Shinnosuke Abe has been battling through an injury-riddled season. About the only thing that appears to be healthy is his swing.
On Thursday, back in his familiar role behind the plate, the Giants' catcher belted a tie-breaking solo homer in the bottom of the fifth inning to give Central League-leading Yomiuri a 4-3 win over the lowly Yokohama BayStars and a three-game series sweep.
Earlier in the bottom of the fifth, Hayato Sakamoto led off with a triple off the wall in center and Takuya Kimura cashed him in with a deep sacrifice fly to tie the game.
"I was thinking sacrifice fly all the way and I got a pitch up in the zone that I could drive," Kimura, who was 3-for-3 on the night with an RBI and a stolen base, said after the game.
Upon hearing that, Abe joked, "After Kimura's sacrifice fly, I thought a home run would be appropriate."
It was the 17th home run of the season for Abe, who was batting third in place of the injured Michihiro Ogasawara. Abe has also seen playing time at first base this season.
Yokohama scored on a leadoff solo homer in the second inning by Dan Johnson off Giants starter Yuya Kubo. It was just Johnson's 52nd hit of the season, his first year in Japan, but it was also his 19th home run.
The BayStars other runs came on a pair of line-drive RBI singles from Seiichi Uchikawa, in the third and fifth innings, both off Kubo. Uchikawa's RBI single in the fifth put Yokohama ahead 3-2 and spelled the end of the night for right-hander Kubo, who was just called up from the minors.
Kubo allowed three runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings, but the Giants bullpen held the BayStars hitless the rest of the way with Soichi Fujita, Daisuke Ochi, Tetsuya Yamaguchi and Marc Kroon getting the job done for manager Tatsunori Hara.
Fujita (1-0) picked up the win--his first in a Giants' uniform--with 1 1/3 innings of perfect relief, while closer Kroon made quick work of the three hitters he faced in the ninth to grab his 15th save of the season. It was the 140th save of Kroon's career in Japan, moving him past Motoyuki Akahori into eighth place on the NPB all-time saves list.
BayStars starter Les Walrond (5-9) took the loss, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits and two walks over six innings.
The Giants now hit the road for 11 straight games, although the next three will be across town against the Yakult Swallows at Jingu Stadium.
Elsewhere in the CL, the Hiroshima Carp blanked the Chunichi Dragons 4-0 at Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium. At Jingu, the Hanshin Tigers pounded Yakult 10-2.
In the Pacific League, the Rakuten Eagles defeated the Nippon-Ham Fighters 4-1 at Sapporo Dome. The Softbank Hawks beat the Lions 4-2 at Seibu Dome. At Chiba Marine Stadium, Lotte downed the Orix Buffaloes 2-1.