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Sakamoto, Giants have final word vs Dragons

by Jim Allen (May 11, 2009)

The Giants' Hayato Sakamoto had the last word on Sunday, deciding a see-saw game with a two-run, eighth-inning homer that lifted Yomiuri to its fifth straight win.

Moments after the Dragons battled back to take the lead, Sakamoto homered off reliever Shinsuke Saito and the Giants bullpen held off Chunichi in the ninth for an 8-7 victory at Tokyo Dome.

"He [Sakamoto] has grown up. He showed that today," Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara said of his 20-year-old shortstop, who went 3-for-5 to raise his average to .387.

"You can see it in his numbers, of course, but its more than that. It's his clutch play, not just at-bat, but in the field, too."

Sakamoto, who scored three runs, said his biggest hit was just a matter of hitting a good pitch.

"It was something I could handle," he said. "I was looking for something inside and the at-bat pretty much went the way I imagined it."

Saito (2-1) said he had to go after Sakamoto, although the ball wasn't supposed to find the zone. "It was not where the catcher called for it, but I have to challenge him in that situation," the reliever said.

The Giants overcame an early three-run deficit, thanks to a solid afternoon from the middle of the order.

Michihiro Ogasawara hit a two-run homer in the fifth, cleanup Alex Ramirez followed with a solo shot off Dragons starter Susumu Kawai. Lee Seung Yeop, batting sixth in Hara's order, helped make a game out of it by blasting a two-run double off Kawai in the fourth.

After taking the lead in the eighth, the Dragons threatened again in the ninth against Tetsuya Yamaguchi and Micheal Nakamura (1-1), who struck out two batters but allowed the potential go-ahead run on base. Daisuke Ochi walked the bases loaded before getting a foul fly to end it and collect his fourth save.

"We may have lost but we played hard until the end," said the Dragons Hirokazu Ibata, whose eighth-inning single off Yamaguchi put the visitors in position for a win after they'd blown a three-run lead.

The Dragons opened the scoring on three singles in the first off right-hander Shun Tono. Tony Blanco plated the run with the first of his two RBI singles.

The Giants equalized in the bottom of the inning off lefty Kawai. Sakamoto legged out a leadoff double, was sacrificed to third and came home on Ogasawara's sacrifice fly.

Kawai put the Dragons back in front in the second, singling home rookie Kei Nomoto from second with two outs.

Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai was happy his team finally put up a fight after flailing in the first two games of the series.

"It's about time that we played a real game," the skipper said. "I think we're the only team that has a chance to catch the Giants. I think if we can kind of put the first part of the season behind us and start from now, we can do something."


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