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Birthday gift for Yamada: Hawks increase lead

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Birthday gift for Yamada: Hawks increase lead

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As I said yesterday, the Hawks have an important series this weekend at Chiba Marine Stadium. The Hawks did put some more breathing room between themselves and Lotte with a 2-0 win today. With the revolving door of starting pitchers SoftBank has suffered through recently, the Hawks marched birthday boy Hiroki Yamada out to the mound.

The 22-year old starter responded with five innings of shutout ball, giving up four hits, four walks, and striking out seven batters. With key members of the bullpen rested, the super team of Kattoh, Settsu, Falkenborg, and Mahara slammed the door shut from the sixth inning on.

Yoshihisa Naruse took the mound for the home team and pitched good enough to win, with a complete-game loss (8-9, 3.27). He gave up two runs (one earned) on seven hits with nine strikeouts, but his teammates couldn't come up with any offense for the fifth time this season.

Yamada (2-2, 4.44) was in and out of trouble all day, as he had only one clean inning for the duration of his start. The Marines put runners on against the SoftBank starter in the second through the fifth innings, but Yamada consistently got out of his predicaments, usually by way of the K.

In the second, with Kim Tae-Kyun on second with a walk and Saburo on first with a single, Yamada struck out Kei Hosoya and Tomoya Satozaki to end the threat.

Nishioka and Iguchi both singled their way on in the following inning, but Yamada again ended the inning with a strikeout, this one of Kim as he was caught looking.

The fourth inning saw Shoitsu Ohmatsu reach on a walk and he took second on wild pitch, one of Yamada's two on the day, but he was left there thanks to yet another rally-killing strikeout, and Satozaki was the victim once again. The longtime Lotte catcher wore the collar today as he struck out all four times he stepped up to the plate.

Trouble once again found Yamada in the 5th, and the Marines almost broke though. This was a team that chased the SoftBank starter back down to ni-gun at the beginning of the month, but he might have used some of the birthday magic to work out of this jam.

Okada fouled out to begin the inning. Nishioka drew a walk, and Imae singled his way on. Yamada then uncorked his second wild pitch of the day, which advanced the two runners to second and third. Former Hawk Iguchi walked to load the bases, but once again Kim Tae-Kyun couldn't get the job done as he grounded into a double play.

That proved to be the most important event of the game, as it allowed the visitors to keep their slim 1-0 lead, a lead that was in no small part thanks to an error by Nishioka that allowed Kawasaki to reach and it also put Tanoue on second following his single. Honda followed up the error with an RBI base knock of his own.

SoftBank added one more for insurance in the 9th, as Ryuma Kidokoro, known much more for his glove than his bat, doubled off Naruse to lead off the inning. After an out, Tamura singled home the speedy backup outfielder to make the score 2-0.

Despite the Marines getting Kazuya Fukuura to second on a double with two out, Satozaki once again killed the rally by striking out against Mahara (S, 22) for the fourth and final time to give the Hawks the victory.

The win also adds to SoftBank's lead at the top of the Pacific League, as Saitama Seibu was idle today. The lead increases to a full game over Seibu, who has a series with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters this weekend. The Hawks go right back to work tomorrow against the Marines, as they send Toshiya Sugiuchi (12-4, 3.29) to the mound against Yuji Yoshimi (3-4, 5.09).
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