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Giants power past Lions / Suzuki, Ramirez, Ogasawara go deep as Yomiuri takes 2-1 Series lead

by Jim Allen (Nov 5, 2008)

The Giants brought their pop to the Pacific League champions' park and secured a one-game lead in the 2008 Japan Series on Tuesday.

Although the usual suspects in Yomiuri's lineup chipped in, the big blast came from an unlikely source. Leadoff man Takahiro Suzuki scored the game's first run and belted a three-run homer in a 6-4 Game 3 victory over the Saitama Seibu Lions at Seibu Dome.

Suzuki doubled and scored the Central League champs' first run and made it 4-0 in the second with his homer off lefty Kazuhisa Ishii (0-1).

With the Giants leading 1-0, Suzuki came up with two outs and two on and created the first big lead of the Series on a pitch that hung over the middle of the plate.

"It was a slider that came from the outside and the ball did well to stay fair," said Suzuki, who has eight homers in 965 regular season at-bats.

"Today the manager advised me, 'You've got to use your right leg more when you hit, that's no good.'

"I was able to turn on the ball really well and I owe a debt of gratitude to the skipper."

Alex Ramirez hit a solo shot off Ishii in the top of the sixth, and Michihiro Ogasawara homered off right-handed reliever Chikara Onodera in the eighth to ice it.

"What was huge was the first four runs," said Ramirez, whose homer was his second of the Series.

"I think the home run that Ogasawara hit closed the door."

Giants starter Tetsuya Utsumi earned the win, allowing three runs on six hits in 5-1/3 innings. He struck out seven without issuing a walk and didn't allow the Lions much of anything until he had a five-run lead.

"His command of his curve and his other breaking pitches was super from the start," said Giants manager Tatsunori Hara. "He's one of our top pitchers, and overall I think he pitched fine."

All of the Lions runs came in the bottom of the sixth. After back-to-back, one-out singles, Hiroyuki Nakajima made it three straight and trimmed a run of Yomiuri's gigantic lead.

That was enough for Utsumi. With the table set for right-handed cleanup man Takeya Nakamura, Hara brought in right-hander Kentaro Nishimura.

Nakamura, however, broke his 0-for-10 Series start with a three-run homer to bring the Lions within a run. But that was as close as they would get. Nishimura got out of the inning, and Daisuke Ochi allowed only a walk over two scoreless frames.

That allowed closer Marc Kroon to mark his Series debut with a save as the Giants won their second straight game.

Suzuki, who went 3-for-4, doubled off Ishii's first pitch, went to third on a defensive lapse and scored on a wild pitch. Although runs had been at a premium in the first two games, this run came on three pitches.

Suzuki took off for third on a hard grounder that gave shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima a good chance of nailing the lead runner. Nakajima, however, opted for the sure out at first. The infield came in and Ishii bounced one well in front of the plate. Catcher Toru Hosokawa chased it to the backstop as Suzuki scored.

"From the beginning, I just wanted to stay aggressive, that's my game," said Suzuki, whose 105 games this year were the most of his career.

"My batting in the first two games wasn't all that bad, but I just wasn't getting results.

"On my start from second, that was my inititiative. I thought I could make it and I went for it."

In the second, Yoshiyuki Kamei reached on a one-out infield single when Ishii failed to cover first in time. A passed ball on ball four to Kazunari Tsuruoka put runners on the corners for Suzuki, who stunned Seibu Dome.

In the bottom of the inning, Suzuki's tumbling catch in short center field Taketoshi Goto of what could have been the Lions' first hit.

"He had a dynamic game," said Giants head coach Haruki Ihara of the center fielder and leadoff man.

"That dash from second--you don't do that unless you are completely confident. He followed it up with that catch. He had his whole game tonight."

Ramirez, who like Ishii left the Tokyo Yakult Swallows last winter, hit a solo homer off his former teammate in the top of the sixth before the Lions came back in the bottom of the inning.

Ishii, who lost the first postseason game of his career, surrendered five runs on six hits and two walks. After Suzuki's homer, Ishii regrouped but he could not get the runs back and after Nakamura's homer, the Giants' generosity ceased.

"Our bullpen did the job, and that's the way we win games," Hara said.


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