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Rob Smaal

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Tsuruoka makes most of rare start to power Giants

by Rob Smaal (May 15, 2009)

Kazunari Tsuruoka homered and drove in three runs Thursday night as the Central League-leading Yomiuri Giants topped the BayStars 9-5 at Yokohama Stadium.

Tsuruoka delivered a sacrifice fly in a three-run third inning for the Giants and smacked a two-run homer in a five-run fourth.

"I was sitting on the fastball," Tsuruoka, the team's backup catcher, said of his home run. "The manager wanted me to be aggressive, hit the ball hard."

Michihiro Ogasawara also went deep for Yomiuri and had a pair of RBIs, and starter Seth Greisinger worked eight innings to pick up his fifth win. Greisinger (5-2) gave up five runs (four earned) on 11 hits. The American right-hander struck out six and did not walk a batter. He also drove in a run with a line single to right.

Giants hard-throwing closer Marc Kroon, a former BayStars fan favorite, made his return to the lineup after being out with a finger injury. Kroon gave up one hit and struck out a batter in a scoreless ninth to preserve the win.

Yokohama cleanup-hitter Shuichi Murata homered twice off Greisinger, hitting two-run shots to straightaway center in both the first and fifth innings, and also singled on a 3-for-4 night at the plate. Murata, who injured his hamstring during the World Baseball Classic and missed the first month of the season, now has five dingers this year.

Hitoshi Fujie, a 23-year-old rookie right-hander, got the start for Yokohama. He had a rough first inning, giving up a leadoff double to Hayato Sakamoto and then fielding a bunt by Tetsuya Matsumoto and throwing it past first base. The error left runners on the corners with none out and Sakamoto scored when Ogasawara hit a groundball to short.

Greisinger, a 33-year-old veteran, also got off to a shaky start. He gave up a leadoff bunt single to Takehiro Ishikawa and a few batters later, Murata drilled a pitch against the back screen in dead center to put the 'Stars up 2-1 after one inning.

While the rookie ran into more trouble and got the hook in the third inning, the veteran settled down and dug in for a battle as the game progressed.

Fujie was pulled after giving up an RBI single to the light-hitting Greisinger in the third, a hit that came after Ogasawara had clubbed his 10th home run of the season, a towering solo shot to right to tie it 2-2, to lead off the inning. After Alex Ramirez flew out to the warning track, Fujie gave up three straight singles to load the bases and Giants catcher Tsuruoka followed up with a sac fly to center before Greisinger lined his RBI single to right to make it 4-2.

The Giants then blew it open with a five-run fourth, which featured RBI singles by Lee Seung Yeop and Ryota Wakiya before Tsuruoka capped off the inning with his two-run blast, his fourth homer of the season.

Fujie (0-1) took the loss.


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