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Offensive Outburst Powers Hawks to Win

Discussion in the The SoftBank Source forum
Offensive Outburst Powers Hawks to Win
One of the fears that many fans had at the beginning of the season for SoftBank was that they would not have the offense to compete with some of the teams in the Pacific League, not the least of which is the gaijin powered club of Orix. Understand that at the beginning of the season the Hawks were missing two of their big bats in Hitoshi Tamura, and Nobuhiro Matsuda, who had a breakout 2008.

Flash forward to June, and its the Hawks who have the potent offense, and the Buffaloes are having trouble scoring runs. The Buffaloes are missing their two biggest bats in Alex Cabrera and Tuffy Rhodes, and combined with a distinct lack of pitching from last year, has really hurt them.

These factors combined with Orix's horrendous road record this year spelled disaster in the first of this three-game series between the Buffs and the Birds today. Kazuki Kondoh took on Kenji Ohtonari for the pitching matchup, but it was one-sided in every sense of the term.

Kondoh only lasted two innings and gave up 6 runs on 8 hits, walking one and giving up a home run in the process. SoftBank got started early with a four-run first inning. The first five runners reached base, as Honda tripled, Kawasaki doubled, Ortiz singled, Matsunaka walked, and Kokubo singled. All this plus a Hasegawa single put the Hawks up 4-0.

SoftBank piled on two more in their next inning, as Jose Ortiz followed up a Kawasaki double by slamming his 12th home run of the season into the left-field stands. Again in the next inning, the Hawks added some more, thanks to the bat of Tamura, as he smacked his 6th home run of the season off new pitcher Hidetaka Kawagoe.

Things calmed down for the Hawks offensively until the 8th, but on the pitching end, Ohtonari was showing flashes of some of his brilliance last year. The young left-hander was given time to heal, and it served him well as he junkballed his way through 8 innings, walking one, hitting one, and giving up 1 run on 6 hits to go with 6 strikeouts.

The only trouble that Ohtonari got himself into was in the 4th, with his team already up 7-0. Sakaguchi tripled and Ohbiki doubled in the former to get the Buffaloes on the board, but that was all Orix could muster until the 9th inning.

SoftBank piled on some more runs in their half of the 8th, which proved to be their last ups of the game. Kazuya Motoyanagi, who had closed out the previous inning, was trotted back out to the mound to get through the 8th, hopefully without incident. Instead, the Hawks exploded for 6 runs, and the inning was Motoyanagi's to eat.

Sending all nine men to the plate, the Hawks saw the first six men reach before Motoyanagi retired the next three. Key hits were doubles from Tamura and Kawasaki, and a triple from Matsuda. Motoyanagi gave up the final 6 Hawks runs in 1 and 1/3 innings, while walking 2 and giving up 4 hits.

Yasushi Kamiuchi gave up a run in his inning of relief, but it hardly mattered. SoftBank had scored a resounding victory, and even more impressive is how Ohtonari pitched after battling injuries for most of the first half of this season. There is hope for the Hawks rotation to get healthy and absorb the loss of Tsuyoshi Wada.

Nippon Ham eked out a 3-1 win against Rakuten to keep them tied for first place with SoftBank. The Hawks get back to work tomorrow at Kitakyushu against the Buffaloes. Justin Germano (3-0, 2.60) gets the start against Mamoru Kishida (3-1, 1.93).

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Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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