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Monday, March 26, 2012

Suzuki ignites A's in victory over Giants

Staff writer

The Oakland Athletics won one for MLB.

News photo
Time to shine: Oakland A's veteran Kurt Suzuki (right) is congratulated by teammate Josh Reddick after blasting a two-run homer in the seventh inning against the Yomiuri Giants on Sunday at Tokyo Dome. The A's beat the Giants 5-0. KYODO

After watching the Seattle Mariners go down earlier in the day, the A's got a big assist from a two-run homer by Kurt Suzuki in a 5-0 win over the Yomiuri Giants on Sunday night at Tokyo Dome.

"We've been really good all spring offensively," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "Once we scored the first run and 'Zuk' (Suzuki) hits a home run, I think everybody relaxed a little bit and felt a little more comfortable here."

The result made it one win each for NPB and MLB during the two exhibition games held at the Big Egg Sunday. The Hanshin Tigers defeated the Mariners 5-1 earlier in the day.

The A's were ahead by just one run — courtesy of an RBI single by Jemile Weeks in the second inning — entering the seventh.

Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick singled to start the inning, and Suzuki followed with his two-run homer that made the score 3-0. Weeks made it 4-0 with an RBI single and Giants reliever Junpei Ono walked in a run later in the inning.

A's starter Tom Milone gave up two hits and struck out seven in five scoreless innings on the mound. Giants pitcher Ryosuke Miyaguni pitched well in defeat, allowing one run on three hits and striking out nine over five innings.

"I was nervous at the beginning, but I was more concerned about getting a good result out of today's performance," Miyaguni said.

Yomiuri reliever Levi Romero's outing wasn't nearly as productive. Romero failed to record an out and was charged with four runs on four hits in the seventh.

The A's will try to make it two-for-two against NPB teams on Monday when they face Hanshin.

Yomiuri will face Ichiro Suzuki and the Mariners later Monday night. In addition to the hoopla surrounding Ichiro's return to Japan, Hisashi Iwakuma will get the start for Seattle. D.J. Houlton will toe the rubber for the Giants.

Houlton said there was no special significance in facing a MLB team.

"It's not really that big of a deal," Houlton said. "I just want to throw well, throw how I've been throwing over here. I'm just kind of curious to see how it works against them."

Facing the Mariners comes with a special challenge. During Ichiro's at-bats against Hanshin, flashbulbs were going off all across Tokyo Dome. Another difference is the near total silence in the Big Egg when the Mariners were at the plate, a far cry from the usual chanting of the ouendan during NPB games.

"During Ichiro's at-bats, I saw an enormous amount of camera flashes out there," said Tigers pitcher Minoru Iwata, who started the early game Sunday. "I was saying to myself that I shouldn't be bothered by that, and I try to concentrate on my pitches and enjoy facing Ichiro."

Houlton isn't worried about any possible distractions.

"Once out out there, I don't think I'm really going to notice stuff like that," Houlton said. "I pitched against some big guys back home too. I don't think that should really bother me at this point in my life. It'll be nice to see the atmosphere tomorrow night in that game."

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