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Sugiuchi comes out on top in pitcher's duel

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Sugiuchi comes out on top in pitcher's duel
Over the last few years, Nippon Ham has hated to face Toshiya Sugiuchi. The Hawks' lefty ace has been nigh-unhittable against them, and like yesterday, the Fighters were on the short end of the score.

Despite spot starter Ryo Sakakibara's best efforts, the Hawks managed to muster just enough offense to pull through and win their second straight game against their longtime nemeses, 2-0.

In going the distance, Sugiuchi (14-5, 3.04) only gave up two hits, struck out 12 batters, and walked three for his fourth shutout of the season, breaking a career high. He also improved to 4-0 against the Fighters this season and it was the third time he threw a complete-game shutout against them.

The only offense in the game came in the second inning. With Sakakibara on the mound, the Hawks once again channeled some two-out lightning like they did yesterday. Petagine doubled, Lee singled, and Hasegawa walked to load the bases. The walking strikeout, Tanoue, then came up and hit a clutch two-run single to left to give the Hawks the 2-0 lead.

The only chance that the Fighters had to even the score, and to possibly to take the lead, was during the fifth inning. Koyano singled, Itoi and Nioka walked to load the bases with nobody out. Usually, these are the opportunities that Nippon Ham kills SoftBank on, but Sugiuchi had other ideas. He then got the next three batters, Nakata, Tsuruoka and perpetual Hawks-killer Makoto Kaneko down on strikes to end the threat.

The only other hit that the Fighters got was a single from Atsunori Inaba in the 6th. From there, Sugiuchi retired the last 10 batters he faced, striking out three.

In his short start, Sakakibara (5-1, 2.62) only gave up the two runs on three hits in four innings, with one walk and two strikeouts. Masanori Hayashi, Kazumasa Kikuchi and Yoshinori Tateyama held the Hawks at bay, but it wasn't enough.

SoftBank goes for the sweep tomorrow as Shinsuke Ogura (4-5, 5.08) takes the mound against yet another Hawks pitching nemesis, Masaru Takeda (9-6, 2.80).

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Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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