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Rob Smaal

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Japan Series Hard-charging Rami has Giants jazzed for Game 6

by Rob Smaal (Nov 8, 2008)

With Friday being an off day in the Japan Series, the Yomiuri Giants held a light workout at Tokyo Dome before the series resumes with Game 6 on Saturday.

After the Giants' 7-3 win over the Lions at Seibu Dome in Game 5 on Thursday night, Yomiuri is one win away from nailing down its 21st NPB title since 1950.

DH Shinnosuke Abe and utility infielder Ryota Wakiya both came up with some clutch hits in Thursday's win, each driving in a pair of runs, but Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara says the team drew inspiration from another source.

"We didn't have many chances but we had that big inning in the seventh and (Alex) Ramirez lit the fire with his hit and hustle to stretch it into a double," said Hara.

The play Hara was referring to occurred in the seventh inning with his club behind 2-1. Ramirez, primarily a power hitter not known for his defense and definitely not known for his speed, hit a groundball back up the middle off Seibu ace Hideaki Wakui. The ball caromed off the bag at second and bounced into right field. Ramirez, a gregarious Venezuelan generously listed at 34 years of age in the media guide, went chugging around first base and just beat the tag at second. He would then race home with the tying run on an Abe single to right before the Giants broke it open with three more runs in the frame.

"Rami's hustle really inspired me and I was excited to get a hit after him," Abe said.

Ramirez, who hit 45 home runs in his first season with Yomiuri, has gone deep twice so far in this Japan Series. He said he told his agent in the offseason that he wanted a chance to win a championship after some lean years with the Yakult Swallows, and now he finds himself one win away from doing just that.

Ramirez also said he draws inspiration from his biggest fan--his 5-year-old pet Chihuahua named Lilly.

* * *

The Lions held an optional practice Friday-- "optional" being the key word. Reportedly, only four pitchers showed up at Seibu Dome, including Game 5 loser Wakui and Kazuyuki Hoashi, the anticipated Game 6 starter.

Left-hander Hisanori Takahashi, who got the start against Hoashi in Yomiuri's dramatic 3-2 "sayonara" win in Game 2, which came courtesy of one of those Rami homers, is expected to face Hoashi again Saturday.

The probable pitchers for Sunday's Game 7, should it come to that, are Giants lefty Tetsuya Utsumi and either veteran Kaz Ishii or Game 4 winner Takayuki Kishi for manager Hisanobu Watanabe's Lions.

According to Giants manager Hara, patience will be a key to victory this weekend.

"Your starting pitcher has to be patient," Hara stressed Friday at Tokyo Dome. "You cannot give any momentum to your opponent. You must be patient on the mound."

* * *

Both clubs are fighting a bit of an injury bug. The Giants started the series without outfielder Yoshinobu Takahashi (back) and a shoulder injury has limited All-Star catcher Shinnosuke Abe to pinch-hitting-DH duties.

The Lions began the series without the services of power-hitters Craig Brazell (concussion) and G.G. Sato (ankle). Things got worse for the Saitama Nine on Thursday, however, when shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, always a threat to go yard, and catcher Toru Hosokawa both left the game with injuries. Nakajima hurt a muscle in his side while swinging at a pitch and Hosokawa banged up his shoulder sliding awkwardly into first base. The status of both men for Game 6 was uncertain.


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