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Part-timer Wakiya makes his mark

by John E. Gibson (Aug 12, 2010)

The big boys on the Yomiuri Giants are bashing their way into the headlines, but it was a little guy who made big-time impact last week when he broke a 58-year-old Central League record.

Ryota Wakiya set a pretty remarkable record by scoring in 15 straight games for the Giants--noteworthy mainly because he has to battle for playing time and he hit in the No. 8 spot 14 times and the No. 7 hole once during the streak.

That means he did it without the help of the middle-of-the-order sluggers who have a combined 93 homers.

The fifth-year infielder heaped loads of praise on the batters at the top of the order for helping him eclipse the previous record, set by the Kokutetsu Swallows' Takao Sato in 1952.

"This is a record you can't break on your own, so I'm glad the team was able to set it," the 28-year-old said Wednesday at Jingu Stadium before the Giants played the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

"It's about my teammates getting me home after I got on base," added Wakiya, who broke the record on a second-inning double by No. 2 man Tetsuya Matsumoto in a 9-1 win over Hanshin last Thursday.

"I think Hayato [Sakamoto] must have driven me in about half of those games, so the Nos. 1 and 2 batters did a great job."

Sakamoto, in his third season as the starting shortstop, wouldn't take credit for the record.

"He's the one who got on base and that's why he was able to break the record," Sakamoto said. "He has been playing a lot more regularly and he's getting results and that's why he's getting the playing time. He has been great."

The Japan pro baseball record is 17 consecutive games with a run scored, set by Wakiya's teammate Michihiro Ogasawara in 2001 when the slugger was with the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Ogasawara's message to Wakiya after the string reached 15?

"'Go for it,'" said Wakiya, who went 0-for-3 the next night against Hiroshima Carp ace Kenta Maeda to halt the streak and fall short of Ogasawara.

There was some drama in Game 14 last Wednesday when Wakiya came up with his biggest hit to keep it going. He had singled against the Tigers in the fifth and seventh innings, but was stranded both times.

He came up with the Giants down by six runs in the ninth and clubbed his fifth homer--his third during the streak--to score himself.

"That was like a nice bonus, but I don't really count that one," quipped Wakiya who has hit .387 with a .433 on-base percentage over his last 16 games.

Wakiya, having played in 88 of the team's 100 games--two away from his single-season high--is at a point where he has to make this kind of impact. So far, he has, shattering his previous season high of 28 runs scored with 48 through Tuesday.

"Up until this streak, he was not really living up to the expectations that the manager had for him," said hitting coach Kazunori Shinozuka.

"He has been going up and down from the first team to the farm for four years, so I'm sure--now more than ever--inside, he feels, 'This is my chance.'

"He has to make an impact, and he has done that in this streak. But it can't end here."

Giants activate Kroon

The Yomiuri Giants activated closer Marc Kroon, who missed time because of stiffness in his left thigh.

The 37-year-old righty, who has 16 saves in 32 appearances, experienced discomfort against the Chunichi Dragons on Aug. 1.

Meanwhile, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters activated starter Buddy Carlyle.

The right-hander was 0-3 with a 5.56 ERA in four games when he was dropped to the farm team in late April.


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