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Matsumoto leads Giants past Fighters, Darvish

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Matsumoto leads Giants past Fighters, Darvish

by Jim Allen (Jun 7, 2009)

It took the smallest Giant to knock off Japan's biggest pitcher.

Tetsuya Matsumoto had two of Yomiuri's six hits and threw a runner out from center field in a 3-2 interleague victory over Yu Darvish and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters at Tokyo Dome on Saturday.

"The game plan was not to get give up on his fastball," said Matsumoto, who drove in the first run in the Giants' three-run sixth.

Trailing 2-0, the 1.70-meter outfielder had the third of five straight hits off Darvish, who'd allowed just a first-inning double to Matsumoto through five.

"We figured we'd only get one shot at him," Matsumoto said. "I went up swinging early in the count before I got behind."

With runners on the corners after a great at-bat by Hayato Sakamoto produced a hit-and-run single, Matsumoto went after the first pitch, a fastball low and away and lined it to left.

"That's the way I practice it [to go the other way]," Matsumoto said.

Two pitches later, Michihiro Ogasawara singled to center to tie it. Alex Ramirez smashed the following pitch past first to put the Central League leaders up by a run.

Darvish (7-2) went eight innings in his first loss since Opening Day. The Japan international struck out six and walked one.

"Darvish is going to challenge you and you have to do your best [to beat him]," Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. "It was a superb rally: good compact swings, great concentration."

Giants lefty Tetsuya Utsumi, who sat down for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth, left the mound trailing 2-0 but got the win to improve to 2-3. He allowed six hits and a walk, while striking out five.

"Darvish is Japan's ace, a world-class ace," Hara said. "Utsumi did well, and the team did a good job. It would be harsh to say he slipped up."

The Fighters took a second-inning lead on back-to-back doubles by Eiichi Koyano and Yoshio Itoi.

Atsunori Inaba, who drove in both runs in the Fighters' 5-2 loss on Friday, homered for the second straight night in the sixth to give Darvish a two-run cushion.

Former Fighter Takahito Kudo pinch-hit for Utsumi and got things moving the Giants' way. Seven pitches later, he was on third after Sakamoto's single.

Matsumoto plated the run easily and Sakamoto scored from second when Ogasawara smashed a 1- 0 pitch off the mound and into center. With first baseman Shinji Takahashi minding the runner, Ramirez's smash got past him into right.

Darvish had caught a break to open the inning when right fielder Inaba tracked down a flair in shallow right-center for the first out. He got lucky again to escape further damage. Yoshiyuki Kamei hit a liner to short and Ogasawara was doubled off at base for the third out.

Kiyoshi Toyoda pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for the Giants, but the Fighters nearly burned lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi in the eighth.

Inaba lined one through the box for a one-out single, Takahashi lined the next pitch to left, and Koyano lined the first pitch he saw to center. Inaba sprinted home to try and tie it, but Matsumoto got a good jump, charged and threw Inaba out by a good margin to preserve the Giants' lead.

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