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Backing it up / Tsuruoka goes deep twice as Giants weather another 3-homer game by Kanemoto

by Jim Allen (Apr 11, 2009)

Kazunari Tsuruoka helped the Giants overcome another big night by Tomoaki Kanemoto and win at home for the first time this season.

Tsuruoka, Yomiuri's backup catcher, doubled and homered twice to power a 6-5 victory over the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo Dome on Friday.

The catcher, who came in a trade last June, doubled and scored the Giants' first run, hit a three-run homer in the fifth to overturn a one-run lead and purchased some insurance with a seventh-inning solo shot.

"I was focused simply on reaching base and with a 1-0 count I just wanted to put as good a swing as I could on the ball," he said of his three-run shot. "I'd been concentrating mostly on my hitting since camp, although I didn't hit well in the preseason. Most of all, I went up there determined not to take half measures at the plate."

Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara gave his backstop high marks.

"He came through in a critical moment, so you can see he was prepared. That's absolutely essential for our reserves," Hara said. "If they prepare well, they can make an impact and we will have many effective combinations we can put on the field."

The Giants needed the offense as Kanemoto continued his torrid pace: He entered the game with four homers and three doubles in his first 24 at-bats of the season.

His two-run, third-inning shot off Tetsuya Utsumi opened the scoring. After Tsuruoka's shot put the Giants up by two, Kanemoto homered to lead off the sixth, when Hanshin came back to tie it 4-4. He homered again in the eighth, off the Central League's rookie of the year Tetsuya Yamaguchi.

"You can see the kind of quality he has, to hit homers so easily off our top-quality pitchers," Hara said.

Tsuruoka now has to figure a way to get the 41-year-old dynamo out.

"We let one guy burn us too many times," the catcher said. "We didn't go after him the way we needed to."

Utsumi allowed four runs in five-plus innings, leaving after a ball struck his leg.

Daisuke Ochi allowed the inherited runner to score, but Yoshiyuki Kamei's two-out RBI triple in the bottom of the sixth pushed the Giants ahead against reliever Hirotaka Egusa.

Kamei, the leadoff man on opening day, was plugged into the fifth spot in the order and stepped it up.

"I didn't change anything, but my circumstances changed," Kamei said.

Marc Kroon took the mound for the ninth and retired the Tigers in order for his first save.

"He was good tonight, fun to watch," Hara said of his closer.

The Tigers had gotten on the board in the third against Utsumi with the help of a fielding lapse.

Keiichi Hirano's one-out single gave the Tigers a runner, but a double-play ball produced just one out. First baseman Lee Seung Yeop moved to his right to pounce and throw, but was in no position to take the return throw--nor was anyone else. With the runner on, Kanemoto smashed his fifth homer of the season.

But the Tigers proved they could give as well as receive in the bottom of the inning.

Tsuruoka reached on a hustling one-out double off Yuya Ando and scored on an error. Giants speedster Takahiro Suzuki created a tough chance with a grounder, and first baseman Kentaro Sekimoto's errant toss to Ando covering the bag allowed Tsuruoka to motor home.


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