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Arai, Sakurai lead Tigers past 'Stars

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Arai, Sakurai lead Tigers past 'Stars

by Rob Smaal (Aug 26, 2009)

Takahiro Arai and Kodai Sakurai each drove in a pair of runs Tuesday night as the Hanshin Tigers kept their fading playoff hopes alive with a hard-fought 4-3 victory over the BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

The Tigers used a three-run eighth inning to improve to 47-56-4 on the season, currently leaving them in fourth place in the Central League as they hope to make a run at the Yakult Swallows for that third playoff spot.

The Swallows beat the Carp 5-1 on Tuesday in Hiroshima, maintaining their 7 1/2-game lead over Hanshin.

Hirotaka Egusa (4-3) got the win in Yokohama, working one-third of a hitless inning in relief, while Kyuji Fujikawa tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 16th save of the season for Hanshin.

Tigers starter Yuya Ando gave up three runs on four hits through six innings but did not figure in the decision.

Yokohama right-hander Hayato Terahara saw his record fall to 2-6 this year. Terahara threw 139 pitches over eight innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on nine hits and a pair of walks. He whiffed five.

Arai got the Tigers on the board early when he beat out a first-inning two-out infield single with two men on to allow a run to score. It was an unearned run because Stars first-baseman Takahiro Saeki booted a groundball off the bat of Tomoaki Kanemoto, hitting cleanup one spot in front of Arai, that would have gotten Terahara out of the inning unscathed.

But veteran Saeki, who was charged with an error on the play, would make amends an inning later when he clubbed a solo home run to right off Ando. It was the 152nd homer of Saeki's 17-year career and his ninth this season, and it traveled an estimated 125 meters into the BayStars' cheering section in the right-field bleachers.

The game remained deadlocked until the home half of the sixth. After Tatsuya Shimozono stroked a one-out single off Ando, the left-handed hitting Kazuya Fujita sliced a fly ball down the left-field line that barely crept over the fence for a two-run shot. It was his fourth home run of the season.

Then in the eighth inning, with Terahara still plugging away, the Tigers pounced for three runs of their own. Speedster Norihiro Akahoshi drilled a double down the left-field line and Takashi Toritani worked the count full before drawing a walk from Terahara. Kanemoto then hammered a long single off the wall in right to load the bases with none out, setting up Arai for a run-scoring sacrifice fly to left field and his second RBI of the evening.

Next up for Hanshin was the dangerous Craig Brazell, but Terahara struck him out on a nasty breaking ball. The feeling of relief was shortlived, however, as the following batter, Sakurai, delivered a two-run double just past third base that put the Tigers up 4-3.

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