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New 'Star Harper KOs Giants with walk-off slam

by Jim Allen (Jul 19, 2010)

Brett Harper has quickly made an impression in Yokohama. On Sunday he left a mark on the Giants.

Harper went 4-for-5 and hit the first pitch he saw in the ninth inning for a sayonara grand slam, lifting the BayStars to an 8-7 victory over Yomiuri before 26,985 at Yokohama Stadium.

Harper, who played his first game with the club on July 9 and raised his average to .487, took Giants closer Marc Kroon (2-2) deep to as the BayStars rebounded from the Giants' seven-run sixth inning.

"I just wanted to hit something hard, keep the rally going," said Harper, who admitted knowing a little bit about Kroon.

"I know he has good stuff, a good forkball. I know he throws hard. But I only saw one pitch."

Tasuku Hashimoto opened the rally with a leadoff single. Kroon retired pinch-hitter Takahiro Saeki on a fly but walked two straight batters to load the bases.

"When Kroon is really on, he throws strikes right from the start," said BayStars skipper Takao Obana, who moved to Yokohama after serving as Yomiuri's pitching coach for four seasons.

"When his first pitch is a ball and then his second, he can be vulnerable. My only advice was to tell the guys to not help him out by offering at pitches out of the zone.

"I hoped we might somehow get the bases loaded for the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, and we were able to lay off and make that happen."

When Harper launched his shot, the normally cool Obana cut loose, pumping his fist wildly from the dugout.

"If you can't do it at a time like that, then I guess you can't do it at all," he said.

The victory made it two straight for Yokohama.

BayStars right-hander Tomokazu Oka retired the first 15 batters with ease, while Giants starter Wirfin Obispo allowed three runs in 4-1/3 innings.

Takehiro Ishikawa's second straight infield single opened the fourth against Obispo. Harper followed with his second single, and Terrmel Sledge plated Ishikawa with a single.

Jose Castillo doubled home Harper to make it 2-0. Fifth-inning singles by Seiichi Uchikawa, Harper and Shuichi Murata added another run and drove Obispo from the mound.

Rookie Giants lefty Masumi Hoshino retired Sledge and Castillo to keep the game close, and the visitors countered with a haymaker.

"For the first five innings, Oka was really on," Obana said. "He was attacking both sides of the plate, going upstairs when he needed to, in complete command.

"His pitches [in the sixth] were still good, but there was no variety."

Ryota Wakiya bounced a high fastball up the middle to lead off the sixth and Edgar Gonzalez followed by doubling off a high fastball. A visit from pitching coach Hiroki Nomura sharply curtailed the high pitches, but it didn't help stop the Giants.

Pinch-hitter Yoshinobu Takahashi lifted a 2-3 cutter in the heart of the zone for a sacrifice fly, and the Giants were on the board. Oka hung in but the Giants would not be denied.

Hayato Sakamoto bounced a low fastball into left to put runners on the corners, and Tetsuya Matsumoto chipped a low forkball over short for an RBI single.

Obana asked his bullpen to stop the bleeding, but things only got things worse. Southpaw Takayuki Shinohara got left-handed dynamo Michihiro Ogasawara to ground out, but both runners advanced.

With a chance to put his team ahead, cleanup hitter Alex Ramirez reached for an 0-1 fastball low and away from Hitoshi Fujie. Ramirez's little fly to center fell in for a two-run single, with both runs charged to Oka.

The next three were all Fujie's. With his team trailing by a run, the right-hander lost control.

Shinnosuke Abe, the Giants' captain and No. 5 hitter, pounded a 2-0 fastball in the heart of the zone for his 30th homer and a two-run lead. Hisayoshi Chono then hit Fujie's next pitch into the stands.

In a matter of minutes, Yomiuri's eight-hit, seven-run inning had taken the Central League leaders from drought to rout.

"We had a lot of hits today, and our lineup can really hit the ball--but not quite like the Giants can," Obana said. "I want this team to be able to get locked in and be able to have eight-hit innings like they did today."

Yataro Sakamoto pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for Yokohama. After the Giants loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth, Sakamoto stood looking toward the dugout for some sign that his afternoon was over. Obana, however, stuck with him and Sakamoto stranded all three runners.

Sledge's 19th homer of the season, off Daisuke Ochi in the eighth, and a scoreless ninth by the BayStars' Yuji Hata (1-0) set up the save situation that summoned Kroon.

Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said he wanted Kroon to stay on the mound, even after allowing two walks.

"He's the closer," Hara said. "It wasn't a bad decision."

In Pacific League action, Takeshi Yamasaki homered for the second straight day and Satoshi Nagai (5-7) allowed a run in seven innings as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles beat the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 3-2 in Sendai.

In Osaka, Yang Yao-hsun (1-0) allowed two runs in five innings as the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks rallied to beat the Orix Buffaloes 4-2.

An error by Orix right-fielder Osamu Hamanaka allowed the tying run to score in the sixth, and Hiroki Kokubo's RBI single put the Hawks ahead for good.


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