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John E. Gibson

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Ramirez, Giants level Series

by John E. Gibson (Nov 3, 2008)

Alex Ramirez was dancing among the stars on Sunday night at Tokyo Dome.

The Venezuelan cleanup man spanked a slider from Seibu righty Shinya Okamoto out to left-center field in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Yomiuri Giants a 3-2 walk-off win in Game 2 of the Japan Series before 44,814.

In a battle of bullpens, the Giants slammed the door and Ramirez locked it.

"So far, that's the best feeling ever" Ramirez said of rounding third and seeing a sea of Giants teammates waiting to greet him.

"I needed to do something. I left a lot of runners on base, so I had to do something," said Ramirez, whose previous hit was a Game 1 floater to right field that could have been caught.

He had grounded out three times and popped out in his first four at-bats before busting out in a big way.

"I was looking for something in the strike zone in that situation and I wanted to lift the ball and not hit the ball on the ground.

"I was hitting the ball on the ground all day. But I'm glad it happened like this and I'm glad we got this win today," said Ramirez, who was forced to delay his traditional home run dance after being mobbed at the plate by his teammates.

The win evened the Series at a game apiece and the next three are at Seibu Dome, starting on Tuesday.

When asked his goal for the next three straight on the Lions' turf, Ramirez said: "To go there and win the first game. That way, at least we're coming back to Tokyo."

Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara was relieved to get even and filled with walk-off excitement.

"This was a big home run for him as an individual and for the Giants as a team," the skipper said

"We have some time to get refreshed and then go at them again at Seibu Dome."

Third-year righty Daisuke Ochi worked a pair of perfect innings in relief for the win. He fanned two and got two sparkling defensive plays behind him for a victory in his Series debut.

"They just didn't allow us to string hits together," said Seibu manager Hisanobu Watanabe.

"[Hiroyuki] Nakajima was the only thing we had going tonight. It was really tough for us."

The Giants put the first run on the board in the second frame.

Lee Seung Yeop walked and Seibu starter Kazuyuki Hoashi plunked Yoshitomo Tani to start the set up a scoring chance. After Hayato Sakamoto sacrificed them over, No. 8 man Kazunari Tsuruoka got a 2-2 pitch down and away and poked it deep enough to right to score Lee from third for a 1-0 Giants lead.

The Lions quickly came back to grab the lead against Yomiuri southpaw starter Hisanori Takahashi in the fourth inning. Yasuyuki Kataoka opened it up by smacking a 3-1 fastball down the third-base line for a leadoff double.

After a sacrifice bunt, Nakajima--the Game 1 hero--worked the count to 3-1 before tattooing a down-the-pipe changeup into the Lions fan section in left 130 meters from home plate for a 2-1 Seibu lead.

It was his second go-ahead homer in as many nights.

Those were the only runs Takahashi allowed in 4-1/3 innings.

"After I allowed that home run, I knew I couldn't give them any additional runs," Takahashi said.

"I thought if I gave up more runs, it would cost us the Series."

The Giants kept Hoashi in trouble in all five of his innings. The Seibu lefty surrendered 10 base runners, allowing just one to score before departing after 83 pitches.

A one-out mental lapse in the fifth inning by Kataoka set up Yomiuri's biggest scoring chance off Hoashi. The second baseman failed to cover first on a dribbler down the first-base line that Hoashi and Akira Eto moved to field.

Eto gloved the ball but had no place to throw it. That put the tying run on and Michihiro Ogasawara came up and blasted an opposite-field double that nearly punctured the padding in the left-center field wall. Cleanup man Alex Ramirez stepped up with the infield in, but tapped to first for the second out.

Takeya Nakamura then raced in from his spoat at third and made a strong pickup and throw on a weak bouncer by Yoshitomo Tani and the threat was over.

The Giants got even off the Seibu bullpen in the sixth inning. Yoshiyuki Kamei, who entered the game on a double-switch in the top of the sixth inning, ripped a shot down the line in right for a two-bagger off Koji Onuma to plate Sakamoto, who had singled to lead it off.


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