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Sakamoto socks it to Tigers

by Jim Allen (Sep 20, 2008)

The Giants' momentum continued into the opening game of their critical three-game series against the Central League-leading Tigers on Friday.

Three RBIs from No. 8 hitter Hayato Sakamoto helped propel Yomiuri to its eighth straight win, a 6-4 victory over Hanshin before 45,744 at Tokyo Dome.

"I was more nervous than usual today," said Sakamoto, who tripled in a run in the second and doubled in two more in the fourth off right-hander Yuya Ando (12-8).

"It's not a good thing to be nervous, but once I get onto the field and get into the game, the nerves evaporate.

"I'm a little nervous before every game, but I try to play with a positive image that helps me deal with it. I think dealing with this positively is going to help from here on."

Michihiro Ogasawara provided what proved to be the winning runs when he belted a two-run homer in the seventh inning, making him the 35th player in Japan pro baseball history with 300 home runs.

The runs helped make a winner of right-hander Seth Greisinger, who allowed three in seven innings to win his fourth straight start and match his CL-leading win total of a year ago.

Greisinger (16-8) beat Hanshin for the third straight time and improved to 7-3 with a 2.15 ERA in his career against the Tigers.

"When you consider how good Greisinger can be, I think I'd give him a 70 on a scale of 100," said Giants manager Tatsunori Hara. "I expected him to go seven and he did. Three runs in seven innings. That's nice pitching."

Sakamoto, who homered in each of his previous two games, tripled off the wall in left with two outs and a man on first. He then put the screws to the Tigers in the fourth after Ando issued two-out walks to Yoshinobu Takahashi and Shinnosuke Abe.

"I figured after two walks he was going to try and get ahead, so I wanted to be aggressive on the first pitch," said the Giants 19-year-old shortstop.

"Recently, I've been keeping a good image of my swing in mind. I've gone to a slightly heavier bat and have been conscious of keeping my swing compact."

The Tigers trimmed the Giants lead to two in the top of the fifth. Lin Wei-chu started the trouble with a leadoff double, and Ikuro Katsuragi, batting for Ando, picked Lin up from third with a sacrifice fly.

Ando allowed three runs in four innings--his shortest start of the season. The right-hander issued three walks and struck out three.

Giants leadoff man Takahiro Suzuki restored Greisinger's three-run cushion by opening the bottom of the fifth with a home run off lefty Hirotaka Egusa.

It was the seventh-career homer for the speedy switch-hitter but his first from the right side of the plate.

Makoto Imaoka doubled to open the sixth and Kentaro Sekimoto plated him from third with a two-out single. Sekimoto took second on a delayed steal and scored on a Lin single.

Ogasawara's homer, off lefty Jeff Williams, made it 6-3 Giants in the seventh. Suzuki singled with one out off right-hander Ryo Watanabe, and skipper Tatsunori Hara played for one run with a one-out sacrifice before Williams came on to face Ogasawara.

The Australian side-armer missed with his first three pitches before Ogasawara drilled a 3-1 fastball to left for his 30th homer of the year.

Imaoka homered on the first pitch from Giants right-hander Daisuke Ochi in the eighth, but lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi got three straight outs and closer Marc Kroon recorded his 36th save in the ninth.

The Giants can close to within a game of the league lead with a win tonight.


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