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Hits and Walks Don't Equal Runs for Hawks

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Hits and Walks Don't Equal Runs for Hawks

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Without Nobuhiko Matsunaka, the Hawks' bats have fallen silent. With his knees ailing him yet again, Matsunaka is day-to-day, and the return of Jose Ortiz has done little to boost the offense, as he is possibly still ailing from his own injury.

The lack of offense was on display in the previous three-game series against the Marines (0-2-1), and it was on display again in the first of three critical games against the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Shugo Fujii took the mound for the Fighters against the Hawks' Kenji Ohtonari.

The first inning was the inning that would tell the story. SoftBank led off the game with their best run-scoring chances of the day. After Honda struck out to begin the game, Kawasaki doubled and was driven home by Ortiz for a 1-0 lead. SoftBank had a chance to break the game open quickly after Fujii walked Kokubo, but Tamura flew out and the normally-clutch Hasegawa was called out on strikes.

Ohtonari gave the lead right back in the bottom of the frame. He got the first two outs with Itoi going down by way of the K, but Inaba singled his way on and Shinji Takahashi delivered what proved to be the death blow, a 2-run blast down the right-field line that vaulted Nippon Ham ahead 2-1.

From there, the entire day was an exercise in frustration for the Hawks. Fujii was clearly not at his best, as he walked four batters but only gave up the 1 run in 4 and 1/3 innings. He walked two in the second inning with 1 down, but the Hawks could not score. Their last, best chance was in the 5th. Fujii loaded the bases with nobody out as Honda and Kawasaki both singled and Ortiz walked, but again the Hawks could not score as they seemed to be taking RISP lessons from the BayStars.

Ohtonari was nowhere near as shaky, retiring the next nine batters he faced before giving up a single in the 4th to Koyano. However, trouble found Ohtonari again in the 6th, when he wiggled out of a first-and-second jam. The straw that broke SoftBank's back was in the 7th, and it was a case of deja vu. Again Ohtonari got two outs, and again the Fighters rallied. Kaneko started the rally with a double, and he was singled in by Kensuke Tanaka for a 3-1 lead.

That would be how it would end as the Hawks clearly could have won, but their inability to hit with runners in scoring position was the deciding factor. The only solace that SoftBank can take is that Nippon Ham used 6 pitchers in the game, while SoftBank used 3, with Mise and Kattoh keeping the game close.

SoftBank looks to one of its stoppers in DJ Houlton (9-6, 2.78) tomorrow against Masaru Takeda (6-7, 3.75) at Sapporo Dome.
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