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Kawai ties record as Dragons win

by Jim Allen (Jul 31, 2009)

Yudai Kawai remained unstoppable on Thursday.

The 29-year-old Chunichi lefty ran his record to 11-0 as the Dragons beat the Giants 5-3 at Tokyo Dome to trim Yomiuri's Central League lead to 1-1/2 games with two wins here in three days.

Kawai became just the third CL pitcher to win his first 11 decisions in a season. The only other pitchers to win that many at the start were Tsuneo Horiuichi and Manabu Kitabeppu.

Masaaki Koike's two-run, sixth-inning homer off Shun Tono (4-6) made it 3-2 Chunichi and the Dragons pounded reliever Daisuke Ochi for two more runs in the inning to put Kawai in the driver's seat.

"When you stop and look at it, it's a pretty amazing number," Kawai said. "But what matters is the team winning the pennant. If we do that everything else is fine."

Kawai gave up three runs on seven hits and a walk in seven innings, while striking out four in winning his eighth straight start.

"I know the Giants have a tough lineup, but if you start thinking about what they can do, you tighten up and I can't pitch like that," said Kawai, who surrendered the first runs of the game on a two-run single by Shinnosuke Abe in the fourth inning.

"I was a little worried after giving up two runs, but all in all I had a good rhythm and pitched my game."

Abe was 4-for-4 and homered to open the seventh against Kawai to drive in all three of Yomiuri's runs.

Kawai escaped a second-inning jam unscathed, getting out of jail with a double play, the third straight ball the lefty got the Giants to hit on the ground.

Dragons shortstop Hirokazu Ibata nearly defused the Giants rally after Alex Ramirez started it with a one-out single and Kawai issued his only walk of the game.

Yoshitomo Tani grounded one up the middle that Ibata stopped with a dive. His flip to the bag beat the runner but got past second baseman Masahiro Araki to load the bases.

Abe's single was a carbon copy of Tani's ball, but Ibata came up empty this time and the Giants were on the board.

Although four Giants pitchers walked a total of 10 batters and often missed high in the zone, excellent fielding on both sides kept the contest exciting until Chunichi closer struck out pinch-hitter Lee Seung Yeop to end it with his 30th save.

The Dragons got on the board in the top of the fifth when an RBI double by Araki plated Ibata from first when his fly eluded the glove of diving center fielder Tetsuya Matsumoto and rolled toward the wall.

Tono got out of the inning with his lead intact but left after Koike homered off his 107th pitch.

Switch-hitter Atsushi Fujii grounded a high pitch up the middle and Koike golfed a low fastball into the stands for his second homer of the series and his sixth this season.

Tono allowed five hits in five-plus innings but walked four and hit a batter.

Ochi retired the next two batters before blowing up. The right-hander walked the top two batters in the Dragons' order, Ibata and Arai. Masahiko Morino and Tony Blanco followed with RBI singles to make it 5-2 Dragons.

Shota Kimura relieved Ochi in the seventh and worked a scoreless inning despite allowing three runners to reach after two were down.

Abe struck again leading off the bottom of the seventh, pulling a low curveball into the seats in right for his 13th homer of the year. It was just the fourth ball the Giants got into the air all night against Kawai, who got a lot of mileage out of his change and his breaking pitches all night.

Kawai, a fourth-round corporate league pick in the 2004 draft, dropped his final five decisions of 2008 but has not lost since changing his registered name from his real name, Susumu, to Yudai prior to the start of this season.

Dragons reliever Takuya Asao pitched a 1-2-3 eighth to earn a hold and get the game to Iwase, who allowed Abe's fourth hit and had to face the tying run at the plate in the form of Lee.


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