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Scrappy Giants rally to clip Carp

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Scrappy Giants rally to clip Carp

by Jim Allen (Sep 26, 2009)

Two nights after clinching their third straight Central League title, the Giants kept the pedal to the metal on Friday.

Tetsuya Utsumi pitched out of several jams and Yomiuri's offense scrapped for a couple of runs in a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Tokyo Dome.

The lefty allowed nine hits and a walk, but twice left the bases loaded and improved to 9-10 when veteran right-hander Kiyoshi Toyoda stranded two in the top of the ninth for his third save.

Utsumi has struggled for most of the season, but said he was focused on making the adjustments needed to reach double digits in wins.

"Before September, I figured out some of the things I was doing when I was doing badly, when I was out of balance, and figured out some countermeasures," he said.

"I'm thankful to keep getting the ball considering how ugly my pitching has been."

Utsumi's ability to make big pitches in tight spots was matched by his teammates efforts to get him the win.

Trailing 2-0 in the sixth, Hayato Sakamoto took the Carp by surprise with some devastating base running. After a leadoff double, he raced to third on a sacrifice bunt by speedster Tetsuya Matsumoto, who had nearly beat out a sacrifice in the fourth.

With the Carp defense focused on the close play at first, Sakamoto rounded third and scored when the defense left home plate unattended.

Shinnosuke Abe's 30th home run tied it off Colby Lewis (9-9) in the seventh, and a big inning from the bench clinched it against the Carp starter in the bottom of the eighth.

Shigeyuki Furuki's leadoff pinch-hit single put the potential go-ahead run on first. Pinch-runner Takahiro Suzuki stole second against a good throw to bring up No. 1 hitter Sakamoto.

After bunting foul into the stands for strike two, Sakamoto got one down, moving Suzuki to third and bringing the infield in. But it didn't matter as Suzuki still beat the throw home on a sharp grounder to short.

"They were playing to get me the win," Utsumi said of Sakamoto's bunt.

Manager Tatsunori Hara said it was typical of the quality Sakamoto brings to the game.

"He steps up in big situations," Hara said. "He showed his ability in the clutch with that great run and with that bunt."

Asked why he chose not to rest some stars after clinching the pennant, Hara said he didn't want his guys slowing down.

"I intend to keep fighting the way we have been. The fans are here to watch us and we want to keep playing good ball."

Hara kept Utsumi in the game through eight, letting the lefty throw 144 pitches.

"He has a goal [of 10 wins]," Hara said. "He's really fired up. His teammates understand the situation and he showed some gutsy pitching."

The Carp, in a three-way dogfight for the CL's final playoff spot, fell 2-1/2 games back of the third-place Hanshin Tigers, and are two behind the fourth-place Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

"They beat us with the home run, they beat us with speed," Carp manager Marty Brown said. "They have many weapons and they speeded the game up. You have to take care of your own game and that's what we didn't do. We played as well as we could but we got beat."

"All you can ask of your team is to play up to their capabilities on any given night," Brown said. "If you ask for more than that, they're not going to play up to the best of their ability."

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