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Hawks earn split with Hanshin

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Hawks earn split with Hanshin

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It was a tale of two games for the SoftBank Hawks in their home series against the Hanshin Tigers. The first game saw a rare meltdown from Tadashi Settsu in the 10th, and the second saw a Lucky 7 indeed for the home team, as they scored five runs against a revolving door of Tigers relievers.

The first game saw Shinsuke Ogura take on Hanshin's "other Kubo," starter Yasutomo Kubo. Both starters pitched brilliantly, and Ogura had no late-start letdowns like he did in his last start against Seibu. Over six innings, Ogura threw an even 100 pitches and struck out 11 Tigers, while only giving up one run on two hits and also walking four. Kubo was a bit more pedestrian, as he struck out only five and walked two in seven innings, giving up two runs on seven hits.

The bullpen picked up Kubo, while it let down Ogura. Ryo Watanabe and Hirotaka Egusa (W, 1-0) were perfect in their respective innings, striking out one batter each. While a little shaky (two walks), the ever-reliable Kyuji Fujikawa kept the Hawks batters at bay in the 9th to earn the save (11).

On the other hand, the normally-reliable Mahara and Settsu both were touched up for runs, as Mahara gave up the tying run as Shinjiro Hiyama singled in pinch-runner Yamato Maeda to tie the score at 2.

In the top of the 10th, Settsu, in an unfamiliar situation, gave up what proved to be the game-winning runs as Keiichi Hirano, Takashi Toritani, and Tomoaki Kanemoto all singled, and Arai and Yamato sent Hirano and Toritani home with sacrifice flies to give Hanshin the 4-2 win.

A scrappy offensive effort combined with scoreless innings from Kattoh and Falkenborg put the Hawks in a position to win. Shibahara hit a bases-loaded RBI single to tie the game in the 4th, and Kawasaki doubled home Yamazaki to give the Hawks the 2-1 lead.

SoftBank would take the field the next day looking to avenge the loss, and they came through in a big way, although there may be a costly injury for the Hawks.

DJ Houlton took the mound against Keiji Uezono, and for six and a half innings, the game was competitive. However, it was Hanshin's turn for reliable relievers to have a bad day, as Egusa and Tomoyuki Kubota both were knocked around for a third of an inning in the 7th.

One has to question Mayumi-kantoku's decision to lift Uezono after just four innings. Granted, he did give up two home runs to Ortiz (14) and Shibahara (2), but he had given up intermittent hits in that time, with no real threats.

Houlton was also very good over five innings, even though he walked three and gave up three hits, but no runs. He was taken out due to him tweaking his knee while covering first base in the 5th. Houlton protested, but the Hawks coaching staff said otherwise.

Mayumi's quick hand proved to be just a little costly in the 5th, as former Chiba Lotte Marine Yusuke Kawasaki gave up a run after Kawasaki doubled home Yamazaki. Ken Nishimura worked one and a third scoreless innings, and Hanshin scored off reliever Fujioka when Kanemoto singled, stole second, and then Brazell scored him with a single.

With the game still within reach at 3-1 going into the Hawks' Lucky 7, Egusa was called upon for the second straight day to keep the Hawks off the scoreboard. With two down and a runner on thanks to another Yamazaki single and a fielder's choice that put the speedy Kawasaki on first, Munerin applied some pressure by stealing second (15). His double play-mate Honda then doubled home Kawasaki, and then Katsuragi, who took over in left after he pinch-hit for Sakurai, airmailed the throw to 2nd that allowed Honda to advance to third.

Egusa was finished for the day, as Kubota was called upon to stem the tide. However, this tide would not be turned back as Ortiz knocked in Honda to give the Hawks a 5-1 lead. Kokubo then legged out an infield single to set up Tamura, who crushed a 3-run blast (8) to give the Hawks an 8-1 lead.

Hanshin answered back in the 8th off left-handed mop-up man Koji Mise, as Toritani drove in Hirano with a double, and then former Hawk Johjima doubled home Toritani to make it 8-3. However, the pitching gave back one of those runs, as Honda took third and home on a wild pitch after reaching on a fielder's choice and stealing second (19). The run would end the scoring with the Hawks on top, 9-3.

The Hawks get back to work on Friday at Yahoo! Dome against the Hiroshima Carp for two games.
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