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Home run derby ends with birthday present for Nashida

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Home run derby ends with birthday present for Nashida
This was not what the Hawks had in mind for a mid-week two-game series. The Fighters have been thorns in the Hawks' collective sides for years now, and this sweep makes me hope that SoftBank can clinch a playoff spot without further difficulties from Nippon Ham.

The Fighters secured the two-game sweep at Starffin Stadium, and on Nashida-kantoku's 57th birthday as well, when they got to Hawks starter Tsuyoshi Wada for all six of their runs, all but one of them coming in the middle innings.

This was counter-balanced by a solid five-inning start from Masao Kida, who gave up only one run in that span. The bullpen combined the efforts of Ryo Sakakibara, Naoki Miyanishi, Yoshinori Tateyama, and Hisashi Takeda over the remaining four innings to keep the Hawks at bay and deliver the victory.

The last time Wada pitched this badly, it was on June 19th against the Seibu Lions. He gave up five runs in six and one-third innings, and considering how dominant he had been at times in the almost two months since, he was due for a bad start eventually.

The killer inning for him was the 6th, with the Hawks down, 3-2. The rally started with Inaba singling, and Koyano crushed a 2-run home run (11) to give Nippon Ham a 5-2 lead. Sho Nakata bashed a solo job of his own two batters later for the 6-2 lead.

SoftBank mounted a furious rally in the 8th off Yoshinori Tateyama to pull within two, at 6-4. Kokubo (12) and Petagine (6) both hit solo home runs, but it wasn't enough as Hisashi Takeda, the other half of the tormenting Takedas, recorded his seventh save of the year.

There were seven home runs in total today, as Itoi (13, 4th inning) and catcher Shota Ohno (2, 5th inning) had the other two home runs for the Fighters, and Matsunaka (8, 4th inning) had the Hawks' other home run.

After this slugfest gone awry, the Hawks are idle tomorrow, but start a weekend series with the second-place Lions on Friday. The Hawks retain their two-game lead on the Lions when they were defeated again by the Orix Buffaloes. The starters will be announced tomorrow. This is a series the Hawks need to win to keep team morale high going down the stretch.

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Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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