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Giants reduce magic number to 1

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Giants reduce magic number to 1

by Rob Smaal (Sep 23, 2009)

Put the beer on ice.

Yoshiyuki Kamei's two-run homer and seven shutout innings from right-hander Dicky Gonzalez moved the Yomiuri Giants one win--or even a tie--away from clinching the club's 33rd Central League pennant after their 2-0 victory Tuesday afternoon over the Chunichi Dragons at Tokyo Dome.

With a magic number of one, a victory today over the second-place Dragons will not only give the Giants a three-game sweep, it will also secure their third straight CL title and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

"We're looking forward to coming to the ballpark tomorrow and winning again to give our fans a big present," said Kamei, whose Giants improved to 82-41-9 and extended their lead over Chunichi to 10 games.

Dominican right-hander Wirfin Obispo (4-1) is expected to get the start for the Giants today against another righty, Kazuki Yoshimi, who has 15 wins this season to go along with an ERA of 1.79.

On Tuesday, Kamei hammered a two-run shot to right on a full-count slider from Chunichi starter Chen Wei-yin, who saw his record fall to 8-4. It was the 24th home run of the season for Kamei and it came one batter after Chen walked Alex Ramirez.

"I hit it well and I was pretty sure it would reach the stands right after I connected," Kamei said. "(Chen's) got the best ERA in the league, so we knew it would be a tough game. I'm glad my first hit off him this year turned out to be a game-winner."

Chen, a 24-year-old lefty from Taiwan who is having a fine season for Hiromitsu Ochiai's club, also went seven solid innings. He gave up two runs on six hits and a pair of walks and he still boasts a CL-best ERA of 1.56. Chen struck out eight and also hit one batter with a pitch.

Gonzalez improved to 14-1 as he only gave up two hits all afternoon--both singles to light-hitting Chunichi catcher Motonobu Tanishige. The second one, in the fifth inning, was a hard-hit comebacker that ricocheted off Gonzalez's leg. The big guy from Puerto Rico shook it off, however, and stayed in the game, but he did appear to be in some discomfort.

"I felt good today and I was mentally prepared to pitch," said Gonzalez, who struck out two, walked one and hit one batter with a pitch. "The Dragons are a good team, but I also have a good team behind me and I'm glad we came out on top."

Yomiuri reliever Daisuke Ochi was credited with a hold after working a scoreless eighth and lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi earned his fourth save when he got Kazuhiro Wada to ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.

Kamei, who played for Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara on Japan's World Baseball Classic-winning team in March, is looking forward to another celebration.

"It was fun tossing (Hara) in the air after the WBC championship game and we hope to do it again tomorrow," Kamei said.

Elsewhere in the CL, the BayStars pounded the Hanshin Tigers 7-2 at Yokohama Stadium. At Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium, the Yakult Swallows shut out the Hiroshima Carp 3-0.

In the Pacific League, the Seibu Lions defeated the Nippon-Ham Fighters 5-2 at Sapporo Dome, and at Kleenex Stadium, the Orix Buffaloes blanked the Rakuten Eagles 3-0. At Yahoo Dome, the Lotte Marines beat the Softbank Hawks 5-3.

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