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Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2006

Fighters move ahead

Takeda tandem takes down Dragons By

Staff writer

SAPPORO -- Takeda and Takeda sounds like a law firm in Marunouchi, but up north, it's a crack pitching tandem.

News photo
Hokkaido Nippon Ham starter Masaru Takeda delivers a pitch against the Chunichi Dragons on Tuesday in Game 3 of the Japan Series at Sapporo Dome. Takeda gave up eight hits, struck out eight and walked none in more than five strong innings as the Fighters won 6-1 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. KYODO PHOTO

Masaru Takeda and Hisashi Takeda, no relation, laid down the law for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters on Game 3 of the Japan Series, combining for an efficient 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball in Nippon Ham's 6-1 win over the Chunichi Dragons on Tuesday at Sapporo Dome.

Michihiro Ogasawara ended his postseason slump with a two-run double in the bottom of the first inning and Atsunori Inaba slugged a three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth, finishing with four RBIs, as the Fighters took a 2-1 series lead.

Rookie Masaru Takeda (1-0) was slow out of the gates, giving up a leadoff single to Masahiro Araki and an RBI single to Kosuke Fukudome two batters later, the Dragons' lone run.

Takeda went five-plus innings, coming out after Fukudome's inning-opening double in the sixth, a hard roller with too much zip for second baseman Kensuke Tanaka to glove and too little for Tsuyoshi Shinjo to run down. Although the left-hander did a good job of keeping Chunichi off the scoreboard after the first, he was far from dominant.

"I was a little nervous in the first inning, not pitching like I usually do," he said. "When my teammates pulled ahead, I thought to myself, 'If I give up hits, it doesn't matter. I just can't give up runs.' "

Takeda did a good job of throwing strikes, and although he surrendered eight hits, he got Masahiko Morino and Araki to hit into double plays, erasing runners and moving the Fighters closer to the victory, a frame at a time.

News photo
Hokkaido Nippon Ham infielder Michihiro Ogasawara smacks a two-run double, his first hit after going hitless in first two games during the Japan Series, in the first inning on Tuesday in Game 3 at Sapporo Dome. KYODO PHOTO

Hichori Morimoto hit Kenta Asakura's first pitch into right field for a single, and the Fighters Express was off.

"It was good to see us score some runs early like that," Fighters manager Trey Hillman said. "We continued to battle, and we didn't strike out much. But we were ready to go from the first pitch tonight."

Ogasawara, hitless in the entire postseason and 0-for-6 with two walks in the Japan Series, doubled to center field, scoring the runners and sending a surge through Sapporo Dome.

"I didn't care about (the hitless streak) that much," he said. "I knew sooner or later I would get a hit. I was pleased I got it then, after they had scored in the first."

Ogasawara, who led the Pacific League in home runs and RBIs this season, came to life against Asakura (0-1).

"I hit it with heart," the first baseman said.

Fernando Seguignol followed with a basehit to right field, advancing Ogasawara to third base, where he scored on an Inaba sacrifice fly.

After an inning, Nippon Ham held a 3-1 advantage, bad news for stragglers and late arrivals among the crowd of 41,798.

It was all the run support either Takeda would need.

Fukudome's second hit of the game, however, chased Masaru Takeda in the sixth, and Hillman turned to Takeda, this time Hisashi, who has pitched in each game of the Japan Series thus far.

After allowing a run in Game 1, Takeda threw two scoreless innings in game 2. Tuesday, he added 2 2/3 shutout innings, retiring eight of nine batters and erasing the one runner he allowed when Kazuki Inoue hit into an inning-killing double play in the seventh.

"I think we got some good innings (from our pitchers)," Hillman said. "And we made some good defensive plays behind them."

The second Takeda left after setting down the first two batters he faced in the eighth. He fanned one hitter and walked none. Hideki Okajima, a left-hander, struck out lefty Fukudome -- the only batter he faced -- to close the inning quietly.

Chunichi, never finding a way back into the game, would have no such luck in the bottom of the eighth.

Asakura lasted into the eighth, facing two batters. Morimoto led off with his second hit, a bloop single to center, and Tanaka advanced the runner with a sac bunt. Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai then made his first call on the bullpen phone, dialing a wrong number in Masato Kobayashi.

Ogasawara was the only batter Kobayashi faced, and the Chunichi left-hander plunked him, giving Nippon Ham a pair of runners with one out and Seguignol on his way to the plate.

Atsushi Nakazato emerged to face the Panamanian, striking him out, and putting the onus to extend the lead on Fighters right fielder Inaba.

Inaba did all that he could, homering to right field -- the first longball at Sapporo Dome this postseason.

"I wanted to see his breaking ball, but he threw a fastball," Inaba said. "I knew it would go over the fence."

Micheal Nakamura was perfect in the ninth inning, striking out one.

The Nippon Ham bullpen combined for four scoreless innings of one-hit relief Tuesday.

Asakura went 7 1/3 innings, striking out two and walking two. He was charged with two runs, both earned.

Game 4 will be Wednesday night in Sapporo.

Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.

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