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May 23: Sato, Nakajima hit Giants with knockout blows

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May 23: Sato, Nakajima hit Giants with knockout blows

by Jim Allen (May 24, 2008)

The Saitama Seibu slugger looked like an experienced reader of Yomiuri pitching, pounding a pair of home runs and a triple in the Lions' 10-1 victory over the Giants. It was the Lions' second interleague win and the Giants' first loss.

"It's still kind of unbelievable," said Sato, who homered in his final at-bat on Thursday. "I was just focused on my swing. I try not to worry about who the pitcher is."

After leadoff man Yasuyuki Kataoka singled, stole a base and scored the tying run in the bottom of the first, Sato put Seibu ahead with a two-run, first-inning homer off Seth Greisinger (5-2). The seven runs Greisinger allowed in five innings were his highest total since coming to Japan last season. The right-hander's career interleague record fell to 4-1.

The Lions' Hiroyuki Nakajima hit a two-run homer in the second and Sato struck again with a solo shot in the third. Sato's 14th homer saw him surpass teammate Craig Brazell for the Pacific League lead.

The three homers were the most allowed in a game by Greisinger, who led the Central League with 16 wins last season with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

"My impression is that he has very sharp control," Lions manager Hisanobu Watanabe said. "Today he was throwing just about where he wanted--but 'just about' plays right into our hands."

Nakajima blasted another two-run homer in the eighth inning, when lefty Masanori Hayashi gave up three runs in his belated season debut.

While the Lions were clobbering Giants pitching, Seibu starter Takayuki Kishi (5-2) allowed one run in eight innings. Kishi struck out four and walked three.

"Last year our pattern was for me to follow a win by [Hideaki] Wakui with a loss," said Kishi, who as a rookie went 1-3 in interleague.

After Wakui beat the Swallows on Thursday night, Kishi could only think about making sure last season's sad history did not repeat itself.

"I really wanted to prevent that from happening again tonight," he said, although it wasn't easy after walking the first batter he faced and then giving up an RBI double on a pop fly into no-man's land.

A slow starter, Kishi walked the leadoff man on a 3-2 fastball that hit the glove but was not to the liking of the ump.

"You can't do anything about the umpire, so I decided to just zero in on the catcher's mitt," Kishi said. "I was able to do that."

He should have had Alex Ramirez in the first inning, but with a runner on second, Ramirez got a gift double after he miss-hit a curveball. The ball popped up but fell where it could not be caught.

"He had a good plan--come inside, inside--and had good command using his breaking ball," Ramirez said of the Lions' 23-year-old.

The Lions got even with an equally odd hit in the bottom of the inning. With Kataoka on third after a steal and a sacrifice, Brazell's pop up to shallow right center fell untouched and the game was tied.

Kataoka raised his PL-leading stolen base total to 20 with a pair of steals as the Lions executed the game as Watanabe had mapped out.

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