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Shimamura smashes Buffs past Lions

by Jim Allen (Jul 29, 2008)

Ikki Shimamura just wanted to tie the game; instead he went the distance.

The 26-year-old infielder, thriving as a regular for the first time, hit his first career grand slam as the Orix Buffaloes beat the Saitama Seibu Lions 6-2 on Monday at Seibu Dome.

Shimamura's fourth-inning blast off Hideaki Wakui (8-8) turned the game around, and Satoshi Komatsu undermined the Lions heavy hitters with seven innings of slow stuff. The victory lifted the fourth-place Buffaloes to within seven games of the Pacific League-leading Lions.

With the Lions leading 1-0 in the fourth, Wakui lost his control and the lead quickly followed.

A single on a 3-0 pitch loaded them up for Shimamura. Although he struck out swinging to end the second, the youngster entered the game hitting .360 in 100 at-bats.

Shimamura fell behind 1-2, but was then able to foul off everything near the zone. He spoiled three 2-2 pitches before taking Ball 3 and smashing a belt-high fastball over the inside part of the plate.

"I hit a fastball and that's what I expected 3-2," Shimamura said. "I went to the plate thinking I had to tie the game at the very least. A bases-loaded walk would have tied it, so I was going to lay off pitches out of the zone.

"It couldn't have worked out any better."

The homer was Shimamura's fifth of the year and of his career.

Wakui allowed five hits and walked three, while striking out five.

The Lions halved the Buffaloes lead in the sixth, but Alex Cabrera hit a two-run home run against his old teammates in the top of the ninth to all but complete the big cat taxidermy.

The Lions, who have feasted on Buffaloes pitchers all season, had not faced Komatsu since he was promoted to the starting rotation on April 9. They had not hit the right-hander in 3-1/3 innings of early-season relief, and it wasn't any prettier with him starting the game.

Komatsu and batterymate Takeshi Hidaka starved the carnivores on a soft diet of curves, sliders and forkballs. With exceptional command of his breaking stuff, Komatsu used the fastball sparingly and rarely put it anywhere but on the outside corner or beyond.

When he did come inside with it, the element of surprise made Komatsu's little fastball lethal.

He pitched out of a two-on, one-out jam in the bottom of the fourth, when he caught slugger Takeya Nakamura looking at a fastball on the inside corner, the first one he'd thrown there all night.

Lions leadoff hitter Yasuyuki Kataoka opened the scoring by manufacturing a first-inning run. He singled on a first-pitch fastball away, stole his Japan-best 35th base and went to third on a grounder to second.

From third, Kataoka strolled home on Hiroyuki Nakajima's sacrifice fly to deep center.

Although the Lions had just one hit through three innings, the run looked big with Wakui in charge.

In the fourth, the right-hander was two thirds of the way through an easy inning, when he couldn't throw a strike.

With a man on, Hidaka singled off a 3-0 fastball to keep the inning alive. Wakui got ahead of Shinji Shimoyama 0-2 only to walk him on six pitches and load the bases for Shimamura, who delivered the big blow.

The Lions trimmed the Buffs' lead in the bottom of the sixth, with Kataoka again scoring on an out by Nakajima.

Komatsu allowed two runs, one earned. He gave up four hits and issued two walks while striking out seven.


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