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Slow and easy - Fujii uses array of breaking pitches to hold down Dragons as Giants cruise

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Slow and easy - Fujii uses array of breaking pitches to hold down Dragons as Giants cruise

by Jim Allen (Jun 21, 2010)

Shugo Fujii showed how to get by without big heat on Sunday.

Despite getting just five swinging strikes in six innings, the Giants lefty allowed two runs on two hits to foil the Chunichi Dragons in a 5-2 Yomiuri victory at Tokyo Dome.

"I am not going to beat anyone with my velocity, so I have to change speeds," said Fuji (5-1), who walked one batter and struck out three.

The 33-year-old had a lot of help in his approach from catcher Shinnosuke Abe, who also provided the game's big hit, a two-run, second-inning home run that put the Giants ahead for good.

"Abe planned it out and I had that in mind all day as I pitched," Fujii said.

"I knew I could get some help from our opponents. By that, I mean the Dragons swing at strikes, and that knowledge was a big help today. He [Abe] made it work."

Fujii did his part by hitting his spots and never leaving the ball in the heart of the zone.

Yet he conceded a run in the top of the first, when Masahiro Araki's fly down the left-field line fell for a double. The Dragons leadoff man came around to score thanks to a pair of groundouts. Fujii set the Dragons down in order in the top of the second, and Abe supplied the power in the home half.

Yudai Kawai (1-2) hit Alex Ramirez with a pitch to open the second. The lefty worked carefully to Abe, who opened the game tied for the league lead in home runs with 20. Kawai kept the ball down, but couldn't keep it in the park as Abe belted a low 2-2 fastball to left for an opposite-field home run and a 2-1 Giants lead. It was his fourth home run of the three-game series.

The Giants captain said leading the Central League in homers was not really a concern.

"I don't want to think about it," he said. "My priority is coming to the park each day and being ready to play."

Like most catchers, Abe has often been hindered by injury. This year, however, he's been healthy and his goal is to keep it that way.

"I'm not kidding," said Abe, who hasn't played close to a full schedule since 2007. "Taking care of my body, being ready to play, physically and mentally is No. 1. I just aim to be 100 percent.

"If I lead the home run race, it's only going to be for today--although 10 days would be nice."

His share of the lead didn't even survive the weekend, as Craig Brazell of the Hanshin Tigers reached 22 with two homers.

Abe also scored in the bottom of the fourth, drawing a one-out walk, going to third on Yoshitomo Tani's two-out double and coming home on a passed ball by Dragons catcher Keiji Oyama.

Oyama helped repair the damage in the top of the fifth, when his two-out double plated Kei Nomoto from first base.

"When they made it 3-2, I think we all felt the tension," Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. "Fujii, the relievers, the batters, everyone--myself included."

Fujii retired the top three Dragons in order in the sixth and made his exit.

"I made some mistakes, but we played like a team and covered for each other," Fujii said. "After I gave up that first run, I knew I had to get it together and battle. And Abe pulled me through."

Kawai allowed three runs, two earned, on four hits over seven innings, but the Giants got to right-hander Masafumi Hirai for two runs in the eighth.

Michihiro Ogasawara homered for the 16th time this season to open the inning, while Abe and Tani helped create Yomiuri's final score. Abe singled with one out, a walk and a single by Tani loaded the bases and a two-out walk by Yoshiyuki Kamei was the fifth run for Yomiuri.

Marc Kroon, who had allowed three runs the day before in a 7-4 defeat, faced four batters in the ninth en route to his 11th save.

At Yokohama, Terrmel Sledge went 4-for-4 with a walk, two home runs and five RBIs as the BayStars beat the Tigers 14-6.

Brazell went 4-for-5 for the Tigers in a game that saw the teams combine for 31 hits and eight homers.

In Hiroshima, Yoshinori Sato (3-5) allowed two runs in seven innings as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows came from behind to beat the Carp 4-2.

Ken Takahashi (4-5) came on in relief of Giancarlo Alvarado in the top of the eighth and took the loss when three of the four batters he faced came around to score.

At Seibu Dome, the Lions' Toru Hosokawa hit his third homer in three games and his second grand slam as the Pacific League-leading Saitama Seibu Lions beat the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks 6-4.

SoftBank southpaw Toshiya Sugiuchi (9-3) surrendered six runs in three innings as the third-place Hawks were swept and fell 4-1/2 games off the pace.

In Chiba, Bill Murphy allowed a run in seven innings to improve to 6-0 in six starts as the Chiba Lotte Marines beat the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 3-1.

The Marines came from a run down in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI double by Tomoya Satozaki and a two-run single by Toshiaki Imae.

In Osaka, Bobby Keppel (9-1) allowed an unearned run in six innings as the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters beat the Orix Buffaloes 11-1 and swept their first three-game series of the season.

The Buffaloes' bullpen kept the game close until the eighth inning, when cleanup hitter Eiichi Koyano and No. 9 hitter Makoto Kaneko each hit grand slams. It was the third two-slam inning in PL history and the fourth in Japan.

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