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Morino earns extra-inning redemption

by John E. Gibson (Aug 16, 2010)

Placed in the cleanup spot on Sunday, the Chunichi Dragons' Masahiko Morino made a mess of things until the 10th inning.

After failing to do anything with six runners on base, Morino lofted a flyball single over a drawn-in outfield to give the Chunichi Dragons back-to-back, extra-inning, sayonara wins and a sweep of the Hiroshima Carp with a 3-2 struggle at Nagoya Dome.

The game-winning hit left Morino with a wry smile after an otherwise miserable day in which he hit into a double play with two on and none out in the sixth, and struck out with two on in the eighth.

But Morino, who was 1-for-9 in the series going into that final at-bat, drove an 0-2 pitch from loser Ryuji Yokoyama (1-1) the other way to score Masahiro Araki, who reached on an error, and give the Dragons their 10th walk-off and fourth straight win overall.

"It was good in the end. I really wanted to get a hit in that situation and it fell in for me," said Morino, who got a talk from manager Hiromitsu Ochiai after Kazuhiro Wada was intentionally walked in front of him in the 10th.

"The skipper said, 'I really just want to go home, so get a hit.' The outfield was playing in, so I knew it had a chance to fall in and it did."

Ochiai also said if Morino got a hit, the Dragons wouldn't have to practice today.

"I guess he really wanted the day off," Ochiai quipped. "If that was the case, he should have gotten a hit earlier."

The victory moved the Dragons to within 2-1/2 games of the Central League's front-running Yomiuri Giants, who lost at home to Yokohama.

Fourth-year set-up man Takuya Asao (8-3) worked past a one-out error by Masahiro Araki for his career-best eighth win. But Ochiai was focused on his offense, which had eight hits.

"We didn't hit much again. And the guy [Morino] couldn't get a hit at all, and he ends up being the hero," said Ochiai, who was puzzled at the location of the final pitch, a forkball, from Yokoyama.

"Do you really throw him a strike in that situation? I'm sure he wanted to keep the ball off the plate, but you can't throw it there."

Morino wasn't the only one who had a bad day, but he made up for his shortcomings. Ryota Arai got yanked after some poor footwork on Araki's 10th-inning error that put Kenta Kurihara on base.

"We'll have to have him practice some more," Ochiai said of Arai, who has seen much of the playing time at first since slumping slugger Tony Blanco was sent to the farm team.

Chunichi starter Kenichi Nakata wasn't sharp but he plowed through seven innings, allowing two unearned runs on five hits. He was bouncing pitches and missing outside all day, but managed to limit the walks to four, while fanning six.

He left for a pinch-hitter in the seventh and had no decision.

"He was just beginning to hit his stride with his fastball, too," Ochiai said of Nakata.

The Carp took advantage of a walk and Chunichi's failure to turn a double play to take a 2-0 lead.

After a single and a walk put two on with one out, Arai couldn't cleanly field a ball hit right at him. He settled for one out by stepping on the first-base bag with no time to get the lead runner. Second-year Hiroshima starter Ren Nakata then took a high fastball the other way, and Arai let the ball go right through his legs for a two-run error.

The Dragons got even with two fourth-inning swings.

Kazuhiro Wada, who has a sore left thigh, slipped a ground ball just inside third and down the line, and limped into second with a leadoff double. He was still there with two outs when Naomichi Donoue unloaded on a hanging curve, belting his fourth homer deep to left to make it 2-2.

"It came in high and I went after it with a hard swing," said the fifth-year infielder, filling in for injured All-Star Hirokazu Ibata at second.

Elsewhere in the CL, Tomokazu Oka (4-6) posted his first career victory over the Yomiuri Giants with 7-2/2 strong innings in a 5-1 win at Tokyo Dome.

Oka scattered four hits and a walk, recording just two strikeouts to protect the lead after Seiichi Uchikawa's go-ahead two-run single in the second capped a three-run inning.

Shun Yamaguchi came on with two out and one on in the eighth and slammed the door to extend his career-best save total to 22. The righty fanned Michihiro Ogasawara, Alex Ramirez, Yoshinobu Takahashi and hot-hitting Edgar Gonzalez to close it out.

Shuichi Murata blasted a pair of solo blasts, his 17th in the sixth and his 18th in the ninth, to give Yokohama some breathing room.

In the Pacific League, Eiichi Koyano sparked a five-run sixth with his career-best 12th homer, a two-run shot, and Yoshio Itoi followed with a go-ahead RBI double as Hokkaido Nippon Ham topped the host Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 9-5.


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