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Buffs Spoil Hawks Opening Series; Kume Demoted

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Buffs Spoil Hawks Opening Series; Kume Demoted

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After coming home to the friendly confines of Yahoo! Dome after opening on the road for the first time in eleven years, the Hawks were in a case of deja vu, opening for the second straight year against the Orix Buffaloes, and for the third time against Orix since 2007.

Also like last year, Tsuyoshi Wada was called upon to start the home opener, but unlike last year, the Hawks lefty was unable to keep the Buffaloes at bay. Last year, Wada set a career high for strikeouts in a game in a complete-game shutout victory.

Wada (0-1) fell victim to a high pitch count early on and only was able to go five innings while striking out eight and walking two while giving up two runs on three hits. Unfortunately for Wada, his offense couldn't pick him up as Kazuki Kondoh was brilliant over eight innings, giving up only one run on one hit while striking out eleven.

The only run that SoftBank could muster in a 16-1 drubbing was a home run from Nobuhiro Matsuda (2). Four Hawks struck out twice, including Matsuda, Kawasaki, Kokubo, and Hasegawa.

Meanwhile, Orix broke the game open in the late innings, as they scored four runs in their half of the 7th, two in the 8th, and a whopping eight in the 9th, with all the runs in that inning being credited to Shota Ohba. Once again, the only relievers aside from SBM that were anywhere near effective were the lefties, Kamiuchi and Morifuku.

In addition to their relief woes, the Hawks seemed to have trouble scoring runs with Nippon Ham and the Buffaloes pitching seemed intent on keeping that theme going, not just on Friday, but for the entire series.

The second game in the series saw the Hawks score six runs, but they got some pitching help from ace Toshiya Sugiuchi, who recorded his second win of the season, going seven innings while giving up one run on five hits, striking out 14 and walking four. Chihiro Kaneko started for the Buffaloes and was good for six innings, then was lit up in the 7th for three runs.

Jose Ortiz hit his 2nd home run of the season in the 4th, a two-run blast that gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead. They were leading 3-1 before breaking the game open in the 7th. Kaneko (1-1) finished his outing giving up five runs on ten hits, striking out eight and walking one.

In the rubber game of the series, SoftBank saw the return of Nobuhiko Matsunaka, who started the season at ni-gun thanks to his aging knees. Unfortunately for SoftBank, this infusion of power was not the prescription the Hawks were looking for, as they were shut down by 2003's Rookie of the Year, Hiroshi Kisanuki.

Kisanuki (1-0) gave up one run on three hits in seven and 2/3 innings to pick up the win, his first since 2008. Jon Leicester picked up the save, as he worked two-thirds of an inning to get his first save of the season, and his first career save in Japan.

On the other side for pitching was Kenji Ohtonari, who was not as good as he was in his first start against Nippon Ham. Keeping consistent with most of his subpar starts, the young lefty piled on the walks, walking four, striking out five, and giving up two runs on six hits. Not bad, but Ohtonari was clearly hurt by the walks.

Also, the bullpen was a bit more solid in this game, but once again, it was the Hawks spotty offense that let them down. The team was only able to muster three hits, one of them coming from Matsunaka on his first home run of the season.

So the Hawks fell 4-1, losing two out of three at the hands of the Buffaloes, who are 5-1 to start the season. Starting tomorrow, the Hawks start a three-game series with the Saitama Seibu Lions in Tokorozawa. D.J. Houlton will start the game, looking to rebound from his bad start against Nippon Ham. Takayuki Kishi will get the start for the Lions.

In other team news, the Hawks demoted Yuki Kume (0-0, 27.00) to ni-gun today, possibly in preparation for a promotion of Shingo Tatsumi.
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