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Rob Smaal

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Wakiya's slam stuns Swallows

by Rob Smaal (May 4, 2010)

Yomiuri Giants starter Shugo Fujii slammed the door on his old club Monday night at Tokyo Dome while teammate Ryota Wakiya did a little slamming of his own.

Left-hander Fujii (2-1) sailed along through six innings, restricting the Swallows to just one run on one hit, and Wakiya belted a second-inning grand slam as the Giants pounded cross-town rival Yakult 7-2 in a matchup of two clubs at opposite ends of the Central League standings.

"That grand slam by Wakiya really boosted my confidence," said Fujii, who has now beaten all 12 NPB teams.

Fujii, a cagey 32-year-old veteran who spent the first eight years of his career with Yakult, had cruised through six innings, but with a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth, Giants manager Tatsunori Hara elected to remove him for a pinch hitter with the bases loaded.

Fujii threw 71 pitches, striking out five while not walking a batter. The only hit he allowed was a fifth-inning leadoff double to right by Yasushi Iihara just out of the reach of outfielder Yoshitomo Tani. Iihara eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Hiroyasu Tanaka.

Fujii also played a part offensively for the Giants. With two out and a man on second in the bottom of the second, Swallows skipper Shigeru Takada elected to have starter Yoshinori Sato intentionally walk Hisayoshi Chono to get to Fujii. The Giants pitcher failed to follow the script, however, slapping an opposite-field single to left to load the bases. Yomiuri leadoff hitter Hayato Sakamoto then drew a walk for the Giants' first run before Wakiya lofted a ball to left that cleared the fence to make it a 5-0 game.

"That was my first grand slam," said Wakiya, whose home run was his first of the season. "I never even hit one in elementary school or high school."

Lee Seung-yeop, pinch hitting for Fujii with the bases loaded in the sixth, punched an RBI single through the right side of the infield to make it 6-1 and Alex Ramirez slammed his CL-leading 10th home run of 2010 in the seventh. It was the 297th career home run in Japan for Ramirez.

Yakult tacked on a run in the ninth when Giants closer Marc Kroon uncorked a wild pitch with a man on third. Kroon, fighting through a painful thumb injury on his pitching hand, settled down and struck out Norichika Aoki to end it.

Sato (1-4) took the loss. He gave up seven runs on nine hits and four walks through seven innings. The young righty struck out six.

The Giants, who reclaimed first place with the win, boosted their record to 20-12 this year. They leapfrogged the Hanshin Tigers, who lost 5-0 on Monday to the Chunichi Dragons after taking three in a row from Yomiuri at Koshien Stadium earlier in the week.

Last-place Yakult fell to 12-19-1.

In another NPB night game, the Hiroshima Carp defeated the BayStars 3-1 at Yokohama Stadium.


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