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Rookie hazing: Wakiya ruins 1st-year hurler's debut as Giants come from behind to top Tigers

by Jim Allen (Aug 22, 2010)

Facing a pitcher with a shot at history, Ryota Wakiya played spoiler on Saturday.

Wakiya's two-run, sixth-inning triple made 19-year-old Takumi Akiyama's pro debut a losing one and put the Yomiuri Giants ahead in an 8-3 victory against the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo Dome. The win pulled the Giants to within a game of the Central League-leading Tigers.

Trailing by a run with two on and two down, Wakiya drove a 1-0 curveball to the wall and turned the game around.

"[During the week] in Nagoya, I didn't get any hits. My wife told me to calm down, that I was panicking," said Wakiya.

"He [Akiyama] has a good fastball, that looks much faster than it is. If you fall behind, he's got that forkball, so I was trying to get a pitch early in the count."

Akiyama's start became a footnote in Hanshin history: the team's only first-year pitcher out of high school to start in his pro debut against the Giants.

The right-hander allowed four runs on six hits in six innings, while striking out five and walking three.

"It's hard to think of him as a freshman," Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said of the Tigers' fourth-round pick last autumn. "With stuff like that, he's got some kind of future ahead of him.

"I foresee him becoming a nasty opponent."

The Giants, who came into the series after dropping four straight, beat the Tigers 12-5 on Friday, a game that saw Shinnosuke Abe resume his duties behind the plate and belted a solo homer.

Abe, who suffered a contusion on his right thigh in a game against the Yokohama BayStars on Aug. 13, iced Saturday's game with a three-run home run, his 37th.

"He had plenty of time off," Hara said of his captain, who was 2-for-3 with a walk and three runs.

"The major concern was his defense, but it wasn't bad [today]."

Southpaw Yasunari Takagi pitched an inning of scoreless relief in the sixth to earn his first win as a Giant.

After allowing a leadoff single, Takagi, acquired in the December trade that sent Hiroshi Kisanuki to the Orix Buffaloes, struck out Tigers home run leader Craig Brazell before getting two fly outs to keep the game close.

The Tigers opened the scoring in the first against Giants right-hander Satoshi Fukuda, when Brazell's two-out single plated Matt Murton from second.

The Giants seized the lead in the second. Edgar Gonzalez followed Abe's leadoff single with a double and Hisayoshi Chono's ground single plated Abe. Wakiya hit a no-out bullet to second. Second baseman Keiichi Hirano had a clear chance for a double play at first, but failed to take it. His hesitation hurt Hanshin when Hayato Sakamoto singled home the go-ahead run.

Murton tied it for the Tigers with a leadoff homer in the third, and Tomoaki Kanemoto did the same in the fourth to put Hanshin ahead.

Akiyama, who retired nine straight after Sakamoto's second-inning single, got into trouble with two outs in the sixth.

A one-out walk to Abe and a two-out flare single by Chono put two on for Wakiya, who had struck out in his previous at-bat.

"He comes into the zone with his curve and fastball, so you have to be ready to hit," Wakiya said.

"The third at-bat, I was in a position to do some damage and the curve was in my hitting zone."

Alex Ramirez, who struck out twice against Akiyama, singled home a run in the seventh to make it 5-3 and scored on Abe's home run.

Wakiya, who earlier this month set a CL record by scoring in 15 consecutive games, had more good news on Thursday, when his wife gave birth to a daughter.

"My wife said for me to take it easier," the second baseman said. "I talked to her on the videophone, so I could see her smile and that really picked me up.

"Now I'm doing better. Since my daughter was born we've played two games against the Tigers and won them both."

In Nagoya, 45-year-old Masahiro Yamamoto (2-0) allowed two runs in 5-2/2 innings as the Chunichi Dragons defeated the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 3-2.

Kohei Oda's second-inning sacrifice fly delivered the go-ahead run after Tony Blanco's two-run homer earlier in the inning tied it.

In Pacific League action, Sho Nakata's sixth-inning sacrifice fly broke a tie as the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters beat the league-leading Saitama Seibu Lions 5-4 in Sapporo.

Lions ace Hideaki Wakui (13-7) allowed five runs in eight innings to take the loss.

In other Japanese baseball news:

--Hiroshima deactivated right-handed ace Kenta Maeda because of a blister on his pitching hand.


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