will have to show some fight.

And Shigeyuki Furuki did on Wednesday, coming up with the night's biggest punch, a two-run, tiebreaking home run off Takehiko Oshimoto (2-2) in a four-run eighth inning as the third-place Giants beat back the upstart Tokyo Yakult Swallows 7-5 in a thriller before 37,143 at Tokyo Dome.

All seven batters Oshimoto faced put good wood on the ball, but the defense couldn't help on Furuki's shot.

"The hopes from the fans in the right-field stands reached all the way to my bat," said Furuki, who came on as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning.

"There's nothing negative to say about his at-bat," Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara said of Furuki, who entered the season with one home run in 488 career at-bats.

The shot was the veteran utility infielder's third of the season.

"He did a great job of executing at the plate in that situation. But we had a lot of mistakes to reflect on in this game," said Hara, who could point to former ace Koji Uehara.

Uehara (1-4) got the win, but struggled, allowing three runs--two earned--in two wobbly innings. He was shipped to the farm because of ineffectiveness, hadn't toed the Dome mound in three months and still needs work.

The right-hander allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh. After the Giants tied it, gave up two more the next inning. The right-hander surrendered six hits and a walk, but pitched out of trouble to get his first win since Sept. 6, 2007.

"How was he? Well, it had been a long time since he pitched here at Tokyo Dome and he was probably nervous with all the fans cheering like they did," Hara said of Uehara, who threw on Sunday in Hiroshima after going to the farm following an April 26 appearance.

"Let's hope he does better next time."

Marc Kroon, who had been stuck on 19 saves since June 18, let the tying runs reach scoring position, but retired Hiroyasu Tanaka to end the game and record at least 20 saves in each of his four seasons in Japan.

Takuya Kimura's sacrifice fly in the eighth tied it at 5-5, and Yoshinobu Takahashi, who struck out four times--making contact with just three pitches--on Tuesday, came back to go 2-for-2, including an RBI single ahead of Kimura.


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