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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Giants' Sakamoto ends slump with a 'sayonara' homer


Staff writer

Mired in a terrible slump, Hayato Sakamoto found the perfect cure for his ills at the plate.

News photo
Close play: Dragons outfielder Kazuhiro Wada slides in safely just as Swallows catcher Ryoji Aikawa tags him at Jingu Stadium in Tokyo on Wednesday. Yakult won 11-6. KYODO PHOTO

Sakamoto brought the Tokyo Dome crowd to its feet by leading off the bottom of the ninth with a "sayonara" home run to give the Giants a slim 3-2 victory over the Yokohama BayStars in front of 43,291 fans on Wednesday night.

After watching the BayStars mount a late-inning rally for the second straight night, Sakamoto connected on his 10th homer of the season off reliever Shun Yamaguchi to help the Giants snap a three-game losing streak.

"I thought it was a flyout to left, but the ball carried well and I was so happy when it landed in the seats," Sakamoto said.

"It feels really good to win after we lost last night and now the losing streak is over."

The Yomiuri shortstop had been 0-for-4 in the game, and 0-for-14 over the past few games before his big hit.

"I seemed to be going into a slump, so this was big for me," Sakamoto said. "A sayonara home run is a great way to end it."

The Giants needed Sakamoto's heroics after Yokohama rallied against reliever Daisuke Ochi in the top of the ninth.

The BayStars were trailing 2-0 and down to their final two outs when Ochi walked Seiichi Uchikawa and Shuichi Murata, bringing Takahiro Saeki to the plate.

The veteran infielder responded with a hit to shallow left that got past defensive replacement Tetsuya Matsumoto, allowing both runners to score.

Saeki was the hero for the BayStars on the previous night, hitting a go-ahead, two-run double off Kiyoshi Toyoda in the eighth inning to propel Yokohama to a 3-2 win.

Ochi retired the next batter, Tatsuhiko Kinjo, before being relieved by Tetsuya Yamaguchi, who recorded the final out of the inning and eventually got the win.

Starter Hisanori Takahashi was sharp from the outset, holding Yokohama to four hits over 7 2/3 shutout innings. The Giants veteran struck out five and walked one but didn't factor into the decision and is in search of his first win since June 8.

"He pitched a great game," Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara said. "It's too bad we could not hold the lead and get him the victory but, in the end, our team won and that's what's important."

Wearing gray throwback uniforms with "Tokyo Giants" embroidered across the front, the normally hard-hitting Kyojin had trouble plating runs against a usually generous BayStars pitching staff.

Darvish loses

TOKOROZAWA , Saitama Pref. (Kyodo) Pinch-hitter Tatsuyuki Uemoto hit a go-ahead, two-run homer off Yu Darvish in the seventh inning as the Seibu Lions edged the Nippon Ham Fighters 4-3 at Seibu Dome to extend their winning streak to five games.

Hawks 3, Buffaloes 2

At Kyocera Dome, Nobuhiro Matsuda went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and Yoshiaki Fujioka threw 5 2/3 effective innings as Pacific League leader Softbank beat Orix.

Marines 7, Eagles 5

At Sendai's Kleenex Stadium, Chiba Lotte took advantage of a shaky Tohoku Rakuten bullpen and sent the Eagles into fifth place with their eighth consecutive loss, their longest losing streak in three years.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Carp 3, Tigers 1

At Hard Off Eco Stadium in Niigata, Kenta Kurihara hit a go-ahead two-run homer and Scott McClain added a solo blast as Hiroshima held off a punchless Hanshin to win its third in a row.

Swallows 11, Dragons 6

At Jingu Stadium, Norichika Aoki broke a 6-6 tie with a two-run single off reliever Nelson Payano in the sixth inning as Yakult romped past Chunichi to remain in second place.



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