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John E. Gibson

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Omichi goes long Pinch-hit specialist's rare homer beats 'Stars

by John E. Gibson (Aug 28, 2008)

Yomiuri's Noriyoshi Omichi doesn't have a quick bat or a speedy home run trot.

Neither mattered, however, after he popped an eighth-inning solo homer--the 13th pinch-hit longball of his career--as the Giants came back from two runs down to top the Yokohama BayStars 3-2 win on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome.

Playing in his 21st pro season, Omichi lofted a ball off Yasuhiro Oyamada (3-4) that carried over the fence.

"I thought it was a flyout to center," said the pudgy 38-year-old Omichi, who turned to wave to his teammates as he plodded around the bases. "[Hayato] Sakamoto had gotten a lot of fastballs in his at-bat, so I figured it was time to see an offspeed pitch."

Omichi, who is 12-for-40 as a pinch-hitter this season, passed Hanshin's Shinjiro Hiyama as the active player with the most pinch-hit homers.

The first offering was a high, hanging curve, and Omichi lifted it to the power alley in left-center field for his second longball of the season. The shot broke the 2-2 deadlock as well as the BayStars' backs.

Skipper Tatsunori Hara pushed the right buttons as Yomiuri won its third straight--including the first two of a three-game set with Yokohama.

Four relievers combined for three hitless innings to close it out, and pinch-hitters Omichi and Tomohiro Nioka each produced at the plate.

"Today Nioka and Omichi really came through for us as pinch-hitters. They really get things going," Hara said.

"And all of the relievers--including [Soichi] Fujita--did a good job of getting the game to the back of the bullpen."

Daisuke Ochi (2-2) earned the win, pitching out of a two-on jam in the eighth.

The victory in front of 40,243 pushed the Giants a season-high 12 games over .500 and, thanks to Chunichi's 4-1 win over first-place Hanshin, allowed them to crawl to within seven games of the top spot in the Central League.

Marc Kroon came on to nail down his 30th save, climbing within one of his career-high 31, set last year for the BayStars.

Early on, Yokohama ace Daisuke Miura held the Giants down. He served up Michihiro Ogasawara's 25th homer in the fourth inning, a solo shot that cut Yokohama's lead in half, and allowed a three-hit rally in the sixth before departing for a pinch-hitter with the game tied.

The BayStars lit up the scoreboard first. Yomiuri starter Adrian Burnside plunked Shuichi Murata and Yuki Yoshimura unloaded on the first pitch he saw for his 25th homer of the season for a 2-0 lead.

"We needed to get that next run," said Yokohama skipper Akihiko Oya. "After Yoshimura's home run, we just couldn't come up with the next hit when we needed it."


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