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Cabrera Beats the Buzzer

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Cabrera Beats the Buzzer
Due to the tragedies in Sendai, NPB made the decision to stop games around the 3 hour and 30 minute mark to conserve energy. The rule almost had its first use last night at Yahoo Dome between the Hawks and Lions.

That is, until Alex Cabrera came along and clubbed his first home run for the Hawks against the team that brought him to Japan 11 years ago.

At the 3:27 mark, Cabrera took a pitch from Seibu reliever Taiyo Fujita (0-1, 3.86) and put it into the seats for a 3-2 win. Another three minutes and the game would have ended due to the self-imposed time limit. As a result, Masahiko Morifuku (1-0) was rewarded with a win for his two innings of scoreless relief.

All of this made for a very exciting home opener for the Hawks, as they sent Toshiya Sugiuchi to the mound against Seibu rookie Kazuhisa Makita. SoftBank's grizzled lefty veteran was out-dueled by Makita, but in the end, it was the bullpens that decided the game.

With the Hawks down 2-0 in the 8th thanks to a 2nd inning home run from Takeya Nakamura (1) and a Hideto Asamura sacrifice fly, it was looking grim, especially with Makita on cruise control.

The Hawks fought back in the 8th. Hasegawa got on with a walk, but it was a blister that ended Makita's day. The rally got started proper against Shuichiro Osada, as pinch-pinch-hitter Jose Ortiz (pinch hitting for pinch hitter Hiroshi Shibahara) doubled to chase Osada.

The revolving door of pitchers continued with Hironori Matsunaga brought in to face Honda, who singled home one run. Once again Watanabe-kantoku went to his bullpen, sending Atsushi Okamoto out there to quell the rally. Uchikawa would not be denied, though, as he singled to left to tie the game. The Hawks' prize catch of the offseason has started the season on a tear, with hits and RBI's in three of his first four games.

As for Sugiuchi, he had very pronounced troubles against the Lions last year, but not on this day. He gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits in 7 innings, with no walks (something else he had trouble with last year) and seven strikeouts.

Makita was also very good, but the aforementioned blister knocked him out of the game. In seven and one-third innings, he gave up only one run on two hits, walked one and struck out six, but did not factor in the decision.

The roles are reversed next as Tadashi Settsu makes his first career start after making 70 and 71 relief appearances in each of his first two seasons. He takes on a grizzled veteran lefty of his own, Kazuhisa Ishii.
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