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John E. Gibson

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Murata continues to be Yokohama's shining Star

by John E. Gibson (Jul 11, 2008)

As poorly as Yokohama has played this season, Shuichi Murata showed there can be a few shining moments.

Murata slugged a pair of longballs and drove in all six runs as the BayStars won consecutive games for just the fourth time this season, beating the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 6-2 on Thursday night before 12,246 at Jingu Stadium.

It was the first six-RBI game for last year's Central League home run leader since April 1, 2006, when he drove in the same number against the Yomiuri Giants.

"It's a long season so I guess it's OK to sometimes have days like this," joked Murata, whose 22 homers put him two behind CL leader Alex Ramirez of Yomiuri.

The BayStars (23-51) won their first series since taking two from Pacific League-leading Saitama Seibu during interleague on June 21 and 23.

"We played a good and I hope we can carry it over to tomorrow," Murata said.

Yokohama's bullpen also deserved a game ball. Five relievers teamed up to allow only two hits over the final 3-2/3 innings to preserve the lead for the struggling 'Stars, who have spent all season deep in the CL cellar.

The BayStars struck first, Murata lining a two-out single to left to plate CL batting leader Seiichi Uchikawa, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles.

The Swallows came right back by scoring two in their half of the first. Shinichi Takeuchi doubled off the wall in left center and Wilson Alvarez drew a bases-loaded walk to get fifth-place Yakult a 2-1 lead.

Yakult starter Kosuke Matsui (1-1)--making his second start of the season--had his evening cut short when a comebacker off the bat of Uchikawa hit him on the thumb and index finger on his throwing hand.

The right-hander left the game with two on, and Jun Hagiwara's first pitch to Murata quickly became a souvenir for fans in the left-field bleachers as Yokohama jumped on top with a 4-2 lead.

"They had just put in a new pitcher, so I just counted to three and took a big swing," Murata said. "I had gotten a hit to knock in the first run of the game, but they came right back and got the lead.

"At the very least, I wanted to make sure to drive in one run, but things turned out good for me and it went out."

The shot came right after Murata had made a spectacular leaping catch on a liner by Norichika Aoki.

"I jumped and it just happened to find my glove," Murata quipped. "I felt good going to the plate after making a good play like that in the field."

Yokohama rookie Futoshi Kobayashi (3-5) did enough to earn the win, allowing two runs on three hits, four walks and a hit batter while fanning four in 5-1/3 innings.

He departed after a double and groundout in the sixth inning.

"I was all over the place in the first inning," Kobayashi said. "I was too juiced up and ended up using all my upper body to throw. I was able to straighten it out, but got into trouble again in the sixth."

The bullpen, though, took care of business, the most impressive inning by Ryota Igarashi, who fired 15 darts to strike out the side in the sixth.


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