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Yamaguchi has Giants seeing Stars with arm, bat

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Yamaguchi has Giants seeing Stars with arm, bat

by Jim Allen (Jul 18, 2010)

Shun Yamaguchi is still looking for his first pro homer. Being the winning pitcher and driving in the winning runs will have to do for now.

The BayStars' relief ace pitched two scoreless innings and drove in two crucial runs as Yokohama came from behind to beat the Central League-leading Yomiuri Giants 7-5 at Yokohama Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

"I was going for a home run but I swung too early," Yamaguchi (2-6) said of his third career hit. "My dream is to hit a home run as a pro."

Less than 24 hours after Yokohama lost a wild one 7-6, the BayStars handed the Giants the short end of the stick.

With the game tied 5-5, Shuichi Murata singled to open the eighth inning against righty Yuya Kubo (5-1).

After Jose Castillo's one-out single and a wild pitch, Kubo struck out Yuki Yoshimura to bring up the No. 8 spot in the BayStars order. An intentional walk forced Yokohama skipper Takao Obana to choose, and he stuck with his reliever, a 2-for-12 career hitter who entered the game in the top of the inning.

"I considered a pinch-hitter, but I was focused on the ninth inning, shutting them down and getting a sayonara win," Obana said. "I never thought he [Yamaguchi] might get a hit."

Swinging furiously in the on-deck circle, Yamaguchi considered the possibilities.

"It was a close game and I wanted a home run," he said. "If I got one, I knew I'd be in the newspapers."

After taking a slider for a strike, the right-handed hitter made contact with a 147-kph heater from Kubo and sent a flare over first base for a two-run, game-changing single.

Kubo got out of the inning, but the damage was done.

Yamaguchi allowed a leadoff single to Tetsuya Matsumoto in the ninth, but put down the heart of the Giants order.

"I didn't feel any excitement once I got back to the mound," Yamaguchi said. "Things went back to normal."

The BayStars had overturned an early two-run deficit on the strength of five RBIs from their three foreign hitters. In the second, Terrmel Sledge doubled and scored on Castillo's eighth homer.

In the third, Brett Harper singled home Seiichi Uchikawa and scored on Sledge's 18th homer.

BayStars starter Naoyuki Shimizu, who allowed a run in each of the first and second innings, cruised in the third and fourth before letting the Giants back into the game with a run in the fifth.

He carried a one-run lead into the sixth, but walked the leadoff man. Three straight ground singles by Shinnosuke Abe, Hisayoshi Chono and Yoshinobu Takahashi added a run. Shimizu left with no outs, the bases loaded and the 'Stars chances quickly fading.

Lefty Takayuki Shinohara came on and walked the only man he faced, but Hitoshi Fujie retired the visitors without further damage. The night before, Fujie entered a 4-4 deadlock and kept the game balanced for two innings before allowing a solo homer to Alex Ramirez.

"Last night I gave up the go-ahead run, so I had revenge on my mind," Fujie said.

Another jam followed in the seventh, but a pair of relievers weathered that storm to keep the score line intact.

"With the exception of Shinohara's bases-loaded walk, our relievers were very gutsy today," Obana said.

"Our offense was clicking. The foreign hitters give us a much broader attack and that showed.

"We lost last night, but it was a close game. We went toe-to-toe with the league leaders twice and showed we could compete. The team's strengths are beginning to manifest themselves."

The strengths were not obvious early on.

Hayato Sakamoto started the game with a home run on Shimizu's fifth pitch of the game. The visitors tacked on another run in the top of the second, when Shimizu walked the first two batters and Ryota Wakiya singled Abe home with two outs.

In Pacific League action, Takeshi Yamasaki's three-run homer off Yu Darvish (9-5) boosted the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to a 4-2 victory over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Sendai.

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