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Giants clinch 3rd straight CL crown

by John E. Gibson (Sep 24, 2009)

The Yomiuri Giants used the Silver Week period to strike gold.

Yomiuri took care of the Chunichi Dragons 5-3 on Wednesday before a season-high 46,335 gathering at Tokyo Dome to collect its third straight Central League title, its unprecedented 33rd. The Giants also won nine Japan League titles.

It's Yomiuri's longest string of CL championships since its string of nine straight Japan Series championships, the last coming in 1973.

Alex Ramirez blasted a solo homer and added a seventh-inning RBI single, and Wirfin Obispo allowed three runs on five hits over seven innings and added an RBI infield single as the Giants topped Chunichi for the 15th time in 21 meetings this season.

Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara, who took over in his second stint as skipper in 2006, has now guided the Giants to four CL titles in six seasons. He started the season by leading Japan to a repeat in the World Baseball Classic that kept him away from the team in March.

But Hara said there was no letdown without him.

"This year, starting with the WBC, we had a lot of difficult circumstances to work through, but each player--as well as the coaches--worked hard to get better," said Hara, who was thrown in the air eight times following the win.

"To players the only thing I can say is 'Thank you,'" said the 51-year-old, who added that this year's Giants stand apart from his last two pennant-winning teams.

"If you compare the team to last year, there are a lot of ways to gauge a team when it comes to competing, but this team can beat you in a lot of ways.

"It's not easy to go out there and battle, but we've won with a lot of games left in the season and I think it shows we have become a very good team."

The Giants, who won at least five straight games nine times during the season, won seven in a row to clinch the pennant. Yomiuri moved into first place after the eighth game of the season and stayed there the entire way.

"It's true we took over first place pretty quickly, but the fact that we didn't drop out of the top spot and moved forward each day gives you the feeling we're a strong team."

The Giants now look for their first Japan Series title since 2002.

"This is a landmark along the way," Shinnosuke Abe said a postgame press conference. "It's an honor to battle with these guys and win this. But we still have two big mountains to clear and I want to work hard with everyone to get over them as well."

Said Ramirez: "Stage 1 is already cleared and now we've got to win the Climax Series, but our No. 1 goal is to be Nippon Ichi so we're going to try our best to win."

Just as the Giants have done all season, they got production from sources that were barely on the radar in April.

Yoshitomo Tani, an Opening Day afterthought, was 3-for-3 and slugged his 11th homer, a second-inning solo shot off loser Daisuke Yamai (0-3) that put the Giants on the board first.

"I was down in the count and got a slider but I didn't let it disrupt my timing and put a good swing on the ball," Tani said.

"We have more games against Chunichi so I just want to focus on getting my swing together," said Tani, a part-timer hitting a gaudy .357 in 258 at-bats.

Ramirez, fourth in the league in RBIs with 98, smacked his 30th homer to lead off the fourth inning. The blast gave him at least 30 long balls for the fifth time in nine seasons in Japan.

Yoshiyuki Kamei followed with a single. After a hit batter and an out, Shigeyuki Furuki singled home a run to make it 4-0.

Obispo (5-1), who turns 25 on Saturday, was a farmhand at the beginning of the season but got the ball for the potential title-clincher in just his 13th appearance with the first team.


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