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Fishy beginning / Seabol, Lewis stand out as Carp take opener from 2-time defending CL-champion Gian

by Jim Allen (Apr 4, 2009)

It was a good first impression for the success-starved Hiroshima Carp.

The Carp began the 2009 season with the same fight they showed much of last year and a 6-3 Opening Day win over the defending Central League champion Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome on Friday.

"First and last impressions are really important. It doesn't matter if it's your job or a game of baseball," said fourth-year Carp skipper Marty Brown, whose club hasn't been to the postseason since 1991.

Scott Seabol hit a two-run, game-tying homer in the fourth, and Masato Akamatsu's two-out, two-run single later in the inning put the Carp in front.

Solid pitching and defense did the rest.

Right-hander Colby Lewis allowed three runs in six innings to best Seth Greizinger in the first Opening Day matchup of foreigner pitches in Central League history.

The 2008 CL strikeout leader, Lewis gave up six hits and hit a batter. Staked to a 1-0 lead, he started by fanning six, but back-to-back homers by Michihiro Ogasawara and Alex Ramirez in the third inning put the Giants up 3-1.

"I made a good pitch to Ogasawara, low and away, but he got it and hit it well," Lewis said. "Same thing to Ramirez. He hit it well enough to get out of this park."

Brown talked about his club's resilience after blowing the lead on enemy turf.

"It started last year," Brown said. "We're going to play nine, and sometimes we're going to be behind. It's refreshing to manage this team. They never stop."

The Carp drew first-inning blood on Kenta Kurihara's RBI single off Greisinger, last year's CL leader in wins with 17. But Lewis found himself in trouble in the bottom of the first as the first two Giants reached on soft singles.

Three flyouts ended the inning, and Lewis didn't have any trouble until he hit Takahiro Suzuki on the elbow with two outs in the third. Ogasawara and Ramirez took advantage of the situation to put the power-laden Giants in the driver's seat.

The Carp, however, bounced back, hammering Greisinger for five runs in the fourth. Kurihara opened with a ground single and Seabol, who hit 15 homers last year, slammed a liner into the left- field stands.

"Scott's had a good spring," Brown said. "He came back in great shape. I think he appreciated that he's coming back with the same team. He's learned a few things, but he's staying within himself."

Shigenobu Shima followed with a liner that just avoided the glove of leaping first baseman Lee Seung Yeop. With one out, Soichiro Amaya stung one back to Greisinger, who was unable to handle the hot shot that went for a single.

Lewis sacrificed with one out and Akamatsu lined a single to center that plated two. He scooted to second on the throw home and scored the game's final run on a single by Akihiro Higashide.

The Carp No. 2 hitter had set up Kurihara's first-inning RBI by bouncing one up the middle and stealing second.

"It's our game," said Brown of the speed and aggression that helped push the game in his club's favor.

"We have a lot more depth than when I first came here. We can make things happen. We speed the game up on the opposing teams."

Greisinger finished with six earned runs in 3-2/3 innings. He allowed nine hits and struck out two without walking a batter.

"We hit the ball well, but they just hit the ball better," said Greisinger, who fell to 4-5 against Hiroshima in his career.

Giants manager Tatsunori Hara went straight to the point.

"Allowing six runs in four innings is going to kill you," he said. "He [Greisinger] wasn't able to keep us in the game.

"That [fourth inning] was crucial. We had to be able to stop them, but we couldn't snuff that rally out."

Each club got great work from its bullpen, but there was no taking the Carp runs off the board.

The Giants had a chance with two on with two outs in the bottom of the fourth after singles by newcomer Edgardo Alfonzo and pinch-hitter Takuya Kimura, but Kurihara stopped the Giants with his glove.

The first baseman, who won his first Golden Glove last season, made three sliding backhand stops during the game. The one in the fourth likely saved a run.

"He got a Golden Glove last year," Brown said. "He's pretty confident."


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