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Tigers let it roar in 9th

by Jim Allen (Jul 18, 2009)

Takashi Toritani was not looking forward to losing a close one. In the ninth inning on Friday, he did something about it.

Trailing by a run in the ninth with a man on against hard-throwing Giants reliever Daisuke Ochi, the Tigers shortstop homered on the first pitch he saw and Hanshin hit three homers in the inning to beat Yomiuri 5-1 before 44,023 Tokyo Dome.

"Nothing wears you out like losing a close game," said Toritani, who homered for the first time since July 1. "I really wanted to go for it from the first pitch."

The Tigers, who started the day 17-1/2 games back of the Central League-leading Giants, have had a tough stretch here since last season, when they blew an enormous July lead to lose the pennant to Yomiuri.

"Last year we got burned here in the second half, but I don't have any particularly bad feeling about the park," Toritani said. "It's easy to hit homers here though."

The Tigers, whose 53 team home runs is the fifth lowest total in the league, hit three in the ninth, including another two-run shot off Ochi (5-2) by Lin Wei-chu and a solo shot off Micheal Nakamura by Ikuro Katsuragi.

The Giants' Yoshiyuki Kamei broke the ice in the second inning with a solo homer that was also the game's first hit.

But other than that, the only base runners the Giants could generate against starter Satoru Kanemura or the three relievers who followed came because of poor fielding from either Kanemura or first baseman Craig Brazell.

The Tigers, on the other hand, had several chances against Dicky Gonzalez, who allowed just two hits, but a season-high four walks.

Kanemura allowed three hits and struck out three, needing to just 74 pitches to keep the game tight for six innings.

"If one wanted to assign the blame for this, it would have to go to the batting, for only generating one chance," Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. "With that palm ball alone he got a mountain of groundouts."

Kanemura, who has yet to win since joining the Tigers last season, was razor sharp in his 2008 debut and gave the Tigers their first runner with a good two-out bunt in the third.

The pitcher reached on an error, a hit followed and a walk after that, only for Gonzalez to get out of jail as he would all night.

In the seventh, a leadoff walk was compounded when home plate upmire Masaharu Kasahara gave first base to a batter who struck on the hand trying to bunt, a ruling which raised Giants' temperatures.

Pinch-hitter Shinjiro Hiyama nearly tied it, but his fly to the gap held up long enough for center fielder Tetsuya Matsumoto to come out of nowhere to grab.

Giants first baseman Michihiro Ogasawara, however, snuffed the Tigers rally with a dramatic 3-6-3 twin killing. Gonzalez threw an uppercut in righteous celebration, and Ogasawara rifled the ball far back in the stands to put an exclamation mark on it.

Giants right-hander Wirfin Obispo retired both batters he faced, lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi dispatched the Tigers' two toughest lefties and Ochi came on to deal with right-handed-hitting Takahiro Arai, who reached on an infield single on a forkball wide out of the zone.

Ochi then let it get away, and the Giants slipped a tiny fraction in the standings.

"Is this a big win?" asked Tigers skipper Akinobu Mayumi. "I hope we play so it becomes important."


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