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Rob Smaal

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Sakamoto Giants' latest hero

by Rob Smaal (May 11, 2009)

The offensive juggernaut that is the Yomiuri Giants rolled to another victory on Sunday at Tokyo Dome, but this one was far from easy.

Hot-hitting shortstop Hayato Sakamoto smacked a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday to give the Giants an 8-7 win over the Chunichi Dragons in a game that went back and forth all afternoon. The win was the fifth in a row for the Central League-leading Giants and capped a stretch where the club played nine games in nine days.

"I was just looking to get a hit in that situation, but I got a pitch I could drive and I'm happy I was able to hit it out," said the 20-year-old Sakamoto, who also had a double and a single Sunday to boost his batting average to a lofty .383. "I'm not really trying to hit home runs but I'll take them if it helps the team keep winning."

Sakamoto's blast, his sixth of the season, came off reliever Shinsuke Saito (2-1), who worked one-third of an inning and was charged with one earned run in taking the loss.

While the kid is certainly on fire at the plate, Sakamoto is not the only Yomiuri player wielding a hot bat. Michihiro Ogasawara homered again, his ninth of the season, a two-run shot off Dragons starter Yudai Kawai in the fifth inning that turned a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 lead for the Giants. Ogasawara, who also doubled and drove in a run on a sacrifice fly, has now hammered three home runs over his last four games.

Alex Ramirez followed Ogasawara in the fifth with a solo shot off Kawai, his fifth homer of the season, and South Korean slugger Lee Seung Yeop cranked out a two-run double in the fourth inning to continue his torrid hitting of late.

Ramirez was 3-for-4 on the day with a pair of singles to go along with his homer.

Giants starter Shun Tono had a short and painful outing, getting the hook after giving up four runs on eight hits through three innings.

Reliever Micheal Nakamura was credited with his first win in orange and black. Nakamura (1-1) relieved Tetsuya Yamaguchi in the ninth after Masahiko Morino led off the inning with a single, his fourth hit of the day. Nakamura struck out slugger Tony Blanco on a breaking ball before Kazuhiro Wada smacked a double off the wall in dead center to put runners on second and third with one out.

Nakamura then struck out Kei Nomoto and Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara brought in Daisuke Ochi to get the final out. Ochi intentionally walked Atsushi Fujii to load the bases before getting Motonobu Tanishige to pop out to first to earn his fourth save of the season.

Marc Kroon, the Giants regular closer, is still out with a finger injury, but is expected to return to the lineup soon.

Chunichi cleanup-hitter Blanco had two hits and drove in three runs as he ran his hitting streak to nine games. Nomoto contributed three hits for the Dragons, who out-hit Yomiuri 16-11.


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