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John E. Gibson

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Iihara drives in 3 as Swallows tackle Tigers

by John E. Gibson (Jun 27, 2010)

The Tokyo Yakult Swallows ran a promotion for Saturday's game to draw a big enough crowd to set the world record for the largest toast.

They surpassed the goal--confirmed at 27,126--and also toasted a pair of late home runs that boosted them to a 4-2 victory over the Hanshin Tigers at Jingu Stadium.

Yasushi Iihara, hitting in the No. 3 hole, launched a two-run shot in the eighth inning to erase a one-run deficit, and recently signed import Josh Whitesell debuted in front of 28,503 with a homer for his first hit in Japan as the Swallows rallied past the Central League's second-place Tigers.

Iihara, in the doghouse for a June 20 base-running blunder that cost the team a run, entered the game hitting .625 the past week. He drove in three runs with a clutch double and his fourth longball.

"I didn't think it was out, but it went," said Iihara, who took Ken Nishimura (4-1) deep on the first pitch after Hiroyasu Tanaka opened the frame with a single to right.

"I just want to do what I can to contribute to the team and help us win."

Whitesell followed one out later by taking a low slider middle-in and raking it over the wall in right.

Teammate Jamie D'Antona hit Whitesell with a shaving cream towel in the face during the on-field postgame interview to celebrate the shot.

"It feels good because you know you did something good to help the team, but it burns my eyes," the 28-year-old Whitesell said of the U.S.-style salute.

Whitesell grounded out twice and struck out before he put a charge into a wayward slider.

"It was a little bit of a lefty pitch--down and in."

Whitesell was signed on June 18 as an infielder but started in left for the fifth-place Swallows--his first stint in the outfield in eight years.

"I haven't played in the outfield since college so that was a little bit of an experience. But I know once I keep getting out there, it'll all come back."

The Swallows had to come back after Tigers broke open a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth inning. Craig Brazell reached out and poked a first-pitch slider the opposite way for a leadoff single to left.

He moved to second on starter Masanori Ishikawa's fourth wild pitch of the season, and Ryo Asai took a high fastball into left field to score Brazell for a 1-0 Hanshin lead.

Ishikawa escaped further damage with a couple of groundballs.

Hanshin starter Naoto Tsuru, making his first start in three weeks, put up zeroes over four innings, but Norichika Aoki doubled inside the third-base bag with two outs in the fifth.

After Tanaka walked, Iihara drove a fastball to center for an RBI double to make it 1-1.

Ishikawa walked the leadoff man in the seventh and after fanning Brazell, he was in the showers. Tatsuyoshi Masubuchi took over and immediately surrendered a pair of singles to load the bases.

He fanned pinch-hitter Tomoaki Kanemoto on a 3-2 pitch, but uncorked a wild pitch while facing pinch-hitter Shinjiro Hiyama to allow the go-ahead run to score for a 2-1 Hanshin lead.

Kenichi Matsuoka (1-1) worked a perfect eighth for his first victory of the season. Lim Chang Yong fanned one in the ninth to for his 13th save.

At Nagoya Dome, Kenichi Nakata (2-2) blanked Hiroshima on four hits and three walks with eight strikeouts over 7-2/3 innings, and the Chunichi Dragons escaped a two-on, none-out jam in the ninth to top the Carp 1-0.

Hitoki Iwase, who on Friday became only the second reliever to record at least 20 saves over seven consecutive seasons, got the final two outs to close out his 21st game.

First-year lefty Giancarlo Alvarado (1-4) was the hard-luck loser, allowing a run on three hits over the distance for his first complete game.

The Yomiuri Giants and Yokohama BayStars played later.

In the Pacific League, Yu Darvish (7-4) helped Hokkaido Nippon Ham move out of last place by limiting Chiba Lotte to a run over seven innings, and Atsunori Inaba drove in four runs as the Fighters beat the Marines 10-4 at Sapporo Dome.

Lotte's Bill Murphy (6-1) allowed seven runs on nine hits and five walks over seven innings to suffer his first lost in Japan. Murphy was trying to break Leo Kiely's club record for consecutive wins to start a season by a foreign pitcher. Kiely went 6-0 in 1953 when the team was called the Mainichi Orions.

At Kleenex Stadium Miyagi, Jose Ortiz and Hiroshi Shibahara had RBI hits in the second inning, and Tsuyoshi Wada (10-4) and three relievers made it stand up as the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks topped the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles 2-1.

Wada scattered five hits and two walks, while fanning four over six innings, and Tadashi Settsu, Brian Falkenborg and Takahiro Mahara each worked a perfect inning to close it out.


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