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Turning it around / Kamei's 3-run homer in bottom of 9th lifts Giants over Dragons, trumps Wada's 20

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Turning it around / Kamei's 3-run homer in bottom of 9th lifts Giants over Dragons, trumps Wada's 20

by John E. Gibson (Apr 26, 2009)

Nine times out of 10, teams bunt with the tying runs on in the bottom of the ninth inning at home. But the Yomiuri Giants had bigger ideas with Yoshiyuki Kamei at the plate and they hit the jackpot on Saturday.

Kamei rocked Chunichi Dragons southpaw stopper Hitoki Iwase with a three-run, walk-off homer as the Giants put a dramatic end to a 5-4 comeback win in front of 43,707 at Tokyo Dome.

It was the first longball of the season for the fifth-year Kamei, who said he changed things up by using a teammate's bat.

"I haven't been getting it done recently, so I decided to use [Tetsuya] Matsumoto's bat," said Kamei, who thought he was going to be asked to bunt with two on and no outs.

"The skipper just told me to go up there and hit," said Kamei, who got instructions from manager Tatsunori Hara just before stepping up against the Chunichi closer.

He launched the first pitch from Iwase (0-1) just over the wall in center and the Giants went into celebration mode.

The Giants had won six straight before losing Friday's series opener, but Kamei said the team is going to improve on that streak: "Without a doubt, we're going to win more than six games in a row."

Hara was happy with the outcome of the game, but not with the way his team played.

There was a double play on a bunt attempt and Kiyoshi Toyoda (1-0), who lucked out for the win despite giving up a two-run homer in the top of the inning, that put the Giants in a do-or-die situation.

"He erased all the mistakes we had tonight by himself with that one swing," Hara said of Kamei.

The Dragons looked headed to a second win in the series after Kazuhiro Wada slugged his 200th home run, a two-run shot, in the top of the ninth.

The 13-year veteran gave the Dragons a 4-2 lead, but Iwase didn't retire a batter.

"There isn't much we can do about things if Iwase gets knocked around," Chunichi skipper Hiromitsu Ochiai said of his closer, who was appearing in his seventh straight game. "That's the kind of team we are."

The Giants, who came back three times to sweep the Dragons at Nagoya Dome April 17-19, are 4-1 against the Dragons this season.

Alex Ramirez put the Giants on top in the second inning, ending a seven-game power outage with a solo blast deep to left-center field.

Yomiuri starter Hisanori Takahashi allowed a hard single to Masahiro Araki to open the game, but retired the next 13. Chunichi broke that string when Masaaki Koike connected with a hanging curve, driving it the opposite way to right-center to make it 1-1 with his first homer.

Takahiro Suzuki put the Giants right back on top, though, rifling a two-out single down the left-field line off Chunichi's southpaw Chen Wei-yin that scored Hayato Sakamoto from third.

Takahashi left after six strong innings. The 10th-year lefty yielded one run on four hits, while fanning five with no walks.

But Tetsuya Yamaguchi couldn't protect a one-run lead, allowing the tying run in the eighth on Araki's third hit of the game.

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