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John E. Gibson

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Dragons lose late in Lions' den

by John E. Gibson (May 21, 2009)

The Chunichi Dragons had an extra inning run in their grasp, but squeezed a little too hard.

The Dragons had first and third with one out but a flubbed suicide squeeze resulted in a double play. The Saitama Seibu Lions ended the game in the bottom of the 10th inning as Hiroyuki Nakajima singled for a 2-1 walk-off win on Wednesday night before 19,203 at Seibu Dome.

"I've been feeling good at the plate this month and I want to try and keep that going," said Nakajima, whose hit off Takuya Asao (3-5) ended a three-game slide for the reigning Japan Series champions.

A night after losing the lead in the interleague opener, the Lions made the best of six hits off two Chunichi hurlers.

"This is the kind of win that can get us going," skipper Hisanobu Watanabe said of Seibu's first sayonara victory of the season.

"We've had some close games and some extra-inning games at home, but we haven't been able to close them out. We're still under .500 (at 19-21) but this was a really good win for us."

Veteran lefty Kazuhisa Ishii went a strong seven innings, holding Chunichi to a run while scattering five hits and three walks, got a no-decision. But it was rookie right-hander Ryoma Nogami (1-2) who got his first pro win with three scoreless innings of relief.

"I wanted to keep them off the scoreboard and was ready to throw into the 12th inning if I had to, but Nakajima's hit got us the run and my first win and I appreciate that," said Nogami, who allowed three hits.

The Dragons got on the board in the second inning, Tony Blanco continuing his surge by blasting his third homer in two nights. He drove an Ishii changeup the opposite way, deep into the seats up the power alley in right.

It was the 11th longball for Blanco, who is steadily making Dragons fans forget about former cleanup man Tyrone Woods, but the Lions came back two innings later to even the score.

Nakajima got hold of a changeup from Chunichi starter Takashi Ogasawara, who held Seibu to a run over seven innings, and drove it over the fence in center to make it a 1-1 score.

"It felt good when it came off the bat," Nakajima said. "I'm glad I was able to hit a homer in that spot."

After Nakajima's fourth homer of the season, G.G. Sato reached on an error before Ogasawara retired the side.

The Dragons put two on in the sixth, a two-out, broken-bat single by Blanco and a walk Kazuhiro Wada, but Ishii fanned Masaaki Koide to end the threat.


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