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Giant swing / Former Fighter Ogasawara lifts Yomiuri past Nippon Ham in slugfest

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Giant swing / Former Fighter Ogasawara lifts Yomiuri past Nippon Ham in slugfest

by Jim Allen (Nov 4, 2009)

Michihiro Ogasawara broke out at the plate on Tuesday, pounding his old team with three big RBIs as the Yomiuri Giants took a one-game Japan Series lead.

Ogasawara twice put the Giants in front, with a third-inning solo homer and a two-run, fifth-inning double as the Central League champion Giants downed the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 7-4 in Game 3.

With the score tied 3-3 on the strength of six solo homers, the Central League champs rallied after two were down in the fifth. A walk and a single set the table for the two-time MVP who joined the Giants as a free agent after the 2006 season.

"The No. 1 and 2 guys did a great job of getting on, I had to bring them home," Ogasawara said. "I went to the plate, trying not to think too much. I saw the pitch and hit it."

Ogasawara had been 1-for-8 with a single over the weekend at Sapporo Dome. He was robbed of extra bases in the first inning before homering in the third.

"I wasn't feeling flustered at all, but you could look at the numbers and see I hadn't contributed in the first two games," said Ogasawara, who won the 2006 Series with the Fighters. "It was great to contribute to a victory.

"I just cleared my mind, went to the plate and kept it simple."

Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara said having his No. 3 hitter back on track was a good sign.

"I don't think he was particularly worried about it, but he must have been relieved," Hara said. "But more than the effect it might have had on him, his production tonight was huge for us as a team."

Wirfin Obispo allowed three runs in six innings to get the win and improve to 2-0 in the postseason. Obispo, 6-1 in the regular season, allowed four hits, while striking out six and walking two.

Atsunori Inaba opened the scoring with a first-inning homer, and teammate Eiichi Koyano went deep in the second. The Giants repaid their guests in kind in the bottom of the second off Keisaku Itokazu, who allowed five runs on six hits and a walk over five innings.

Lee Seung Yeop put Yomiuri on the scoreboard with an impressive blast and Shinnosuke Abe followed with a fly that just cleared the wall in center.

Lee, who played in just 77 games this season, homered here for the first time since June 28. It was his fourth career Series homer, but his first since hitting three for the Chiba Lotte Marines in their 2005 sweep of the Hanshin Tigers.

With the score tied in the top of the third, Obispo's lack of control put him in a hole and nearly cost the Giants the lead. A one-out walk and a groundout left first base open. Obispo pitched around Inaba and ran the count 3-1 to Shinji Takahashi before escaping on a sharp grounder to Lee at first.

Ogasawara's second career Series homer made it 3-2 in the third before Kensuke Tanaka took Obispo deep in the fifth.

With two outs in the bottom of the inning, leadoff man Hayato Sakamoto walked, Tetsuya Matsumoto hit his second single of the game and Ogasawara doubled off the wall in left center to make it 5-3.

"More than the homers, the walks killed us," Fighters skipper Masataka Nashida said.

Former Giant lefty Masanori Hayashi took the mound in the bottom of the sixth and retired three straight lefty swingers: Yoshiyuki Kamei, Lee and Abe.

Right-hander Daisuke Ochi set Fighters down in the seventh, but lefty Tetsuya Yamaguchi made it a closer game in the eighth.

The Central League's 2008 rookie of the year hit Tanaka to open the inning, and a wild pickoff throw put Tanaka on second. A failure by Lee to scoop a tough throw from short resulted in another error that allowed Tanaka to score. A walk brought skipper Hara to the mound, and Yamamguchi choked off the Fighters fourth and fifth hitters to escape the no-out pickle.

Asked about their conversation, Hara said, "I didn't say anything special."

Fighters right-hander Kazumasa Kikuchi, who recorded 21 holds this season, stopped the Giants in the seventh, but left the mound with one out and two on. Giants captain Shinnosuke Abe drove home both runners with a two-out single off Shintaro Ejiri.

Marc Kroon made an error to allow a runner to reach in the ninth, but stopped the Fighters to save the Giants' 100th Series victory in team history.

"Those 100 wins in the Series reflect amazing accomplishment by those who came before us," Hara said. "But two more wins after this one is what we're aiming for."

The Fighters played without their captain, shortstop Makoto Kaneko, who was not on the bench because of a groin strain and a painful Achilles tendon. Tomohiro Nioka, the Giants' 2008 Opening Day starter at shortstop, took Kaneko's spot in the infield.

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