The Yomiuri Giants scored early and often Tuesday night, then held the fort to top the hapless Yokohama BayStars 7-3 in a Central League matchup at Tokyo Dome.
Alex Ramirez flared a bases-loaded, two-run single to shallow right field in the bottom of the first inning and Shinnosuke Abe clobbered a three-run homer to straightaway center on the first pitch he saw from Yokohama starter Yuji Yoshimi (1-3). Giants leadoff hitter Takahiro Suzuki, who had opened the inning with a single, came up for the second time in the first to single in the sixth run of the inning.
"It's a warm feeling to come home and be welcomed back by our fans," said Abe, who was playing his first game back with the Giants after competing for Japan in the Beijing Olympics.
"I was eager to get back in the groove, so I swung at the first pitch and got all of it," added Abe, whose home run was his 14th of the season.
Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara was also glad to have his starting catcher back.
"It's nice to have Abe back, that's for sure," said Hara, "especially the way he led us to victory tonight."
Giants left-hander Tetsuya Utsumi, who began the game with a CL-leading 2.13 ERA, improved to 9-7 on the season. Utsumi went five frames, allowing three runs on seven hits and three walks.
Relievers Daisuke Ochi, Tetsuya Yamaguchi and Kiyoshi Toyoda shut the door on Yokohama, holding the BayStars hitless through the next three frames.
Giants skipper Hara brought in closer Marc Kroon for the ninth in a non-save situation. Kroon retired the side in order, inducing two groundouts and a flyout to left to end it.
"Our pitchers did well tonight, especially Ochi and Yamaguchi in relief of Utsumi, who threw a good game himself," said Hara. "Kroon closed it out with no problems so I was very pleased."
Yoshimi's line, by contrast, was not pretty: one inning, 40 pitches, six runs on six hits and three walks for the BayStars' veteran lefty.
Yokohama chipped away at the Giants' lead with two runs in the fourth on a Yuki Yoshimura RBI double to right and a run-scoring groundout by Tatsuhiko Kinjo. In the fifth, Shuichi Murata hammered an RBI single past Yomiuri third baseman Takayuki Terauchi to make it 6-3.
Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto hammered a solo homer to left-center off reliever Shigeki Ushida to lead off the home half of the sixth.
The second-place Giants, fresh off a split in a two-game set against the Chunichi Dragons, improved to 59-48-2 on the year. The last-place BayStars sunk to 37-68-1.
The clubs go at it again tonight at Tokyo Dome before wrapping up the series Thursday.