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Matsuda provides the heroics in come-from-behind win

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Matsuda provides the heroics in come-from-behind win

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Regular readers of this blog (both of you) will remember how I have razed the Hawks in past season for not showing any guts. Despite leaving 12 runners stranded today, the team dug deep, showed some moxie, and came back from a 4-1 deficit to win 5-4 over the Lions, in a series they absolutely must win to stay in the PL pennant chase.

It truly was a team effort on all fronts today. With spot starter Yao-Hsun Yang only going two and two-thirds innings, the bullpen was counted on to log some key innings, and boy did they ever. Keisuke Kattoh worked one and one-third innings and gave up three runs (one earned), but from there, the 'pen was rock-steady.

Kanazawa, Settsu, Falkenborg, and Mahara (S, 24) all teamed up over the remaining five innings, and the Lions were only able to get one hit off the quartet.

This was a game that did not start well for the Hawks. The first half of the game belonged to Seibu, but the second half, the one that matters, was all SoftBank.

Despite this, they did strike first off Seibu's oen Taiwanese starter, Ming-Chieh Hsu, as Roberto Petagine of all people laid down a drag squeeze bunt that brought Kokubo home for a 1-0 lead.

The bottom of the inning saw the Lions tie the game off Yang. Takumi Kuriyama, who has had an excellent season against the Hawks so far, doubled with one down, and he was driven in two batters later by one-time Lion Jose Fernandez.

The bottom of the fourth almost saw the Lions break the game open with a defensive miscue from Kattoh. Uemoto started the inning with a double, and Kattoh threw away the sacrifice bunt attempt to let Tomoaki Satoh reach. Kuriyama made the Hawks reliever pay with a two-run single for a 3-1 lead.

Neither of those runs were earned, but the next one was, as Kattoh proceeded to load the bases with one down, but he was able to minimize the damage by letting up a sacrifice fly to Dee Brown, then got Hisashi Takayama to ground out.

With their backs against the wall, SoftBank managed to get one run across in the 6th thanks to a Petagine double and a single by Hasegawa that drove him in to cut the deficit in half at 4-2.

The breakthrough came against Atsushi Okamoto in the 7th. With one out, Matsuda once again came through with a clutch solo home run (15), his fourth in the last two weeks.

His teammates would deliver the crushing blow in the 8th, completing the comeback. Against former Chunichi reliever Chikara Onodera, Tanoue singled and was pinch-run for by running specialist Fukuda. He would come around to score on Kawasaki's ensuing RBI double. Honda grounded out for the second out, but once again, it was Matsuda's heroics that gave the Hawks the lead. He socked an RBI triple to score Kawasaki easily and give the Hawks the 5-4 lead.

Seibu did get the tying run aboard in the 9th thanks to a leadoff double by Kataoka, but, Watanabe-kantoku had Kuriyama pull a sacrifice bunt instead of letting him swing away, a puzzling decision given his .320 batting average and 18 RBI's against the Hawks this season, including today.

It proved to be costly, as even though Kataoka got to third, both Nakajima and Fernandez struck out to end the game.

The win pulls the Hawks a little bit closer, as they pull to just one-and-a-half games behind the Lions for first place. However, SoftBank has to win one more in this series to consider it a success.

They'll be in prime position to do so tomorrow as Tsuyoshi Wada (14-5, 3.04) takes on Kazuhisa Ishii (6-4, 4.12), who is making his first start back from ankle surgery.
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