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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Red-hot Dragons keep heat on rival Giants


Staff writer

The Chunichi Dragons didn't just beat the Yomiuri Giants in their first game back after the All-Star break.

News photo
Valuable contribution: Dragons outfielder Masaaki Koike watches his fourth-inning solo home run leave the yard against the Giants at Tokyo Dome on Tuesday. Chunichi defeated Yomiuri 5-3 in the series-opening game. KYODO PHOTO

Masahiko Morino and company beat the Central League leaders at their own game.

The Dragons hit four home runs, highlighted by Morino's tie-breaking two-run shot in the seventh, to inch closer to taking over pole position in the CL with a 5-3 victory over the Giants in front of 42,877 fans on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome.

"It was nice to hit a home run on my birthday," said Morino, who turned 31.

"I had thought about it before the game and it turned out to be a nice present to myself."

The Dragons third baseman broke a 2-2 tie by sending a Wirfin Obispo fastball into the right-field stands — his 14th homer of the season — to put the Dragons ahead 4-2.

Yomiuri pinch hitter Edgardo Alfonzo homered to lead off the bottom of the seventh but the Dragons bullpen protected the lead from there.

Chunichi's Chen Wei Yin (4-2) picked up the win despite giving up three runs — two earned — on eight hits. Hitoki Iwase worked the ninth for his 29th save of the year.

Masaaki Koike, Tony Blanco and Kazuhiro Wada also homered for the Dragons, who moved within a game and a half of the front-running Giants.

The Dragons would take over first place in the standings if they win the next two games to sweep the series.

"We've just been playing as a group and good things have been happening," Blanco said. "Morino's been on fire, Wada has been good and myself also. We've just been playing together."

Chunichi has now won 12 out of its last 13 games, including nine in a row.

"We are taking it one game at a time, but of course hope to keep the streak going as long as we can," Morino said.

The Dragons have been one of Japanese baseball's hottest teams recently, and Morino has been a big reason for their success. He is batting .481 with 14 RBIs in his last 10 games.

Giants starter Obispo (3-1) had his troubles on the mound, hitting Hirokazu Ibata twice and allowing a number of base runners.

The Dragons hitters kept getting good swings on the ball, amassing a number of foul balls on each at-bat as Obispo's pitch-count soared into triple digits.

The Giants starter labored through seven innings, allowing four runs on six hits and striking out eight on 134 pitches. Reliever Daisuke Ochi also gave up a home run during his one inning on the mound.

"Our pitchers were just not sharp tonight," Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.

"But I thought we had a chance after we tied the game in the bottom of the fifth. We gave the lead back in the top of the seventh though and it was just not our night."

Koike got enough of a 1-1 slider in the fourth to drive in the game's first run, hitting a solo homer into the Dragons' cheering section in left.

Blanco crushed Obispo's offering in the fifth, giving Chunichi a 2-0 lead with his CL-leading 29th home run.

Yomiuri loaded the bases in the fifth and tied the game on a two-run single by Hayato Sakamoto before Mono and Wada homered late in the game.

Guiel sparks Yakult KYODO Shinya Miyamoto broke a scoreless tie with a fourth-inning single and Aaron Guiel hit a three-run homer in the seventh as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows beat the Hiroshima Carp 6-2 on Tuesday for their fourth straight win.

Masanori Ishikawa (9-5) limited the damage to two runs over eight innings at Jingu Stadium. Kenta Maeda (5-10) was charged with three runs, one earned, in six innings for Hiroshima, which has dropped five in a row.

Tigers 5, BayStars 4 (10)

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Buffaloes 6, Hawks 2

At Nagasaki's Big N Stadium, Alex Cabrera went 3-for-5 with two homers and three RBIs and Mamoru Kishida (5-1) threw eight innings of one-run ball as Orix beat Fukuoka Softbank.

Cabrera hit a two-run home run in the first and followed a two-run homer by Jose Fernandez with a shot of his own in the third off Kenji Otonari (4-6).

Fighters 5, Marines 1

At Chiba Marine Stadium, Terrmel Sledge homered twice and Tomoya Yagi (7-1) pitched six-plus shutout innings as Hokkaido Nippon Ham beat Chiba Lotte for its sixth consecutive victory.

Eagles 5, Lions 1

At Iwate Prefectural Stadium, Takeshi Yamasaki drove in four runs with two homers and Hisashi Iwakuma threw his second complete game of the season as Tohoku Rakuten beat Saitama Seibu.



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