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Jim Allen

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ANALYSIS: Giants' 2-out rallies nasty thorn in Tigers' paw

by Jim Allen (Oct 19, 2010)

Yomiuri's first playoff games on the road proved a satisfying experience, while the Tigers remain a playoff accident waiting to happen. Hanshin's 7-6 meltdown on Sunday ended the club's season and dropped its Climax Series record to 1-6.

The Giants, on the other hand, won on the road despite starting pitchers who came out misfiring. Shun Tono gave the Tigers a slew of hitters' counts on Saturday, but Hanshin managed just one run and two hits off him in five innings.

The Giants, however, seized a 3-1 lead against starter Atsushi Nomi and neither bullpen budged.

On Sunday, the Tigers got a quality start from Yasutomo Kubo, while Giants manager Tatsunori Hara pulled the plug on Hideki Asai after two runs in one inning.

Despite so many things going the Tigers' way, the Giants hung in and kept pounding. When the Tigers scored three runs to make it 6-2 after six, the visitors simply gutted it out.

Six of the Giants' 10 runs over the weekend came with two outs as Hara's men proved extremely difficult to put away. In 31 two-out plate appearances, the Giants hit .407 with a double, a homer, three walks and one hit batsman.

The Tigers were no slouches with two down, batting .304 (seven singles in 23 at-bats and four walks), but they couldn't match the Giants' ability to prolong rallies and give the next batter a crack at doing some damage.

As it had been for much of the regular season, the Giants' Achilles heel was their starting pitching. Ironically, two of his starters for whom 2010 had been a lost season, Dicky Gonzalez and Seth Greisinger, provided crucial long relief.

Gonzalez worked 2-2/2 scoreless innings on Saturday in relief of Tono. Greisinger, pressed into action in the second inning on Sunday after Asai floundered, allowed a run in three innings.

Asai was a surprise selection, although Hara said he'd made the decision some time before.

"Among our starters his form was second best [only to Tono]," said Hara, who said the switch to another starter in long relief had also been in the game plan.

"We planned to make that switch from the outset, but never expected to make it so soon."

In the bottom of the sixth, the series appeared to be heading for a Monday finish when Matt Murton, intentionally walked to prevent him from driving in a run, scored on Keiichi Hirano's two-run triple.

With reliever Tomoyuki Kubota, who had held Yomiuri to a .169 batting average this season, staked to a four-run lead, the game looked over--except to the Giants.

Second baseman Hirano's second error of the day allowed a runner to score from third with two outs. Kubota made a mistake on the next pitch and the Giants were just a run down. With two outs and none on in the eighth against closer Kyuji Fujikawa, the Giants rallied again.

Alex Ramirez's two-run single put the Giants in front and sent them to Nagoya for a second-stage clash with the Chunichi Dragons starting Wednesday.

"They are the league champions, but we have plenty on our side, too," Hara said. "The key will be to diligently play our game."


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