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Hawks Rally to Take 2 of 3 From Buffaloes; Bereavement Leave

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Hawks Rally to Take 2 of 3 From Buffaloes; Bereavement Leave

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Consistent readers of my blog will remember how I razed the Hawks for a perceived lack of desire to win last year, and not being able to erase deficits. What I have noticed about this incarnation of the Hawks is that no matter how bad things seem to get, somebody always comes through, and it's always somebody different.

For the first game, there were no heroes in the Hawks' camp, as Buffaloes lefty junkballer Shogo Yamamoto has made himself the de facto nemesis of the Hawks this season, stepping up for Satoshi Komatsu, who has been injured and ineffective this season. Yamamoto threw 7 innings of one-run ball, giving up 7 hits, walking 1 and striking out 5.

Offensive stars for the Buffaloes were Alex Cabrera (2-for-4, HR) and Jose Fernandez (4-for-5, 3RBI, HR), who was a triple short of the cycle. As a team, Orix piled up 14 hits to go with their 7 runs scored, and whitewashed the Hawks pitching. Yoshiaki Fujioka, fresh from a stint at ni-gun, was rocked for four of those seven runs in just 2 innings to go with 4 walks and 3 hits. It seems that he is starting just out of sheer necessity right now, but I think it's time to bring back Justin Germano.

The unsung hero of the day was my personal whipping boy, Yao-Hsun Yan, who put together 4 innings of stellar one-run relief, saving the Hawks bullpen from further fatigue. He gave up 5 hits, but only one run and walked only one batter while striking out three to keep the game somewhat close.

Orix would get two more runs off Keisuke Kattoh, but the embattled Koji Mise and Shota Ohba kept the Buffaloes from getting any more. The only offense SoftBank would get was in the 3rd thanks to an RBI single in by Honda, and in the 7th on a sacrifice fly by Morimoto. It was nowhere near enough as Orix won handily, 7-2.

With that disaster of a game behind them, the Hawks looked to another young sinkerballer in Hideaki Takahashi to get them back on the winning track. After 5 and 2/3 innings of solid one-run ball, SoftBank had their answer. Takahashi had the Buffaloes pounding balls into the ground all day and SoftBank lit up Kazuki Kondoh for 6 runs (4 earned) in 6 and 1/3 innings to take the 6-1 win.

Three home runs anchored the Hawks offensive attack, with them coming from Hidenori Tanoue, and back-to-back shots from the now-healthy Nobuhiko Matsunaka and Hitoshi Tamura. The Hawks also got two in the first thanks in no small part to an error from Masaki Abe.

With the rubber game on the line at Kyocera Dome, it was imperative that the Hawks win to make up some ground on the Fighters and also hold off the hard-charging Rakuten Eagles, who are in 3rd and are in position for their first playoff appearance in franchise history.

Shota Ohba came to the rescue again and made sure the Hawks stayed in contention for the PL pennant. After Kenji Ohtonari gave up 3 runs (2 earned) in 3 innings, the quick hook for the lefty led to Ohba turning in yet another great performance, striking out 6 in 4 innings. Again, the Hawks' offense did not disappoint, as they knocked around Buffs' rookie Masaki Ihara for four runs, which was all the Hawks needed.

It turned into a battle of the bullpens after Ihara left the game in the 5th after 4 and 1/3 innings. Masanobu Ohkubo, Ryota Katsuki, and Tsuyoshi Kikuchihara took the mound for the Buffaloes and all were able to keep the Hawks off the board. However, the Hawks bullpen kept the Buffaloes off the board as well. Settsu and Mahara took over for Ohba, and the two combined to strike out 5 in the last two innings to secure the 4-3 win.

The Hawks look to do three things this weekend against the Saitama Seibu Lions: close the gap between themselves and Fighters, keep the Eagles at bay, and also finish off the defending Japan Series Champions.
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