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Best defense / Matsumoto's glove helps Giants win

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Best defense / Matsumoto's glove helps Giants win

by Jim Allen (Sep 7, 2009)

Tetsuya Matsumoto gave the Giants a good start and Hisanori Takahashi delivered a solid 5-2/3 innings on Sunday afternoon as Yomiuri won its fourth straight.

Matsumoto, who has been a defensive plus all season, made a super catch at the wall in center to open the game and the Giants went on to beat the struggling Tokyo Yakult Swallows 4-2 at Tokyo Dome.

Takahashi hung a curve on the first pitch to Kazuki Fukuchi, who drove it deep to center. Matsumoto raced back, stayed with the ball despite a tough trajectory, hauled it in with a leaping catch, slammed into the wall and hung on.

"That's huge," Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. "At this crucial time, he gives us great defense, bunts, base running--big things that don't show up in the box score.

"That was a tremendous play."

The Giants opened the scoring with a run in the top of the first, thanks to the first of three walks issued by Swallows youngster Yoshinori Sato.

A leadoff walk by Hayato Sakamoto, a sacrifice by Matsumoto and a Michihiro Ogasawara single put runners on the corners. Alex Ramirez grounded deep in the hole to short, and the Swallows could only get the force at second as Sakamoto scored.

The visitors went ahead with two in the top of the second on a leadoff single by Yasushi Ihara and doubles by Shinya Miyamoto and Ryoji Aikawa.

The lead didn't last, however, as two walks, a double and a throwing error put the Giants back in front.

Shinnosuke Abe drew a leadoff walk and went to third on Ryota Wakiya's one-out double. A two-out walk to Sakamoto loaded the bases. Sato got a grounder to short but failed to get out of the inning.

Wakiya had to stop in the base path to avoid being hit by the ball, and shortstop Keizo Kawashima waited for Wakiya to move on clear his field of fire to first base. But Kawashima's rushed throw sailed and two runs scored on the error.

"With two outs, a 3-2 count and the runners going, that's a tough play," Swallows skipper Shigeru Takada said.

Sato (5-8) struck out the side in the third, but was lifted for right- handed reliever Hiromitsu Takagi in the fourth.

"He developed a blister," said Takada, whose club's once-solid hold on the CL's third and final playoff spot has largely eroded. "Right now our pitching is very vulnerable and it's going to be really hard while he heals."

Takahashi (6-6) won for the first time since July 21. He gave up five hits and a walk, while striking out three.

"In his last start, the quality of his pitching showed some improvement, and he pitched tough today," said Hara, who made the rare trip to the mound to personally pull the lefty in the sixth.

"I went out there as a sign of respect toward a veteran player. The next batter [Iihara] had a good feel for him and going to the bullpen with two outs and none on is an ideal time to make a switch. [I told him] 'good job.'"

Abe homered off Takagi to make it 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth. It was the Giants captain's second home run in two days and 21st of the season.

Giants right-hander Daisuke Ochi worked 1-1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Takahashi, although the Swallows threatened against him in the seventh. Lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi worked the eighth, and Marc Kroon allowed an infield single and a walk but no runs in the ninth to record his 22nd save.

"His concentration appeared to be good," Hara said of his closer.

"He was away from the team a lot this season, and that doesn't help. He has been throwing a lot of pitches. But under the circumstances he's doing well. All in all, it was the kind of relief we expect: three guys throwing one or two scoreless innings."

Ramirez had his hitting streak stopped at 14 games when he was walked intentionally in the eighth after going 0-for-3.

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