Shinnosuke Abe is a man in a groove, and on Sunday afternoon he even managed to get a little groovier.
Giants catcher Abe slammed a two-run homer and went 2-for-3 with a walk as Yomiuri padded its lead atop the Central League with a 5-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons.
The on-fire Abe now has four home runs in his last three games, nine in his last 13, and 21 in total, one behind CL home-run leader Craig Brazell, who went deep twice as his Hanshin Tigers lost Sunday to the BayStars in Yokohama.
"He's so hot right now so I wasn't surprised at all that he hit another big home run today," Giants starter Shugo Fujii said of batterymate Abe.
With their Father's Day victory at Tokyo Dome, the first-place Giants took two out of three from the Dragons in the series and improved to 38-25 this season.
"I'm feeling as good as I have in my entire life (at the plate) these days," Abe said.
Fujii (5-1) went six solid innings to get the win for Tatsunori Hara's club. The crafty left-hander limited the Dragons to two runs on just two hits, including a leadoff first-inning double to open the game by Masahiro Araki. Fujii walked one and whiffed three.
"He (Fujii) pitched really well and he consistently had the Chunichi batters under his command," said Abe.
Hara also credited his pitcher-catcher combination for getting the job done on Sunday.
"We got a confidence boost when Abe hit that two-run homer to put us ahead and the way Fujii was pitching, we really felt good after we got the third run," said the Giants' skipper.
Abe's two-run jack in the second inning off Chunichi starter Yudai Kawai overturned an early 1-0 deficit and the Giants tacked on another run in the fourth when a Kawai delivery with the bases-loaded got past catcher Keiji Oyama, allowing Abe to score from third. Oyama was charged with a passed ball on the play.
Oyama made amends an inning later when he clubbed an RBI double off the wall in center, just out of the reach of outfielder Hisayoshi Chono, to make it a one-run game again.
However, in the eighth, Yomiuri's Michihiro Ogasawara led off the inning by hammering the second pitch of the day from reliever Masafumi Hirai into the bleachers in right for his 16th homer of the season. Hirai should have seen it coming; his first pitch to Ogasawara landed in almost the same location, but just a few feet foul.
Later in the inning, Hirai would walk Yoshiyuki Kamei on four pitches with the sacks full to account for the Giants' fourth run.
Yuya Kubo worked two scoreless innings in relief of Fujii to get credit for a hold and closer Marc Kroon gave up one hit in a scoreless ninth as he nailed down his 11th save of the year, a day after giving up a three-run homer to Tony Blanco in a 7-4 loss to Chunichi.
Lefty Kawai (1-2) took the loss Sunday. He threw seven innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks.
In Yokohama, Terrmel Sledge went 4-for-4 with two home runs, a walk and five RBIs as the BayStars beat the Tigers 14-6 in a game featuring eight homers--four by each team.
In the other CL game on tap Sunday, the Swallows scored all their runs in the eighth inning as Yakult came from behind to top the Carp 4-2 in Hiroshima.