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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

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Continental drift: Yomiuri's Yoshinobu Takahashi slides home beside Seattle catcher Jesus Montero at Tokyo Dome on Monday night. AP

Iwakuma shaky as Giants beat Mariners


Staff writer

This probably wasn't quite the homecoming Hisashi Iwakuma envisioned when he returned to Japan as a member of the Seattle Mariners.

The Yomiuri Giants sure didn't show him much hospitality, knocking around the Japanese star in a 9-3 win on Monday night in front of a crowd of 43,759 at Tokyo Dome.

The outing was the latest bump in what has been a shaky spring for Iwakuma, who is in his first season in the majors after 12 years in Japan with the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge didn't feel like the pressure of pitching in Japan affected Iwakuma's performance.

"I felt like he threw the ball OK," Wedge said. "He just had trouble putting hitters away. He was ahead multiple times and had opportunities to work through innings and just wasn't able to make that pitch to finish off hitters. If he does that, it's a different ballgame."

Iwakuma allowed six runs on 10 hits in four innings on the mound in the loss.

Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki finished 0-for-5 with an RBI, and Munenori Kawasaki, who got the start at shortstop and helped turn a double-play, was 0-for-2.

The offensive output was a more than welcome sight for Giants manager Tatsunori Hara, who has watched his team struggle to score runs for most of the spring. The Giants had gone 21 consecutive innings without scoring before John Bowker's first-inning solo homer against Iwakuma.

Bowker's hit opened the floodgates.

Kenji Yano had an RBI double in the second, Shuichi Murata drove in a pair of runs with a single in the third, and Hayato Sakamoto plated two more with a single in the fourth.

Sakamoto, who has had a tough time at the plate this spring, finished 2-for-5 and scored a run.

"I tried to be aggressive as we had a runner in scoring position," Sakamoto said. "I was able to let a slider come to me and take a good swing at it."

The Giants added two more runs in the sixth and Yoshiyuki Kamei hit a solo homer in the seventh.

All the offense made things easy for D.J. Houlton. The Giants starter allowed two runs on three hits in five innings. Houlton is looking forward to beginning the regular season in his first year with Yomiuri.

"The goal is to win the Japan Series," Houlton said. "I want to win it in each league. I also want to help the team win as much as I can."

Mariners infielder Dustin Ackley finished 2-for-3 with a solo home run and a triple. Kyle Seager also had an RBI for Seattle.

Earlier Monday, the Hanshin Tigers won for the second straight day, beating the Oakland Athletics 12-6. The Tigers defeated both the Mariners and A's during exhibition games at Tokyo Dome.

The Arai family put on a show, with big brother Takahiro homering and driving in three runs and little brother Ryota finishing with a pair of RBIs.

Randy Messenger was the winning pitcher despite allowing four runs in four innings on the hill. Oakland's Tyson Ross took the loss after allowing eight runs — six earned — on 10 hits over four innings.

Kurt Suzuki, who homered in Oakland's victory over the Giants on Sunday, hit a three-run shot off Messenger during the fourth inning. Cliff Pennington also went deep for the A's in the fourth.



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