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Tigers turn on power: 4 Hanshin homers spoil Giants' 1st game of season at Tokyo Dome

by John E. Gibson (May 4, 2011)

The Kanto region has been working hard to conserve energy since March 11, but the Hanshin Tigers generated their own power in this season's first game at Tokyo Dome.

The Tigers, who entered Tuesday's action with eight homers in 16 games, blasted four longballs--three straight in the third inning--and Atsushi Nomi won his club-record eighth straight decision against Yomiuri to pull the plug on the Giants' home opener 7-3 on Tuesday.

Takahiro Arai led the offensive charge for the Tigers, upping his average to .394 with three hits and two RBIs.

The Tigers electrified their portion of an energetic, standing-room-only crowd of 45,049 when Takashi Toritani hit the first of three straight two-out homers in the third inning off Yomiuri starter Shun Tono (2-1). Arai followed with his team-high fourth longball of the season and Craig Brazell connected for his first in 64 trips to the plate.

"Anyway I can get them, I'll take them. It's nice to get No. 1 out of the way, and I just have to keep going from there," said Brazell, who joked about coming to bat after back-to-back homers.

"I'm thinking, 'If I make an out here, I'm going to get booed.' But Tono's a good pitcher, there's no doubt about that. He made a few mistakes--he left some pitches out over the plate today--and luckily, we didn't miss them when he made those mistakes."

Tono got knocked around for six runs on nine hits with no walks and three strikeouts over six innings, although he also hit his first career homer.

"I wasn't overexcited," Tono said about starting the long-awaited home opener. "I just wasn't able to find my rhythm, and the pitches that were hit got too much of the plate. My control just wasn't there."

It was the ninth time in team history that the Tigers homered in three consecutive at-bats, and the first time against the Giants since 1985, the year Hanshin won its only Japan Series.

Nomi (2-1), meanwhile, tied Tadayoshi Kajioka and Shigeru Kobayashi for the club record for consecutive wins over the Giants with his first complete game since April 24, 2009.

"It was the first game of the series so that made it an important one, but you also have to win games when your cleanup hitter hits like that," said Nomi, who allowed six hits, while fanning eight and walking none.

The teams combined to knock around the low-impact Mizuno ball for six solo homers, but Yomiuri had just two solo shots.

Hanshin's Tomoaki Kanemoto opened the scoring in the second, turning a misplaced fastball into a souvenir by driving it into the seats in right for a 1-0 Hanshin lead. At 43 years and one month, he became the oldest player to homer in the Central League, surpassing Hiromitsu Ochiai's record.

With two out in the third inning, Keiichi Hirano lined a single to right and Toritani followed by clubbing his first of the season for a 3-0 lead. Arai then hit a blast to left center. Yomiuri right-fielder Hisayoshi Chono didn't bother to move when Brazell connected for his.

"That inning wasn't very Tono-like," said Giants manager Tatsunori Hara.

Meanwhile, struggling Giants slugger Michihiro Ogasawara--two hits shy of his career 2,000th--went 0-for-4, striking out twice to drop his average to .155.

Elsewhere in the Central League, Yasushi Iihara's seventh-inning pinch-hit double broke a tie, and Norichika Aoki followed with an RBI double as Tokyo Yakult recovered from blowing a two-run lead to drop the Chunichi Dragons 5-3 at Jingu Stadium.

Chad Tracey had two hits and two RBIs, and Dennis Sarfate got a four-out save as the host Hiroshima Carp held off the Yokohama BayStars 3-2 at Mazda Stadium.

It was the Carp's 10th straight win over the BayStars, dating back to last Aug. 21.

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Pacific League

Sho Nakata's clutch 10th-inning three-run triple gave Hokkaido Nippon Ham a lift after Yu Darvish (3-1) blew a two-run lead in the ninth and the Fighters topped the Orix Buffaloes 6-3 at Kyocera Dome Osaka.

Nakata tripled after a two-out walk, an error and a single.

Tadahito Iguchi socked a grand slam and a three-run shot for seven RBIs that powered the Chiba Lotte Marines back from a four-run hole in a 10-5 victory over the Saitama Seibu Lions in the season's first game at Seibu Dome.

Tsuyoshi Wada (1-1) fired a three-hitter and Hiroki Kokubo went 4-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs as Fukuoka SoftBank blanked the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles 3-0 in Fukuoka.


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