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Friday, Oct. 27, 2006

Kanemura hurt groin in Game 4: Brown

Staff writer

SAPPORO -- Satoru Kanemura left after the fifth inning of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' Game 4 victory, and health apparently was a factor.

Kanemura, who won nine games during the regular season, has been monitored all season along after having offseason surgery in his pitching elbow, but a groin injury was the culprit Wednesday at Sapporo Dome, according to Fighters pitching coach Mike Brown.

Kanemura allowed five hits and two walks in earning the victory, Nippon Ham's third in a row since falling behind 1-0 in the Japan Series.

The Fighters took control of the series using strong pitching, holding Chunichi to one run in the last 23 innings heading into Thursday's Game 5.

"The guys are executing game plans," Brown said. "Sometimes the young guys don't always hit the glove, but we're working on it. They're pitching to their strengths."

Nippon Ham rookies Tomoya Yagi and Masaru Takeda became the only pair of first-year pitchers to earn wins for one team in Japan Series history, leading the Fighters in Games 2 and 3.

The left-handers were among key offseason additions for a Nippon Ham pitching staff that is hitting its stride at the best possible time.

"We may not have the most talented arms in baseball, but we've got guys who can make pitches and guys who work hard," Brown said.

HOKKAIDO MARATHON: Game 4 of the Japan Series lasted 4 hours, 13 minutes -- the second-longest nine-inning game in Japan Series history.

Seemingly an eternity, the lengthy game did not chase away the swollen Fighters home crowd, which hung around for the last pitch and the hero interview before plodding off to Fukuzumi Station for the trip back home.

"We just appreciate so much our fans staying here for such a long game," Fighters manager Trey Hillman said. "(Game 5) is a very big game, but if there is one thing I know, it is that our fans will be back out and our players will be ready."

Nippon Ham has won 11 straight at Sapporo Dome when more than 41,000 fans have shown up, through Game 5 of the Japan Series.

The longest nine-inning game in Japan Series history was Game 5 of the 1998 slate, which lasted 4 hours, 15 minutes. Yokohama beat Seibu in the 1998 Japan Series, winning Game 5 17-5 in Tokorozawa.

SOMETHING ABOUT SAPPORO: The stadium shakes, literally, when Fighters fans are happy, and the applause is so strong, it could part hair on the shaved heads of Fernando Seguignol and Hichori Morimoto.

But some of the the Chunichi Dragons are not ready to concede that the Hoshi House is a hostile environment.

"It's normal," Dragons leadoff man Masahiro Araki said. "We're just thinking (it's normal) and that we should be playing like we always do."

Maybe that's why the Dragons have scored only a run in two games since leaving Nagoya -- failure to give credit where it is due -- but Nippon Ham's level of play in the postseason should not be ignored either.

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