The Yomiuri Giants are more concerned with the long run than the longball.
But that didn't hinder the utter sense of relief some players exhibited after the team's first home run of the season on Wednesday night.
It seemed only fitting that it was Shuichi Murata, brought in to supply power for a team that was first in homers but fifth in runs scored in the Central League last year.
Murata belted the team's first longball--a two-run shot in the eighth inning of Wednesday's 5-1 win over the two-time defending champion Chunichi Dragons at Tokyo Dome, to give the Giants 11 runs over two games. But the team had been scrounging for runs since the season began, going into the 11th game without hitting one out.
"I'm honored that the Giants fans are so thrilled about this," Murata, brought over as a free agent from the Yokohama DeNA BayStars in the offseason, said about the team's first longball.
"People kept saying, 'No homers. No homers.' So there was definitely some pressure, but I just kept tried to stay within myself when I swing.
"Now that we have one, I think we can all start hitting them," the slugger said of his 252nd career longball. "If you compare this year to other seasons, my first one has come later than usual, but my aim is still hit 30 or 40--it's a long season."
The players insisted before the game that Yomiuri's power outage was not a big deal.
"Home runs come when they come," Giants No. 3 hitter Hisayoshi Chono told The Daily Yomiuri before Wednesday's game. That's not what we're thinking about, but the media spent a lot of time talking about that."
The Giants, who hit 108 homers in year one of the Mizuno low-impact ball last season, and the Orix Buffaloes were the only teams without longballs through 10 games. Even the last-place Yokohama DeNA BayStars have two--through 10 games.
With homers trending downward, Chono said Yomiuri has put more focus on doing the little things to win games.
"Our pitchers work hard and keep runs off the board, but we have still lost a lot of games. Everyone in the lineup feels bad about it," Chono said. "We have had games that we could have won if we'd scored one or two runs, so that hurts.
"We have been doing what we can--getting bunts down, moving runners over but...," said Chono, who had no explanation for the team's low run production.
"We are working hard to do what it takes to put more runs on the board."
First-year import John Bowker chalked the whole thing up to typical early season sluggishness.
"I don't think guys are thinking about hitting home runs, that's just something that for some reason, nobody [had] hit a home run," Bowker said.
"I don't think guys are pressing and trying to hit home runs. In the locker room, guys here have had a lot of success and they know that things are going to turn around. They know that they don't have to press--they have confidence in themselves and I think we're going to turn it around."