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Rob Smaal

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Kyojin put in call to Dr. Longball

by Rob Smaal (Nov 5, 2008)

SAITAMA--Takahiro Suzuki, Alex Ramirez and Michihiro Ogasawara all went yard Tuesday at Seibu Dome as the Yomiuri Giants powered past the Seibu Lions 6-4 in Game 3 of the Japan Series.

Left-hander Tetsuya Utsumi pitched 5 1/3 innings of three-run baseball to get the win for Yomiuri while closer Marc Kroon worked a 1-2-3 ninth to get his first career Japan Series save.

The Yomiuri victory gave the Tokyo club a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. The teams square off tonight and Thursday, also at Seibu Dome, before the series shifts back to Tokyo Dome for Games 6 and 7 over the weekend, if necessary.

It looked as if the Giants might cruise Tuesday night, going up 4-0 after two innings. But down 5-0 in the sixth, the Lions put four on the board to make a game of it.

Suzuki and Ramirez each hit a homer and a double for the Giants, the big blow a three-run shot by Suzuki off Seibu starter Kazuhisa Ishii in the second frame.

The Giants got to Ishii early early. Yomiuri leadoff-hitter Suzuki, who was 3-for-4 on the night, stroked the first pitch of the game down the right-field line for a standup double. The speedy Suzuki moved to third on a groundout by Takuya Kimura and then scored on a wild pitch by Ishii. Ishii also gave up a double to former Yakult Swallows teammate Ramirez in the inning, but the Giants were only able to push the one run across.

"I'm glad we had a good game tonight," Suzuki said. "My plan was to approach my at-bats aggressively and go after the first pitch."

In the second, Yoshiyuki Kamei beat out an infield single and Kazunari Tsuruoka drew a walk before Suzuki, who hit just three home runs in the regular season, turned on an Ishii breaking ball and walloped it over the wall in left for a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead.

In the bottom half of the frame, Suzuki flashed some leather in center field, making a nice diving catch on a sinking liner off the bat of Seibu?s Taketoshi Goto.

While Giants starter Utsumi kept the Lions' powerful lineup off balance with a steady diet of breaking balls, Ishii seemed to be fooling no one. In the top of the sixth, Ramirez teed off on his old mate again, this time for a leadoff homer to left.

But down 5-0 in the sixth, the Leos came storming back. After consecutive singles by Yasuyuki Kataoka, Takumi Kuriyama and Hiroyuki Nakajima, Giants manager Tatsunori Hara went to the bullpen and brought in right-hander Kentaro Nishimura. The first batter he faced, cleanup-hitter Takeya Nakamura, got hold of a fastball up in the zone and cranked a three-run shot into the left-field bleachers to make it a one-run game.

Two innings later, however, reigning CL MVP Ogasawara hammered a leadoff solo homer off reliever Chikara Onodera to give Yomiuri a little breathing room.

"Takahiro (Suzuki) got things rolling for us with the first four runs," Hara said. "Ogasawara and Rami's home runs were also effective."

Utsumi gave up three runs on six hits through 5 1/3 innings. He struck out seven and did not issue a walk.

Lions starter Ishii went six innings, allowing five runs on six hits, including two home runs. He whiffed four and walked two.


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