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Uehara, Giants blank Dragons

by Jim Allen (Oct 6, 2008)

Koji Uehara took out some of his Olympic anguish on Chunichi on Sunday and the Giants backed their ace with three home runs.

In his best game of the year, Uehara threw seven shutout innings in Yomiuri's 3-0 victory over the Dragons at Tokyo Dome.

"That bitterness remains from the Olympics, and since coming back I have tried to make up for that as much as I could in the latter stage of the season," said Uehara (6-5), who allowed five hits without a walk.

Uehara, who lost his previous start, against the Dragons on Sept. 28, jammed Chunichi hitters mercilessly. He fanned six--including all three he faced in the seventh.

"I knew I was nearing the end so I wanted to go all out in the last inning," said Uehara, who missed much of the season and returned to the starting rotation only after coming back from Japan's fourth-place finish at the Beijing Olympics.

"I was approaching 100 pitches. It's not like I'm in the condition where I can throw 130. I don't like it, but that's the fact."

Against Chen Wei-yin (7-6), who was 2-0 with a 2.10 ERA in four starts against Yomiuri, Uehara would have to be tough. But the right-hander said Chen was in the same bind.

"I think he had to be worried about shutting us down, too," Uehara said. "After all, the ball flies out of here pretty well. This has to be the easiest home run park around."

The Giants got the drop on the Taiwan lefty in the first inning, when Takanori Suzuki hit a high 0-1 fastball for his third home run of the year.

Uehara found himself in a jam in the second inning, with two on and one out. But with the tying run on third, the right-hander got a big double play started by 25-year-old second baseman Takayuki Terauchi and completed by 19-year-old shortstop Hayato Sakamoto.

Shinnosuke Abe made it 2-0 in the fourth, belting the eighth pitch he saw from Chen well back into the stands in right for his 23rd home run.

Chen left after seven, having allowed two runs on five hits and two walks. The southpaw struck out six, raising his season total against the Giants to 37 in 36-2/3 innings.

With the Dragons a likely playoff opponent, manager Tatsunori Hara was pleased to beat the 23-year-old.

"We hung a loss on him and that's a start," Hara said. "Our record against them (10-14) is not good, so maybe this was what we needed as we look ahead.

"We've still got a lot of battles ahead of us, but sometimes there's no medicine as good as a win."

After Kiyoshi Toyoda worked a scoreless eighth for the Giants, Michihiro Ogasawara made it 3-0 in the bottom of the inning against Akifumi Takahashi with his 36th home run.

For the second straight day, Giants closer Marc Kroon had trouble finding the strike zone. On Saturday, he wrecked a 1-1 tie by issuing two walks and surrendering a three-run homer. On Sunday, Kroon surrendered a leadoff single and loaded the bases with one-out walks.

Terauchi and Sakamoto, however, provided a show-stopping encore: turning a double play on a broken-bat grounder by pinch-hitter Tyrone Woods to give Kroon his 39th save.

"Kroon's form is not good," Hara said in the understatement of the afternoon. We all respect him. His role on this team is huge, and we'll need him in the battles to come. He is going to keep fighting. As for changing his role, I haven't considered that at all."

The Giants, who are a half-game behind Central League-leading Hanshin, have two days off before the Tigers visit Tokyo Dome on Wednesday.


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