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Rob Smaal

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Carp power past Giants in Big Egg opener

by Rob Smaal (Apr 4, 2009)

In a game featuring a matchup of two of the top pitchers from the Central League last season, Colby Lewis and his Hiroshima Carp got the jump on Seth Greisinger and the defending league champion Yomiuri Giants on Opening Day.

Lewis (1-0) limited the Giants to three runs on six hits through six innings Friday night and Scott Seabol and Masato Akamatsu came up with clutch hits as Hiroshima won the opener 6-3 at a packed Tokyo Dome.

"Our guys stayed on Greisinger," said Carp skipper Marty Brown. "He got behind in the count and we took advantage of it. Colby got the ball up in the zone a bit, but I think he'll be better in his next start."

The two big American right-handers combined for 32 wins last year, the Giants' Greisinger with a league best 17 and Lewis of the Carp with 15. But on this night, it was Lewis who had the better numbers. He whiffed six and did not issue a walk. Brown elected to have Mike Schultz pitch the seventh after Lewis had thrown 98 pitches.

Schultz, who retired the side in order, and two relievers finished the job for Lewis, restricting the Giants to one hit over the final three frames. Ryuji Yokoyama worked a scoreless eighth before closer Katsuhiro Nagakawa nailed the door shut with a scoreless ninth to pick up his first save of the season.

Greisinger (0-1), meanwhile, had a night he'd rather forget. His line: 3 2/3 innings pitched, six runs allowed on nine hits. He struck out a pair and didn't walk a batter.

The Carp got on the board first when Akihiro Higashide singled up the middle, stole second and then scored when Kenta Kurihara lashed a line single to center in the top of the first.

The Giants got that one back and more in their half of the third, taking a 3-1 lead when Michihiro Ogasawara and Alex Ramirez hit back-to-back home runs off Lewis, Ogasawara's coming with Takahiro Suzuki on base after being hit by a pitch on the elbow.

Ramirez, who belted 45 HRs last season and drove in 125 runs on his way to being named CL MVP, has now homered in four of his last five season openers in Japan.

The Carp erupted for five runs in the fourth off Greisinger, staking Lewis to a 6-3 lead. Seabol smacked a two-run tater to left to tie the game and Akamatsu stroked a two-run single up the middle to make it 5-3. After Higashide hit an RBI chopper back up the middle to make it 6-3, Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara had seen enough, replacing Greisinger with another right-hander, Masafumi Togano.

"I'm just happy we started off with a win and that I was able to contribute," said Akamatsu, who admitted he felt some Opening Day butterflies. "We played Carp baseball tonight. This is our type of game."

Carp cleanup-hitter Kurihara, a late call-up to the Hara-managed WBC champion Japan squad, had three hits on the night and drove in one run.

Freestyle skiing champion Aiko Uemura threw out the ceremonial first pitch before an announced Opening Day crowd of just over 44,000.

* * *

Elsewhere in the CL, the Chunichi Dragons downed the Yokohama BayStars 4-1 at Nagoya Dome and at Kyocera Dome the Hanshin Tigers rolled over the Yakult Swallows 5-2.

In Opening Day in the Pacific League, the Rakuten Eagles defeated the Nippon Ham-Fighters 3-1 at Sapporo Dome. At Yahoo Dome the Softbank Hawks spanked the Orix Buffaloes 8-0.


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