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Giants' starters keep relievers busy

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Giants' starters keep relievers busy

by John E. Gibson (Jul 22, 2010)

The way the Yomiuri Giants pitchers have been throwing this month might have fans thinking of a different meaning for the term "hurler."

Even the players are sick of the mediocre pitching performances that have contributed to their five-game Central League lead on June 30 shriveling to a half-game over the Hanshin Tigers going into Wednesday's first-half finale.

Pitchers for the CL's three-peat champs have been running their fielders ragged in July, allowing double-digit hits over 12 consecutive games to tie a league record.

In Tuesday's 4-3 extra-inning win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, the Giants stopped a club-record string of 10 games with five or more runs allowed.

The team ERA is fourth in the league at 4.02, nearly forcing the power-laden lineup to put up big numbers every night.

"We don't want to walk batters and give up hits in bunches because those things lead to big innings," said Shugo Fujii, an offseason free agent pickup who is 6-3 with a 4.08 ERA and a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 1.10.

"We're trying to figure it out, but we want to make sure we at least get the batters out that we should. We're the ones getting knocked around, so we've got to do something about it."

That's hard to do when the team has been without two-time CL wins leader Seth Greisinger all season. The righty went to the States for elbow surgery and is working his way back on the farm for a post-all-star return.

Shun Tono is tied for the league lead in wins with 11, but ace Tetsuya Utsumi is 7-4 with a 3.69 ERA, Wirfin Obispo's ERA is 5.46 in 11 outings (four starts) and seventh-year righty Dicky Gonzalez has been more cold than hot with a 5.48 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP.

"It's kind of a tough situation for us," said Gonzalez (3-8), who had a career year by going 15-2 in 2009 but has already lost more games than in any other season.

"It's everybody. We've got to find a way for the second half. I know the Tigers are hot and the [Chunichi] Dragons are hot, but we're going to find a way," said Gonzalez.

"We talk every day and we have meetings every day, but it's baseball. We're going to fix things up soon."

The problem starts with the rotation, but the story goes deep into the bullpen, right down to closer Marc Kroon who has an 8.53 ERA the past 21 days.

The fireballing righty missed time after hurting his thumb early on, and his absence was felt throughout the staff.

"Going into the season, [star set-up man Tetsuya] Yamaguchi was going to be a starter and [Norihito] Kaneko was going to be setting up in the bullpen," said skipper Tatsunori Hara.

"But things haven't worked out that way. Kroon was hurt for about four weeks and that also has had an impact on us."

Fujii said a few quality starts after the break would turn things around.

"We have to step it up and do a better job. The later it gets in the second half, the harder it is to win," he said.

As cold as the Yomiuri hurlers have been, the third-place Dragons mound men have put together a Japan pro baseball record with five straight shutouts.

They used seven hurlers to blank the Yokohama BayStars 1-0 in an 11-inning victory on Tuesday. The Giants have six shutouts this season, the last one coming when Utsumi fired a two-hitter at home to beat Chunichi on June 18.

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