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Seibu's Wakui shines in return to Yokohama

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Seibu's Wakui shines in return to Yokohama

by Jim Allen (May 16, 2010)

Hideaki Wakui had a heck of a homecoming on Saturday afternoon.

In his first regular-season game at Yokohama Stadium, Wakui allowed three runs in seven innings and drove in four runs as the Saitama Seibu Lions whipped the Yokohama BayStars 12-3 in interleague play.

The Lions, who started the day in second place in the Pacific League, a half-game behind the Chiba Lotte Marines, handed the BayStars their fifth straight loss.

Wakui (5-2), who starred for Yokohama High School before becoming the Lions' first-round draft pick in 2005, went 3-for-4 and became the first PL pitcher to drive in four runs in a game since 1974--before the introduction of the designated hitter.

His two-out bloop single plated the Lions' third run in the second inning. With the Lions leading 5-0 in the third, the BayStars loaded the bases with a two-out intentional walk to face Wakui, who drove a pitch to the wall in left-center for a three-run double.

"I don't really have any confidence at the plate, but because I got a hit my first time up, I thought it would be OK if I made an out," Wakui said. "And I felt really good swinging the bat."

Wakui also singled and scored a run in the Lions' three-run eighth inning. He improved to 7-for-32 in his career.

Wakui's victory was his 14th in interleague play, tying the record held by former Dragon Kenshin Kawakami and the Tigers' Yasutomo Kubo.

The visitors, thumped 9-1 by the Central League-leading Yomiuri Giants on Thursday, bounced back against BayStars ace Daisuke Miura (2-2).

The right-hander's first pitch of the second inning was a hanging curveball to cleanup hitter Takeya Nakamura, who deposited it into the left-field stands for his 10th homer.

"He got a fat pitch and handled it," Lions manager Hisanobu Watanabe said. "That's good because this season he's been laying off good pitches a lot and then going after bad ones."

Dee Brown singled and moved to third on a one-out single to right by former BayStars Yoshihito Ishii. With one out and runners on the corners, Watanabe had his No. 8 hitter, catcher Toru Hosokawa, lay down a bunt. The move took the BayStars by surprise and Brown scored easily to make it 2-0.

"I didn't know it was coming," Brown said. "At the last second, they said, 'Squeeze, squeeze.'"

The skipper was playing for one more run but got more than he bargained for.

"I had the pitcher coming up and I wanted to get at least one more run," Watanabe said. "I think that was where the game turned our way."

Wakui followed with a lucky single to right that scored Ishii.

"I just intended to swing at everything and the ball fell in a lucky spot," he said.

The BayStars gambled the pitcher wouldn't get lucky again and it cost them the game in the third inning.

With one out, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Nakamura hit back-to-back singles, Brown walked and Hisashi Takayama, who dropped a ball in right field in the bottom of the first, singled home two runs.

A groundout put runners on second and third and Hosokawa was walked on purpose to force Wakui to beat them, and he complied.

Miura got a 1-1 slider away but up in the zone. Wakui drilled it into the gap in left-center to clear the bases and knocked Miura out of the game, having allowed eight runs in 2-2/3 innings.

On the mound, Wakui didn't walk a batter but surrendered a pair of home runs to Terrmel Sledge, a solo shot in the fourth and a two-run blast in the sixth, his 10th of the season.

"It's a good thing I was able to contribute by hitting today," Wakui said. "The best thing all day was the bases-loaded double. But the batting still doesn't excuse my pitching, giving up two homers."

In the afternoon's other interleague game in Nagoya, Tony Blanco homered and drove in four runs, including the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, and Masaaki Koike lined a sayonara infield single off the pitcher as the Chunichi Dragons beat the Orix Buffaloes 5-4 and improved to 3-0 in interleague.

Koike collected his second career walk-off hit on his 30th birthday.

In other Japanese baseball news:

--The Hiroshima Carp acquired 28-year-old outfielder Yuichiro Mukae on Saturday from the Orix Buffaloes in exchange for third baseman-outfielder Go Kida, 30, and right-hander Masayuki Hasegawa, 33.

Mukae has been an outstanding minor league hitter who has struggled for playing time in the Pacific League.


Ramirez hits 300

Alex Ramirez of the Yomiuri Giants hit his 300th career home run in Japan when he belted a solo shot off the Chiba Lotte Marines' Yoshihisa Naruse in the fifth inning of Saturday night's game at Tokyo Dome.

Ramirez became the 36th player and third foreigner in Japan pro history to reach the milestone.

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