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Another Seibu Split, but One Game Gained

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Another Seibu Split, but One Game Gained

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To uninformed Americans like myself, it's unfathomable that a three-game series cane be split, but it can and has happened in Japan. It happened to the SoftBank Hawks today, and this was around the time last year that they tied three straight games with Seibu, and then began their September-long tailspin that sent them plummeting to a last-place finish.

The first game in the series was probably one of the biggest mismatches this season on the mound with Seibu ace Hideaki Wakui taking the mound against Hideaki Takahashi. Wakui was brilliant over 9 innings and 133 pitches, only giving up one run, which came off the bat of Kokubo (15) in the 7th. It proved to be crucial, as Sumitani came around to score on a suicide squeeze bunt after he led off the inning with a double.

From there, it was a classic pitcher's duel. Takahashi held his own against the Olympian Wakui, as he set down the Seibu batters without much trouble through 6 innings, as he gave up only one unearned run while striking out a career-high 8 batters and walking just two.

After the 9th inning, it was a battle of the bullpens in its fullest. SoftBank got into its bullpen in the 7th with Falkenborg and Settsu taking over for two innings each, and Mahara closed it out. The Lions turned to Tomoki Hoshino, Koji Ohnuma, Massachusetts native Jonah Bayliss, and Fumiya Nishiguchi all took the mound for the Lions. With neither team able to score, the Hawks and Lions tied yet again in the month of August.

The next day was nowhere near as kind to the Hawks as Yoshiaki Fujioka was roughed up again for 6 runs in just 4 innings, three of which came off the bat of Takeya Nakamura (36) in the 1st inning. Fujioka then walked in a run in the 3rd after Akada singled and Fujioka then alternated walks and strikeouts, leading to a 3-1 lead for Seibu.

In all, Fujioka walked 5 batters and hit one over his four innings of work. Shota Ohba then came in and proved to be the savior of the bullpen as he gave four workman-like innings, giving up 1 run on four hits, walking one and striking out four. He seems to really be responding well to the move to the bullpen. His efforts kept stress off the SoftBank bullpen, which had a long day the previous day.

On the other side, Kaz Ishii had another excellent start, as he is having a spectacular second half, the opposite of how his season usually goes. Through 7 and 1/3 innings, it was vintage Ishii. He gave up 2 runs on 6 hits and also struck out 10 batters while walking 4. Seibu would get two more runs off Koji Mise in the 9th, leading to the 9-2 final score.

The next day, SoftBank looked to Justin Germano to get back to his winning ways, and he gave his usual solid effort. He gave up 2 runs in 6 and 1/3 innings while also scattering 5 hits and striking out 6. It was a nice rebound start for Germano, who had his worst start of the season in his previous outing against Orix. And it was more of the same style of pitching Germano does: give up a run in the first inning, right the ship, and then give up a run in the last inning of work. It's maddeningly consistent.

On the other side was Fumikazu Kimura, making his first career start, and it was a good one until the second time through the SoftBank lineup. The fourth inning proved to be the one crucial inning of the game. Kimura struck out four of the first seven batters he faced and allowed only a walk through the first two innings. He worked around a 1st-and-3rd, no out situation in the 3rd, but the Hawks finally got to him in their next set of ups.

Kokubo-teichou wasted no time against the Seibu call-up. He hit his 16th home run of the season to tie the game up at one, but the Hawks weren't done yet. After Jose Ortiz flew out to left, Hasegawa drew a walk, and then Tanoue crushed his 18th home run of the season to left field to give SoftBank a 3-1 lead, which would be enough.

Seibu added a run in the 6th on a sacrifice fly by Kuriyama after Kataoka tripled to lead off the inning to cut SoftBank's lead to 3-2. Yusuke Kosai doubled his way on in the 7th, was sacrificed to 3rd by Motohiro Yoshikawa, and then was singled home by Honda to end the scoring at 4-2. Mahara recorded his 25th save after a shaky 9th in which he surrendered a walk and a hit.

Thanks to a postponement and a loss to Rakuten, the Hawks pulled to within 6 games of the PL lead behind Nippon Ham. Next up comes a pivotal three-game series against the Fighters, but the first game will be a tall task as Yu Darvish (14-4) takes on Kenji Ohtonari (5-7). Darvish has not lost to SoftBank since 2007.
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