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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Kawamoto's clutch homer ends wild game


Staff writer

There wasn't a lot of quality pitching on Saturday, but the Yokohama BayStars and Tokyo Yakult Swallows put on one heck of a show at the plate.

News photo
Pitcher's nightmare: Swallows star Norichika Aoki slugs a three-run home run in the first inning against the BayStars on Saturday at Jingu Stadium. Aoki also belted a solo homer in Tokyo Yakult's 13-12 victory over Yokohama. KYODO PHOTO

The Central League teams combined to score 25 runs in a back-and-forth slugfest that wasn't decided until Ryohei Kawamoto's two-out "sayonara" home run gave the Swallows a thrilling 13-12 victory at Jingu Stadium.

"I'm happy I could hit a home run in that spot," Kawamoto said. "I was just trying to get on base because I knew (Norichika) Aoki-san was coming up next."

The Swallows had a runner on third, but were down to their final out when Kawamoto stepped to the plate in the ninth.

He was in a hole early, falling behind in the count 0-1 after BayStars closer Shun Yamaguchi unfurled a 155-kph fastball. Kawamoto took a 152-kph heater for a ball, then fouled off Yamaguchi's 121-kph offering.

Behind 1-2 in the count, Kawamoto caught up to Yamaguchi's final fastball, sending it over the wall in left field for a game-winning, two-run homer.

"I was thinking he would throw a fastball because that's his best pitch," Kawamoto said. "But the first one was too fast to hit. After the third one, I shortened my swing and was able to hit a home run."

News photo
Cheerful reception: Fans greet Swallows pinch hitter Ryohei Kawamoto after his game-winning two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday. KYODO PHOTO

Kawamoto's big moment came in only his second at-bat of the season.

"He's a great guy," said outfielder Aaron Guiel, who had earlier made the score 12-11 with a homer off Yamaguchi in the eighth. "It's good to see him be able to do something like this."

In a far cry from their pitching-fueled 1-0 win over Yokohama on Friday, the Swallows prevailed in a game in which both teams combined for 38 hits and seven home runs.

"When you get that kind of production, you're supposed to win," Guiel said. "We should've won that game by more. But when you have a day like we had, you have to win."

The sentiment was probably the same in the losing dugout.

"When they have a game like that, they want to use it as momentum," Guiel said. "So, for them to have the type of game they had and for us to take it away, it's tough for them."

Aoki led the way for Yakult, going 4-for-5 with a three-run homer in the first inning and a solo shot in the second.

"Amazing game," Aoki said after Kawamoto's homer.

Catcher Ryoji Aikawa also had a three-run homer in the first and finished 1-for-4. Guiel was 2-for-3 with a homer and Kazuki Fukuchi finished 2-for-6 with an RBI.

Yokohama second baseman Jose Castillo continued his strong start to the year, finishing 5-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs. Tasuku Hashimoto also homered for the BayStars, driving in three runs with a shot in the fourth.

Nearly everyone got into the fun at the plate, with all eight of the BayStars' starting position players recording at least a hit and seven Swallows doing the same. Yokohama outhit Yakult 22-16 and seven players from each team finished with at least one RBI.

The starting pitchers didn't enjoy nearly as good an afternoon.

Yakult's Yoshinori Sato gave up three runs in the first inning and ended up allowing eight runs over two-plus innings.

Yokohama's Hitoshi Fujie was yanked after one frame, squandering a 3-0 lead by giving up seven runs in the first.

Swallows hurler Yoshitaka Hashimoto (1-0) earned the win in relief, despite allowing a run in his two innings of work. Yamaguchi (0-2) was charged with the loss.

Dragons edge Tigers

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Kazuhiro Wada hit a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning, lifting the Chunichi Dragons 3-2 over the Hanshin Tigers on Saturday for their third straight win.

Giants 6, Carp 5

At Mazda Stadium, Mike Schultz (0-1) threw a wild pitch that broke a 4-4 tie in the top of the ninth inning and an insurance run scored on Michihiro Ogasawara's grounder to second.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Fighters 2, Lions 1

At Sapporo Dome, Yu Darvish pitched one-run ball over eight strong innings to set the pace as the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters snapped a five-game winless streak with a victory over the Saitama Seibu Lions.

Darvish (1-1) allowed six hits, all singles, and struck out 11 while walking one.

Marines 10, Buffaloes 4

At Osaka's Kyocera Dome, Shoitsu Omatsu hit a two-run homer to highlight a seven-run uprising in the fourth inning as Chiba Lotte rallied on the way to a rout of Orix for its third win in a row.

Hawks 10, Eagles 6

At Kleenex Stadium, Hiroki Kokubo went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs and Jose Ortiz drove in two runs as Fukuoka Softbank downed Tohoku Rakuten.

Kimura unconscious

HIROSHIMA (Kyodo) Yomiuri Giants infield and running coach Takuya Kimura is still unconscious and in a critical condition after suffering a brain hemorrhage on Friday, Yomiuri club representative Hidetoshi Kiyotake said Saturday.

Kimura collapsed suddenly while hitting balls during pre-game fielding practice. The 37-year-old former utility player underwent emergency treatment at Mazda Stadium before being rushed to Hiroshima University Hospital.

Kiyotake declined to give details regarding Kimura's treatment at the request of the club and Kimura's family, who were at the hospital along with his parents and teammates from his playing days at his high school baseball club.

Around 1,100 get-well messages have already arrived at Yomiuri's front office or been posted on the club's official Web site.

"He (Kimura) just looks as though he is sleeping," said Kiyotake.

"There was talk of (manager Tatsunori) Hara and a players' representative visiting the hospital but it is touch and go so we are having them pass on that. The whole club is hoping for a miracle."

Kimura ended his playing career after the 2009 season.



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