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John E. Gibson

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Buffs stampede Lions as Yamamoto Ks career-high 11

by John E. Gibson (Apr 9, 2009)

Orix left-hander Shogo Yamamoto is at the back of the rotation, but he looked like a frontline performer at Seibu Dome on Wednesday night.

Yamamoto put a chill on the Saitama Seibu Lions, fanning a career-best 11 over the distance as the Buffaloes, who finished second last year in the Pacific League, downed the reigning Japan Series champions 10-2 in front of 10,001.

Slugger Tuffy Rhodes had a three-run home run and an RBI single to back Yamamoto as the Buffaloes pounded out 18 hits for their first road win.

Yamamoto won 10 games last season for the first time in his career, and the ninth-year hurler said with the power-packed lineup Orix has, he's ready to match or surpass that total this season.

"If we battle and scrap, we have the kind of lineup that will eventually score some runs," said Yamamoto, who limited Seibu to three hits with three walks.

"I believe if I don't give up a bunch of runs and keep the game close, we have guys with some power who are going to hit."

Yamamoto walked a pair in the first inning, but a fourth-inning solo blast from last year's home run king Takeya Nakamura was the only hit he allowed until Hiram Bocachica's double in the eighth.

Yamamoto said not backing down against the Lions was the key to his success.

"This is last year's championship team, so I just wanted to remember to stay aggressive, and that helped me tonight," said the hurler, who hadn't thrown a complete game in his career until last year.

"What can you say, it was all about Shogo--three hits and two runs. I was wondering when he would get tired and if I should take him out, but getting him through a complete game is a bonus," said Orix skipper Daijiro Oishi.

Meanwhile, veteran lefty Kazuhisa Ishii got the start for the Lions and wobbled through five innings in which he allowed four runs on six hits and two walks, while fanning seven.

The Buffaloes got to him in the fourth inning. Keiji Obiki sent a grounder to third that Nakamura gloved but had it pop out of the webbing. The official scorer generously ruled it a hit.

Alex Cabrera--who had four hits and two RBIs--followed with a line single to right-center field to make it first and second with no one out.

Rhodes jumped ahead in the count 2-0 and Ishii tried to sneak a fastball past him. Rhodes was waiting for it and launched his second longball of the season to give Orix a 3-0 advantage.

The homer, his 444th in Japan, tied him with Yomiuri Giants legend Shigeo Nagashima at 12th on the all-time list.

Nakamura made up for his defensive slip-up by cracking his second home run of the season, a solo blast to left with one out in the bottom of the fourth.

But Orix poured on more runs in the later innings to break it open.


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