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John E. Gibson

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Gonzalez puts brakes on Swallows / Yomiuri right-hander ends former teammate Tateyama's 14-game winn

by John E. Gibson (Jun 27, 2009)

The Yakult Swallows got blasted by their past in a showdown between the top two Central League teams on Friday at Tokyo Dome.

Dicky Gonzalez, who spent five years with the Swallows before being cast away, shut down his former team to earn the win in a 7-2 decision in the opener of a three-game set before 44,215.

Gonzalez (7-1) worked 5-2/3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, while fanning six with no walks. He also drove in the game's first run as the Giants halted a pair of Yakult streaks.

The Swallows said sayonara to their winning streak, which ended at seven games. In addition, starter Shohei Tateyama (8-1), who had won eight straight decisions this year--and 14 in a row dating back to last season--got battered for seven runs on 14 hits over six innings to suffer his first loss since Aug. 7, 2008.

"I'm very happy. I wanted to win this game," said Gonzalez, who was with Yakult from 2004-08. "I was there for five years and I respect those guys. I had a lot of support from my teammates today and we did a good job."

CL batting leader Hayato Sakamoto went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, and the Giants got homers from Michihiro Ogasawara and Lee Seung Yeop to build a five-run lead before holding off the upstart Swallows.

Sakamoto said the Giants want to sweep the series.

"We got the first one and I want to do all I can to make sure we can meet expectations and win all three," said Sakamoto, who helped Yomiuri improve to 5-1 this season against the Swallows.

Yakult scored as few as two runs only once during Tateyama's winning streak, but he shouldered the blame for the loss.

"Giving up the first run of the game was everything," said Tateyama, who fanned three, walked one and hit a batter. "I couldn't get the team into a good flow, and then I fell apart in the middle innings."

Yakult knocked Gonzalez out in the sixth inning, when it rallied for a run on three hits. But Kiyoshi Toyoda struck out Ryoji Aikawa to end a threat with two on, and the bullpen closed out the win to stretch Yomiuri's lead over Yakult in the CL to three games.

Ogasawara put the game away with his 16th longball of the season, closing out the scoring in the sixth inning and tying him with former Giant Hideki Matsui (now with the New York Yankees) for most homers at Tokyo Dome with his 146th. Ogasawara was a regular for the Nippon Ham Fighters in their last five seasons in Tokyo.

The Giants opened the scoring in the second inning, Gonzalez helping his cause with a two-out RBI single that plated Shinnosuke Abe to make it 1-0.

Shigeyuki Furuki, who went to third when Yakult left fielder Shinichi Takeuchi bobbled Gonzalez's hit, trotted across the plate to make it 2-0 on Sakamoto's second hit of the game, a single to left.

The Swallows cut the lead in half in the top of the third, stringing together three straight hits after two were out. Norichika Aoki's hit to center plated Takeuchi, who started the rally with a single to center on a 1-2 pitch.

The Giants padded their lead with two runs in the fourth inning. Furuki got it started by leaning into a pitch that hit him, prompting a rare argument at the plate by Yakult skipper Shigeru Takada.

He lost the war of words, and after a sacrifice the Giants rubbed salt in the wound by collecting four straight hits--including RBI singles by Ogasawara and Alex Ramirez--to take a 4-1 lead.

Lee went deep in the fifth inning, his 13th of the season, to make it 5-1. The Swallows rallied for a run in the sixth, but Toyoda and Tetsuya Yamaguchi set up a scoreless ninth by Daisuke Ochi in a non-save situation.


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