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Toritani helps Tigers top Giants

by Jim Allen (Aug 15, 2009)

Takashi Toritani homered for the second straight game and the struggling Hanshin Tigers opened their series against the Central League-leading Yomiuri Giants with a bang on Friday.

The fifth-place Tigers, who started the day 10-1/2 games out of third place and the CL's last playoff spot, beat the Giants 7-4 before 45,551 at Tokyo Dome.

Yoshitomo Tani homered twice and drove in three runs off Tigers starter Atsushi Nomi, but Giants starter Tetsuya Utsumi (5-8) couldn't make a game of it.

Toritani's two-run, first-inning home run got the Tigers started. He tripled in a run and scored again in the seventh off Takahiko Nomaguchi to help put the game away.

"Utsumi's been getting me out recently so it felt good to hit him, but I never imagined I couldn't," said Toritani, who played in his 700th straight game.

"I wasn't really conscious of that number because I just want to go out and play every game from start to finish."

Nomi (7-7) worked six-plus innings to win his third straight start against the Giants, each time in a matchup with fellow southpaw Utsumi. Nomi, who gave up three runs on eight hits and two walks, took a three-run lead into the bottom of the first after Toritani's homer and a two-out solo shot by Takahiro Arai.

"At first, a lot of my pitches were up, but I had that big early lead to work with, so it didn't cost me," Nomi said. "I kept falling behind and throwing fat pitches.

"I got the job done, but just barely."

Norihiro Akahoshi, playing in his first game since hurting his leg on Aug. 2, led off the game with a single and scored from second on Toritani's homer. In the seventh, he singled with one out and stole a base before Toritani tripled him home.

"I had been worried about his condition and was hoping he wouldn't push it too much," Tigers coach Koji Yamawaki said. "But watching him run the bases the way he did put those fears to rest. He's exactly what we need at the top of our order at this stage of the season."

In his first at-bat, Toritani was just looking to get on base and perhaps drive Akahoshi home from second but drove it out.

"I'm not the kind of batter who can aim for a homer and hit one out," Toritani said. "It was just a good result."

After Toritani's blast, Giants center fielder Tetsuya Matsumoto brought the crowd to its feet with a diving catch of Tomoaki Kanemoto's blooper in shallow left center. It kept the bases empty ahead of Arai, who homered for the first time in a week.

Nomi retired the first five batters he faced before a fastball inside to the right-handed-hitting Tani landed among the Tigers fans in the left-field seats. Yudai Sakurai made it 5-1 Tigers in the fifth with his sixth homer of the year, a two-run shot.

Utsumi allowed five runs in 5-1/3 innings. The lefty surrendered six hits and issued one walk, while striking out three. Nomaguchi entered with one on and walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, but a double play kept the Tigers off the board until Akahoshi started more trouble in the seventh. Toritani's triple and an RBI single by Kanemoto gave the Tigers all the runs they would need.


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