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Right in rhythm / Southpaw Utsumi fans 10 in 4-hitter to beat Swallows as Giants take CL showdown

by Jim Allen (Jun 29, 2009)

Southpaw Tetsuya Utsumi found his rhythm and beat Yakult like a drum on Sunday.

Utsumi struck out 10 batters for the first time in more than a year as the Yomiuri Giants stuffed the Swallows 7-1 at Tokyo Dome to take two of three in a weekend series between the Central League's top two teams.

"My fastball was really running in the first inning. I felt like I could just compete the way I'm used to, and that influenced me the rest of the game," said Utsumi (3-5), who allowed a run in nine innings. "When I'm going well, the strikeouts just come. Today, whatever pitch it was, I could throw it for strikes."

Utsumi gave up four hits but no walks in his first complete-game victory since June 16 last year.

The Giants got on the board with two runs in the first. CL batting leader Hayato Sakamoto doubled to open the inning, and was driven home by Michihiro Ogasawara. With one out, center fielder Norichika Aoki missed a diving stab at Ogasawara's sinking liner, playing a single into a triple. Alex Ramirez then flew out to center, plating Ogasawara with a sacrifice fly.

The Giants blew it open in the sixth against southpaw starter Masanori Ishikawa (7-4), who allowed six runs on 10 hits over six innings.

A leadoff single by Ogasawara and a groundout put a runner in scoring position and forced the outfield in. Yoshitomo Tani took advantage of the situation by tripling over Aoki's head.

Ishikawa walked Shinnosuke Abe on five pitches away and Lee Seung Yeop made the lefty pay the price with his third homer in three days. It was Lee's first multirun homer since May 22.

"Mentally, my game is good right now," Lee said. "It makes it easier to keep all the components there. The bat speed is the key, and keeping my swing compact.

"But I' m not there yet. Striking out on three pitches in the eighth inning was another indication of where I am."

Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said his batters did what they had to do.

"We had two chances to score against Ishikawa, and that's about the norm," Hara said. "His game is all about control, and he'll give you a chance or two, so you have to be ready for them. Tani did that [in the sixth] and Lee stepped up."

The Giants also had a prime opportunity in the third after Sakamoto led off with a single, but a poor bunt and a good play by Swallows third baseman Shinya Miyamoto cut down the lead run.

That play, however, proved to be the exception as most of the Swallows' aggressive efforts played into the Giants hands.

In the fourth, Yasushi Iihara reached on a leadoff single, the Swallows' first hit off Utsumi. On third with one out and the infield in, Iihara went on contact. But Aoki couldn't get the ball through the infield and Iihara was cut down at the plate.

"Our advance scout advised us the Swallows batters were not in good form, so we should play that situation aggressively," Hara said. "And it paid off."

Another chance evaporated on the bases in the fifth. Aaron Guiel beat a throw to go from first to third on a no-out single but slid past the bag and was tagged out by Ogasawara.

Sakamoto, who went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .355, led off the seventh with a single and Ogasawara doubled him home for the Giants' final run. Ryoji Aikawa broke up Utsumi's bid for a shutout with a solo homer in the eighth.

"That was the one pitch I wish I could have back," Utsumi said.


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