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Fujioka Squanders Lead, Hawks Lose Again

Discussion in the The SoftBank Source forum
Fujioka Squanders Lead, Hawks Lose Again
The Hawks need their starting pitchers to be more consistent. They need quality starts because this offense is capable of scoring. With the team in a bad pre- and post-All Star slump, the way to get back on track is to pitch well, and while the bullpen has done that, the starters in 2 games after the break have not.

Yoshiaki Fujioka was called on to play stopper, and he did the exact opposite. The Orix batters, brimming with confidence, had one big inning, and that was all the Buffaloes needed. The 5th inning was the one inning that Fujioka was chased in.

With 2 on, 1 out and ahead 3-0, Fujioka ran out of steam. Tomotaka Sakaguchi doubled home Shimamura to start the 2-out rally and cut SoftBank's lead to 3-1. Ohbiki then drew a walk to load the bases up. Then the gaijin duo of Fernandez and Cabrera reared their ugly heads. Fernandez singled home one, and Cabrera then doubled home two more to put Orix ahead to stay at 4-3. A sacrifice fly by Kitagawa ended the scoring for Orix and proved to be crucial late in the game.

Fujioka did not survive the 5th, as he was chased after 4 and 1/3 innings. He gave up 5 runs on 7 hits, walking 2 and striking out 6 on 80 pitches. He took the loss, dropping his record to 4-5.

The relief corps stood tall, though. Akio Mizuta got through 1 and 2/3 innings giving up a hit and a walk. Settsu survived a shaky 7th, giving up 2 hits but he struck out Shimamura swinging to end the threat. Streaky Koji Mise has hit a hot streak as of late, and he struck out two of the four batters he faced, working around a Sakaguchi single. Falkenborg then pitched a perfect 9th.

SoftBank did not score until the 9th. Their big inning was the 3rd off Kondoh. Tamura singled, Hidenori Tanoue doubled, and then Yusuke Kosai homered (1) to right, making his presence quickly felt after it was reported that Nobuhiro Matsuda had hurt his elbow.

However, that was all that SoftBank would get until the 9th. Kondoh was able to minimize his mistakes, and was very effective over 7 innings, giving up just the three runs on the Kosai home run. Kondoh walked three, gave up 5 hits total, and struck out 6. Ryota Katsuki, pitching in his home town of Fukuoka, worked a perfect 8th, bridging the gap to Daisuke Katoh.

Katoh has been much shakier this year than last year, and it showed as SoftBank was almost able to pull off the comeback. Hasegawa led off with a single, and Katoh hit Tanoue with a pitch. Katsuki Yamazaki then pinch-hit for Kosai, and bunted the two runners over to 2nd and 3rd. Another pinch-hitter was called on in veteran Mitsuru Honma, but he went down by way of the K. With the game on the line, Honda then rapped out a slow roller to 2nd, which he beat out, allowing Hasegawa to score.

Once again, the Hawks had a chance to tie the game, but Kawasaki completed an 0-for-5 day by grounding out weakly to the catcher Suzuki. Katoh got the save (13), Kondoh got the win (5-6), and SoftBank took another loss, 5-4.

The Hawks need to get some starting pitching, but it's always a risky prospect with Shota Ohba (0-2, 4.25) on the mound, and against a team he has only pitched against once in his career. Orix will counter with Yoshihisa Hirano (2-6, 6.23). With Nippon Ham winning again today against Lotte and looking primed to sweep, the Hawks need to win to keep the gap of 3 games manageable.

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Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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