The fact that it's fireworks season in Japan was not lost on Alex Ramirez, Hayato Sakamoto and the hard-hitting Yomiuri Giants on Thursday as the explosions came fast and furious at Tokyo Dome, a notorious launching pad at the best of times.
The hometown Giants erupted for six home runs--including five over the first two innings--on a record-setting night for Ramirez, leading to a 10-4 demolition of the Central League rival Chunichi Dragons.
Left-hander Tetsuya Utsumi went the distance for Yomiuri to improve to 8-6 this year, but this game was all about offense.
Sakamoto hit the first pitch from Kazuki Yoshimi over the wall in left to set the tone early. It was the fifth time this season that Sakamoto started a game with a leadoff home run, and it was the first of two taters on the night for the young shortstop, who would also drive in a run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Later in the first inning, with two men aboard, the most significant bomb of the game came off the bat of veteran Venezuelan cleanup-hitter Ramirez. His three-run blast to deep--make that very deep--left off Yoshimi was his 40th of the season and it gave him 102 RBIs on the year.
Later, in the seventh inning, Ramirez would add a two-run shot off reliever Akinobu Shimizu, further padding his baseball resume.
Ramirez, who is in his 10th campaign in Japan, now holds the record of driving in 100 or more runs in eight consecutive seasons, breaking the mark of seven he held with Giants legend Sadaharu Oh coming into this year.
"As soon as I hit it (the first HR), I knew it was gone," Ramirez said. "I'm still a little nervous (after setting the RBI record). It seems like I just swung easy and was able to hit the ball."
Ramirez, a former Cleveland Indian who spent the first seven years of his NPB career with the Yakult Swallows, has now driven in 1,084 runs in Japanese baseball. The reigning two-time CL MVP has 328 home runs in his impressive career in Japan.
"His condition is really good and as his manager I'm proud of him and all his accomplishments," Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara said of Ramirez's feat.
A couple of batters after Ramirez was handed his ceremonial flowers, rookie Hisayoshi Chono completed the first-frame carnage with a solo homer to right, his 18th of the season.
Sakamoto hammered his second of the night and 26th of 2010 in the second inning, a solo shot off Yoshimi to make it a 6-0 game.
Michihiro Ogasawara got in on the act shortly thereafter, completing a miserable evening for Yoshimi with his second-inning solo homer, his 27th.
Yoshimi (11-7) lasted just two innings in taking the loss. He was pounded for seven runs on seven hits, including five home runs.
Utsumi allowed 11 hits in his 127-pitch outing, but he held the Dragons to just four runs over the distance. He walked one and struck out six as the Giants out-hit Chunichi 12-11.
Kazuhiro Wada was a one-man wrecking crew for Chunichi. The veteran outfielder, who is hitting .355 this season, nailed a three-run shot in the third inning--his 30th of the season--on a 3-for-4 day at the plate.
With the win, the league-leading Giants took two out of three from the Dragons after sweeping three in a row from the rival Tigers.