The Hiroshima Toyo Carp showed why they remain in the hunt for a playoff spot on Friday, when superior defense and clutch pitching lifted them to their third straight win.
Despite a poor starting effort by a pitcher who has dominated Yomiuri, the Carp hung on to beat the Giants 5-4 behind six shutout innings from the bullpen at Tokyo Dome.
"We're playing good ball," Carp skipper Marty Brown said after the Carp moved to within a game of the Chunichi Dragons, who are currently third in the Central League. "We give ourselves a chance to win, even though our starting pitching has fallen a little bit short of late--with the exception of [Kan] Otake.
"The bullpen has been great."
Giants starter Hiroshi Kisanuki (6-5) allowed five runs on seven hits and a walk over 2# innings. Carp starter Ken Takahashi, who has beaten Yomiuri to a pulp the past 2! seasons, somehow forgot to bring his Giant-killing powers.
Takahashi entered the game 6-0 against the Yomiuri since 2006 while allowing the Giants a puny .229 batting average, but on Friday he gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks in three innings.
The bullpen, however, was another story. Hirofumi Ueno worked one-plus inning, while Mike Schultz cleaned up after Ueno gave up back-to-back hits to open the fifth. Schultz retired six of the seven batters he faced.
New righty Jim Brower fanned the meat of the Giants order in the seventh before a 1-2-3 eighth. Closer Katsunori Nagakawa took the ball the ninth for his 23rd save.
The Carp opened the scoring in the top of the first, when Kenta Kurihara's two-out single plated speedster Akihiro Higashide. Yoshitomo Tani's two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the inning, however, put the hosts on top.
Hiroshima's Shigenobu Shima led off the second with a home run to tie it, but Tomohiro Nioka's RBI single edged Yomiuri ahead once more.
While there is no way to mistake the power potential of these two clubs, better fielding left the underpowered Carp holding the big stick this time.
Although the Giants managed two runs in the first on a walk and three hits, a deadly throw from right fielder Alex Ochoa kept the hosts from breaking away.
"I've still got a little bit," said the 36-year-old Ochoa, who went 2-for-4 at the plate, scored a run and hustled out a double.
A clutch play by rookie shortstop Tetsuya Kokubo got a key out in the second inning, preventing the Giants from scoring more than one run, while second baseman Higashide did the same in the third with a leaping catch to rob Alex Ramirez of a line single.
"Kokubo made some nice plays, where he really ranged well, and Kimura made a couple of good plays at first," Brown said.
"Alex [Ochoa] set the tone in the first inning, when he threw [Takuya] Kimura out at third."
The Carp claimed the lead for good in the top of the third inning. Masato Akamatsu and Ochoa opened with back-to-back singles. Kisanuki left the mound after a one-out walk loaded the bases.
Kentaro Nishimura came on, and Scott Seabol, who entered batting .380 against Yomiuri (19-for-50), lined a single to left that scored two.
Left fielder Ramirez tried to cut off the second run at the plate. A high arcing throw, however, served no purpose except to advance the trailing runners. Carp catcher Yoshikazu Kura followed with another line single for a 5-4 lead.
Nishimura got out of the inning by striking out Takahashi with two men in scoring position. It proved to be a big out after the southpaw stumbled again in the bottom of the third. The lefty allowed a run on Tomohiro Nioka's one-out RBI single.
Although a quartet of Giants relievers were nearly perfect over the last six innings, it was not enough. Lefty Norihito Kaneto, right-hander Daisuke Ochi, lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi and righty Kiyoshi Toyoda combined for eight strikeouts while allowing one hit and no walks. Their effort kept it close but could not turn the tide.