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Newest Eagle soars / Ruiz belts game-winning pinch-hit HR in 9th to lift Rakuten over Yokohama

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Newest Eagle soars / Ruiz belts game-winning pinch-hit HR in 9th to lift Rakuten over Yokohama

by Jim Allen (Jun 6, 2010)

Randy Ruiz wants to stay positive, no matter what.

On Saturday afternoon, the newest member of the Golden Eagles had nothing but positives after his pinch-hit home run lifted Tohoku Rakuten to a 5-4 interleague victory over the Yokohama BayStars.

Trailing by a run in the ninth with a man on, Ruiz left the yard off BayStars closer Shun Yamaguchi (1-6) for his first homer in Japan.

"When you come back from being down and you give your team an opportunity to win the game, it's great," said Ruiz, acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays on May 25. "I'm on cloud nine. I can't get down right now."

Ruiz, playing in his fourth game, took extra swings off the tee after finishing his pregame batting practice, saying he still needed to find his timing.

"That [the extra work] is until I get my timing and my swing, when that happens I'll be rocking and rolling," he said.

Despite the adjustment phase, Ruiz had plenty for the one pitch he saw.

"He threw me a hanging slider and I jumped on it," he said. "I know I've been a little off with my swing, but something like that keeps me positive. It's all about confidence."

Eagles ace Hisashi Iwakuma allowed four runs in seven innings. Neither he nor BayStars ace Daisuke Miura (three runs in six innings) figured in the decision.

In the second inning, Iwakuma became the 128th pitcher to reach 1,000 career strikeouts.

BayStars setup man Shigeki Ushida was solid over two innings to hold the lead, but Yamaguchi didn't have it.

The Eagles Shinichiro Koyama (3-1) worked a 1-2-3 eighth to get the win, and Tsuyoshi Kawagishi did the same in the ninth for his ninth save, sending Yokohama to its seventh loss in eight games. The Eagles are 6-1-1 in their last eight games.

The BayStars peppered Iwakuma for 12 hits, but he helped his cause by not walking a batter.

Seiichi Uchikawa, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a run scored and an RBI, doubled with one out in the fifth and the score tied 3-3. Shuichi Murata then mishit a high forkball and looped it over the second baseman's head for a tiebreaking single.

"He got the pitch up to Murata, but he also made some big pitches when he needed to," Eagles skipper Marty Brown said.

Both teams threatened early, with the BayStars drawing first blood.

In the third inning, Takehiro Ishikawa smashed a grounder down the third base line for a leadoff double. He was sacrificed to third and scored on scratch infield single by Uchikawa.

The Eagles struck in the fourth, when Miura loaded the bases after two were out, and Naoto Watanabe cleared the bases with a three-run double.

Iwakuma, however, couldn't hold the lead. Back-to-back, no-out singles by Terrmel Sledge and Jose Castillo set the table, and Kazuya Fujita's pinch double tied it.

Miura loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the fifth, but Daisuke Kusano got himself out swinging at a forkball out of the zone for the third out.

The BayStars moved ahead when Uchikawa scored on Murata's single.

Miura, who allowed five hits and four walks, while striking out two, retired the bottom third of the Eagles order in the sixth. Ushida, second in the CL with 16 holds, survived Ryo Hijirisawa's leadoff triple in the seventh.

Kusano's one-out single in the eighth created an opening, but BayStars catcher Shingo Takeyama caught pinch-runner Kensuke Uchimura trying to steal for the third out.

"He got a good jump, but he [Ushida] was really quick to the plate," Brown said.

Yamaguchi came on in the the ninth, but Watanabe cracked a leadoff single off the right-hander's eighth pitch and came home one pitch later with Ruiz right behind him.

In other games, Brian Sikorski survived a two-run, ninth-inning homer to Aaron Guiel and earned his Japan-best 19th save as the Saitama Seibu Lions beat the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 6-5 at Jingu Stadium and moved into first place in the Pacific League.

At Nagoya Dome, Kazuhiro Wada went 4-for-4 and scored three runs and the Chunichi Dragons held off the Chiba Lotte Marines 7-6.

Kim Tae Kyun hit a two-run homer in the ninth for the Marines.

At Koshien Stadium, Takeshi Hidaka went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs as the Orix Buffaloes crushed the Hanshin Tigers 9-4.

In Hiroshima, Tsuyoshi Wada (8-3) allowed three runs in eight innings, and Yuichi Honda went 5-for-6 as the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks blasted the Hiroshima Carp 9-3.

In other Japan baseball news:

--Yomiuri right-hander Dicky Gonzalez has returned to his home country of Puerto Rico to be with his 5-year-old son, who suffered a head injury in an accident earlier this month.

Gonzalez is expected to return on Thursday.

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