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Kroon bounces back

by John E. Gibson (Oct 26, 2008)

Marc Kroon had the last word this time.

Ending a tumultuous Climax Series on the highest note possible, the Yomiuri closer came on to get three outs, two on strikeouts, and the win in the Giants' second-stage clinching 6-2 victory over the Chunichi Dragons at Tokyo Dome.

Kroon had lost Game 1 on Norihiro Nakamura's ninth-inning RBI single, then got a quick hook in Game 3 after hitting Nakamura to lead off the ninth in a game the Dragons came back to tie.

In Saturday's Game 4, Kroon came on with a four-run lead, ineligible for a save but in prime position for a win. Ironically, the first batter he faced was his nemesis Nakamura, whom he struck out.

The flame-throwing righty had said before the game that he understands why he got a quick shower in Game 3, and that he wanted to come back and contribute to the team in his first-ever playoff experience.

"I deserved to come out...I didn't do my job," Kroon said. "In the ninth inning of a one-run ballgame, you can't hit the first batter you face."

Skipper Tatsunori Hara wasted little time making the change, saying he wanted to prevent a stolen base in that situation after Hidenori Kuramoto came in to run for Nakamura, who left the game.

"You've got to make them earn their way onto first base," Hara said.

Kroon said Nakamura, who also homered off him on Oct. 10 at Tokyo Dome to beat the Giants, has been a troublesome batter for him to retire.

"It's not a secret, the last three times I've faced him, he's beaten me, so maybe I was trying a little too hard last night," the closer said.

After surrendering the winning run Game 1, he appeared to bark at anyone and everyone on the bench. But he never lost faith in himself.

"I'm still a confident pitcher. I didn't get 41 saves by mistake," he said. "Right now obviously I'm struggling a little bit, but nobody's perfect. I just have to figure my way out of this."

That's just what he did.


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