Tetsuya Yamaguchi took a big step in his new role on Saturday with his first win as a starter, although how long he'll stay in the Giants' rotation is anybody's guess.
Yamaguchi allowed three runs in 7-2/3 innings in Yomiuri's 11-3 victory at Tokyo Dome that saw Alex Ramirez cap a seven-run eighth with a grand slam. The four RBIs pushed him to 1,001 in his Japan career.
Although the game ended as a blowout, Yamaguchi made the most of his battle with 2009 ERA leader Chen Wei-yin.
"Chen is a very good pitcher and for Yamaguchi to go up against him and beat him is meaningful," Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.
But with closer Marc Kroon out with an injury, Hara said Yamaguchi will likely go back to the bullpen for a while to help out.
"We are struggling with injuries, and particularly with Kroon not available, we are in emergency mode," manager Tatsunori Hara said.
"I talked it over yesterday with the coaches and we decided we wanted him to get a win as a starter before changing his role."
As usual, Hara refused to say when the switch might happen.
Yamaguchi, who gave up four runs in less than four innings in his starting debut on April 3, said any role was fine with him. He suggested, however, he'd prefer to stay in the rotation.
"Starting is more fun," said the 26-year-old, the Central League's 2008 rookie of the year as a middle reliever. "You have to pitch while making adjustments over the course of the game.
"When I began considering starting, I was calculating how I would go so many innings, but today I just pitched the way I always do in relief, just take each inning as it comes. I felt comfortable doing it that way."
"I was struggling in the third and fourth innings, but surprised myself by how strong I could pitch after that."
Michihiro Ogasawara helped tip the balance in Yamaguchi's favor in the fifth inning. With two outs and the score tied 2-2, Ogasawara hit a two-run homer, his fourth jack in six games.
Chen allowed four runs on nine hits in six innings. The lefty walked a batter intentionally and struck out four.
The Giants took the lead with two outs in the bottom of the first, when Shinnosuke Abe plated Tetsuya Matsumoto with the Giants' third single of the inning.
The Dragons tied it in the second, when Tony Blanco scored on a sacrifice fly by Keiji Oyama, and took the lead on Blanco's leadoff homer in the fourth.
Hisayoshi Chono tripled to open the bottom of the fourth and scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Yoshinobu Takahashi.
Ogasawara, who singled in his first two at-bats, added to that by plating Matsumoto with his two-run shot in the fifth. He also forced in a run in the eighth with a bases-loaded walk.
The Dragons had a chance to tie it in the top of the eighth, but Masaaki Koike settled for a single when a double was easily within his grasp. The omission allowed him to be erased on the front half of a double play that plated a run. With two outs, Daisuke Ochi relieved Yamaguchi and gave up a double to Blanco but struck out Kazuhiro Wada to end the Dragons' threat.
Ochi iced the game in the bottom of the inning with a two-run double. The Dragons pitched around Gonzalez with two outs and a runner on second and Ochi, hitless with three strikeouts in five career at-bats, hit a fly over the head of center fielder Dionys Cesar.
A single and two walks forced across another run and loaded the bases for Ramirez, who hit his first homer of the season at Tokyo Dome. Ramirez, in his 10th season here, became the 37th player with 1,000 RBIs in Japan.