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Rob Smaal

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Buffs upset Giants

by Rob Smaal (May 25, 2009)

Some sloppy defense and some timely Buffs' batting conspired to send the Central League-leading Yomiuri Giants to an 8-6 loss to Orix at Tokyo Dome on Sunday night.

Koji Yamasaki drove in four runs and Shinji Shimoyama had a three-RBI night to support starter Yoshihisa Hirano as Pacific League cellar-dwellers Orix held on to improve to 3-2 in interleague play this year.

Hirano (1-1) allowed just one run on seven hits through six innings. He struck out five and walked one.

With one out and two men on in a scoreless game in the fourth inning, Orix's Takahiro Okada hit a grounder to second that looked to be a tailor-made double play ball. But Giants second baseman Ryota Wakiya booted the ball as he appeared overly anxious to get it out of his glove and instead of being out of the inning unscathed, Yomiuri starter Shun Tono now had the bases loaded with one out.

The next batter, as so often happens in this game, would make the Giants pay for their indiscretions as Yamasaki stroked a three-run, bases-clearing double to left.

Tono was replaced by another right-hander, Yuya Kubo, to start the fifth inning. Kubo struck out the first two batters he faced before giving up three consecutive doubles, the last two by Greg LaRocca and Shimoyama being of the run-scoring variety.

To be fair to Kubo, one of the doubles looked like it could have been caught by left fielder Alex Ramirez and Shimoyama's RBI double went off the glove of third-baseman Michihiro Ogasawara.

In the bottom of the sixth, Shinnosuke Abe hit an RBI double to deep center off Hirano to get the Giants on the board, but Shimoyama countered with a two-run homer off Yomiuri reliever Satoshi Fukuda an inning later to make it 7-1.

Ogasawara clubbed his 11th home run of the season, a two-run shot to center off reliever Ryota Katsuki in the seventh inning, and Lee Seung Yeop cranked out a solo homer off Tsuyoshi Kikuchihara to open the bottom of the eighth--also his 11th of 2009--to cut the Buffs' lead to 7-4.

In the top of the ninth, Yamasaki stroked an RBI single off Shota Kimura to make it 8-4 but a bases-loaded two-run single by Ramirez off Daisuke Kato in the bottom of the inning narrowed the margin to 8-6.

After ratcheting up the tension in the building, Kato finally closed it out by getting pinch-hitter Tetsuya Matsumoto to fly out to center with two men on base to preserve the win.


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