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Rob Smaal

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Giants bash Tigers on night of milestones

by Rob Smaal (Sep 20, 2008)

The kid was hot tonight, just like his Giants, who got a big win on another milestone-filled evening.

Hayato Sakamoto drove in three runs Friday night at Tokyo Dome and Seth Greisinger went seven strong innings to pick up his Central League-leading 16th win as the Yomiuri Giants topped the Hanshin Tigers 6-4.

The game also saw Giants veteran Michihiro Ogasawara crank out the 300th home run of his 12-year NPB career--and 30th of this season--and closer Marc Kroon worked the ninth inning to get his 36th save of 2008, tying the all-time NPB mark for a foreign pitcher with 120 career saves in Japan.

Right-hander Greisinger held the Tigers to three runs on six hits through seven innings, striking out five while walking one and hitting one batter with a pitch.

The win was the eighth in a row for the red-hot Giants, who moved to within two games of the CL-leading Tigers. The clubs also face each other Saturday and Sunday in this key late-season series.

Sakamoto, a 19-year-old shortstop, smacked an RBI triple off the wall in left in the second inning and added a two-run double in the fourth off Hanshin starter Yuya Ando. The fourth-inning double came after Ando had issued a pair of two-out walks.

"This was a game we had to win," said Sakamoto. "I was pretty nervous up there but I'm happy I was able to calm down enough to get a few hits and contribute to the victory."

Takahiro Suzuki hit a leadoff homer to left in the fifth off Hanshin reliever Hirotaka Egusa to make it 4-1 and Ogasawara went yard in the seventh with an opposite-field two-run shot off Jeff Williams.

Hanshin got on the board in the top of the fifth on a pinch-hit sacrifice fly to left by Ikuro Katsuragi. They added a pair of runs an inning later on RBI singles up the middle by Kentaro Sekimoto and Lin Wei-ju.

The Tigers' Makoto Imaoka greeted Giants reliever Daisuke Ochi with a solo homer in the eighth and that was the end of Ochi's night. Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara got out the quick hook and brought in lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi to face veteran Hanshin slugger Tomoaki Kanemoto, who grounded out to first.

Ando (12-8) took the loss, allowing three runs on three hits in four innings.

Greisinger, who led the Central League with 16 wins last season with the Yakult Swallows, improved to a league-best 16-8 this year. No foreign pitcher has ever led the CL in wins two years in a row. Kip Gross did it in the Pacific League in 1995-96 with the Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Kroon, who recently broke teammate Koji Uehara's Giants franchise record for saves, tied Eddie Gaillard for career saves by a foreign closer. Gaillard had 120 with the Chunichi Dragons and Yokohama BayStars from 2000-04.


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