Dicky Gonzalez may have owned the Chunichi Dragons during the regular season, but that didn't carry much weight on Wednesday night.
The Dragons battered the Giants' 15-game winner for six runs--including five in the first inning--as Chunichi topped Yomiuri 7-2 at Tokyo Dome to even Stage 2 of the Central League Climax Series at a game apiece.
It was Game 1 in the best of-seven series, but the Giants went in with a one-game lead by virtue of winning the Central League pennant. Game 2 goes tonight, also at Tokyo Dome where the entire series will take place.
Kei Nomoto delivered the big blow in the first, a towering three-run homer to right off Gonzalez, and Tony Blanco crushed a third-inning solo homer 120 meters over the fence in left to give the Dragons a 6-1 lead.
"I gave it a full swing, all right," said Nomoto in reference to his home run. "We knew we had to come out swinging against Gonzalez and we were able to jump on him in the first inning. We're off to a great start and I'm honored to play a part."
Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara lifted Gonzalez, who was 4-0 against Chunichi in the regular season, for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fifth. He brought in Micheal Nakamura to start the sixth and he lasted just three pitches, getting ejected after hitting Blanco in the helmet with a pitch. Takahiko Nomaguchi then came in and worked two scoreless innings.
Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai elected to start lefty Takashi Ogasawara against the Giants, who took the season series 16-8. Ochiai's top two pitchers, NPB ERA leader Chen Wei-yin and 16-game winner Kazuki Yoshimi, both saw action in Stage 1 against the Yakult Swallows and won't be available for another couple of days.
Ogasawara provided a quality start for the club, holding the powerful Giants' lineup to just one run on three hits and two walks over five innings as he picked up the win. Ochiai played matchup with his bullpen after that, using five relievers to limit Yomiuri to two hits and no runs the rest of the way.
Takuya Asao finished it off for the Dragons, walking one batter but getting Shigeyuki Furuki to ground out to first to end it.
Gonzalez ended up taking the loss. The portly Puerto Rican gave up six runs on seven hits--including two home runs--through five innings.
Offensively, Blanco, who led the CL with 39 homers in his first season in Japan, went 2-for-2 with a hit-by-pitch and a walk for Chunichi. Blanco and leadoff-hitter Hirokazu Ibata were the only Dragons with multiple hits in the game as they used a balanced attack to neutralize the home team. Ibata had a pair of singles and also drew a base on balls.
Masahiko Morino singled in the first run of the game and Kazuhiro Wada also punched an RBI single through the left side of the infield in the first frame before Nomoto went yard with his three-run blast.
Motonobu Tanishige drove in Chunichi's seventh run with an RBI single off Nomaguchi in the top of the sixth. The run was charged to Nakamura.
The Giants scored in the second on a two-out bloop RBI single to right by Furuki after Ogasawara had walked Alex Ramirez and Shinnosuke Abe.
The Dragons out-hit Yomiuri 10-5 on the night.
"Obviously the five runs we gave up in the first inning really hurt and we were not able to recover from that," Hara said.