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Hawks Split Two Games With Seibu

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Hawks Split Two Games With Seibu

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With SoftBank needing wins to catch up with the Nippon Ham Fighters, it seemed ideal that the team would send two of their best pitchers to the hill for the last two games in DJ Houlton and Toshiya Sugiuchi.

Houlton was sent to the mound to close the gap further, but instead the former Dodger had his worst start of the season. He was knocked around for seven runs in 4 and 1/3 innings on 9 hits. Through four pitchers, SoftBank only had one who didn't give up a run, and it was Koji Mise.

This was one of those days where nothing went right for Hawks pitching. Yasuyuki Kataoka singled his way on to begin the game, then quickly stole second. Takumi Kuriyama also singled his way on, which drove in the speedy Kataoka for a 1-0 lead. Two Houlton pitches then got away from him. One hit Hiroyuki Nakajima, and two batters later, he served up a meatball to Taketoshi Gotoh for a 3-run home run.

With a four-run lead quickly, Seibu didn't threaten again until the 5th inning in which Seibu scored in much the same way that they did in the first. Nakajima doubled in Kuriyama after he singled his way on and stole second. Up came trouble in Takeya Nakamura. He rarely misses bad pitches, and he got another good one to hit. The two run shot put Seibu up 7-0 and also was Nakamura's 34th home run of the season.

On the offensive side of the ball, SoftBank had no answer for Takayuki Kishi. Last year's Japan Series MVP was very good over seven innings, the only run he gave up in that span being a home run from Munenori Kawasaki, and he carried a one-hitter into the 5th.

The Lions were the polar opposite offensively. They scored in every inning from the 5th inning until the 8th. With the team not in a situation to use top relievers Settsu and Falkenborg, they sent Yanase to the mound in the 6th. Making his first appearance since April 11th, Yanase was knocked around for his only inning for 2 runs. Shota Ohba threw two innings after another short outing in his last start against Lotte, and he also gave up three runs, with the big blow coming from a Tatsuyuki Uemoto 2-run blast.

SoftBank added two runs of their own in the 8th and 9th, but it was nowhere close to enough. A win from Nippon Ham put the Hawks back 4 games once again. With team ace Sugiuchi on the mound for the next game against rookie spot starter Ryoma Nogami, the scales were tipped in SoftBank's favor.

Sugiuchi rebounded from two mediocre starts in a row with an impressive start against the Lions. Seven shutout innings came from the lefty, and he kept the Lions bats and gave up 3 hits in that span while also walking 3. In fact, three hits were all the SoftBank would give up, even though Seibu did scratch a run out against Falkenborg in the 8th.

The Hawks were the beneficiaries of some great pitching, and the offense did just enough. Nogami got himself into trouble in the 2nd. After Kokubo doubled, Hasegawa singled the captain in quickly. SoftBank stood a chance to get more when the Seibu rookie walked the bases loaded with two outs, but Honda grounded out to end the threat.

After 4 and 1/3 innings, Nogami was relieved by Koji Ohnuma, who put together 2 and 2/3 innings of great pitching, but his scoreless bid was ruined in the top of the 6th. Kokubo-teichou sent a pitch into the stands for his 12th home run of the season. The game was still within reach until the 8th, when Tetsuya Iwasaki was knocked around.

Ohnuma started the 8th well by retiring the first two batters, but when Iwasaki came in, trouble started. Kokubo-teichou and Tamura walked to start the rally, and the fire got out of control when Yuya Hasegawa and Hidenori Tanoue both singled to drive in two runs and give Mahara plenty of room to work with in the 9th for his 24th save.

Even though the Hawks have started to hit a bit of a hot streak, they aren't making up any ground on the Fighters. They are winning series, but not consecutive games. Rakuten is next on SoftBank's list of opponents on Tuesday, while Nippon Ham has a three-game set against Orix.
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