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John E. Gibson

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Kawashima hero, just, for Yakult

by John E. Gibson (Apr 17, 2009)

Fourth-year shortstop Keizo Kawashima wore a face coated with humble pie after his ride on the emotional roller coaster in the Tokyo Yakult Swallows' 6-2 win on Thursday night at Jingu Stadium.

His fifth-inning three-run home run put Yakult ahead, but his seventh-inning error caused a lot of heartache when the Giants loaded the bases and came within a few meters of tying the score.

In the end, Yakult wrestled a victory away from the back-to-back Central League champions before 16,592 to end Yomiuri's six-game winning streak.

Yakult starter Shohei Tateyama (2-0) wriggled out of the error-generated jam with a warning-track flyout, and Ryota Igarashi worked a scoreless eighth while Lim Chang Yong tossed a quiet ninth to close it out.

That meant Kawashima could focus on his big homer in the postgame on-field interview and not the error, which came when he dropped the ball on the transfer while trying to start an inning-ending double play.

"[Norichika] Aoki is batting behind me, so I figured I'd get a good pitch to hit," said Kawashima, who had just four homers in 353 at-bats last year but has three two weeks into the season.

"It felt good when it went over the fence."

Skipper Shigeru Takada showered praise on Tateyama, who surrendered two runs over seven innings on a pair of solo homers to Michihiro Ogasawara.

"He gave up two homers, but they were solo shots," Takada said. "He didn't put runners on before that so the homers didn't hurt us a lot.

"The difference was that our home run came with runners on base," added Takada, whose Swallows had lost six straight to the Giants dating back to last season.

Ogasawara, who hit his first homer since April 8, went deep in the opening inning. He blasted a low-outside pitch the opposite way to left-center for his fourth of the season for a 1-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Yomiuri starter Tetsuya Utsumi, the team's southpaw ace, had a head-hiding performance. He allowed four of five leadoff runners to reach base and got yanked in the fifth inning after handing out two free passes--to the No. 8 batter and the pitcher--and giving up two hits, including Kawashima's three-run longball.

"I can't say that I had good stuff out there," said Utsumi, who yielded seven hits, while walking two and fanning two in 4-1/3 innings.

"But I kept putting the leadoff runner on base every inning. There's not much I can say."


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