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John E. Gibson

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Giants look to seal Series

by John E. Gibson (Nov 8, 2008)

While the Seibu Lions were licking their wounds on Friday, the Yomiuri Giants were licking their chops in preparation for Game 6 of the Japan Series.

The Giants have a 3-2 lead and the chance to close out the Series in front of a home crowd in tonight's game, which starts at 6:15 p.m. at Tokyo Dome.

The Giants are expected to go with lefty starter Hisanori Takahashi, who got a no-decision in Game 2. The Lions, who lost shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima and catcher Toru Hosokawa to injuries in the first half of a 7-3 Game 5 loss on Thursday, figure to send southpaw Kazuyuki Hoashi to the hill in an elimination game.

The discomfort in Hosokawa's right shoulder might not keep him out, but the Lions could be without Nakajima after their top hitter--and a Pacific League MVP candidate--felt pain in his left ribcage.

Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara had little to say about Seibu's possible missing pieces, but said he is sure that Nakajima wants to compete.

"On the biggest stage, you want to be able to bring your best and stand chest-to-chest and battle," Hara said during a workout that many veterans were allowed to skip.

"I'm sure that's his hope, and that's the way we're preparing to go into the game. That's all I can say about that."

The Giants pulled off a dramatic win in Game 5. Shinnosuke Abe had a two-hit, two-RBI performance from the designated hitter's spot and Alex Ramirez's hustling double helped trigger a four-run seventh inning highlighted by Ryota Wakiya's go-ahead two-run triple.

Hara said finishing the job will require focusing on the road ahead.

"It's wonderful to be able to be in the position of completing a major accomplishment like this," said Hara, who guided Yomiuri to its last championship in 2002 in the first year of a two-year stint as manager.

"But in a series, you never know what can happen. You have to look at the long term and compete or else you'll get beaten."

Hara pointed to starting pitching as the key for his club today.

"We don't want to give them control early, so it's going to be a big job for our starter to go out and hold them. After that, it's a matter of getting some offense," Hara said.

Meanwhile, the Lions have to hope Nakajima can play. The shortstop is hitting .353 in the Series and homered in the first two games at Tokyo Dome.

"I've never had an injury there before," Nakajima told reporters after Thursday's game.

Nakajima left in the fourth inning after swinging at a pitch low and away. He sat on the bench and talked with skipper Hisanobu Watanabe and the trainer before heading into the clubhouse.

"I went after a two-seamer outside and I took a funny swing," Nakajima said. "I really wanted to play, but I figured if I wasn't 100 percent, I'd do more harm to the team than good.

"I'll rest it [for a day] and then get after it on Saturday."

Most of the Lions also rested on Friday, with only pitchers showing up for a light morning workout.


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