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Do You Believe in Miracles? Hawks Crush Darvish

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Do You Believe in Miracles? Hawks Crush Darvish
Yu Darvish hadn't lost to the SoftBank Hawks since 2007 when he was starting to become one of Japan's top pitchers. He was 5-0 against SoftBank last year with a 0.88 ERA, and was already 3-0 this year against the Hawks.

SoftBank released all of their pent-up frustration against the Fighters ace today, and the result was Darvish suffered his first loss to the Hawks in nearly 2 years and also he gave up the most runs he had in a start all season long.

Nippon Ham started the game quickly off opposing starter Ohtonari, pushing across two runs in the first. Yang Chung-Shou started the game with a single and came around to score after Ohtonari loaded the bases with an Inaba single and a walk to Takahashi. Former Giant Tomohiro Nioka singled in Yang and Inaba to put Nippon Ham out in front quickly, 2-0.

On the other side, it looked like it would be another day of Darvish domination as he retired the first four batters with ease. But facing Jose Ortiz, Darvish left a pitch right where Ortiz wanted it and the Dominican slugger didn't miss. His 15th home run of the season cut the Fighter lead in half at 2-1.

From there, both pitchers settled into a classic duel. Ohtonari benefited from a snap throw that picked off veteran catcher Satoshi Nakajima to end the second, then wiggled his way out of trouble in the 3rd when he walked Takahashi then hit Nioka with 2 down, but got Hawks-killer Kaneko to fly out to end the inning.

On the other side, Darvish was giving up a hit an inning since the Ortiz home run in the second, as if the dinger gave confidence to the Hawks' lineup. From the 3rd inning until the 8th, at least one man reached base against the '07 Sawamura winner, keeping him from getting into a groove on the mound.

The efforts paid off in the 6th. With 2 out, Kokubo-teichou singled his way on, paving the way for Ortiz again. Ortiz (16) again didn't miss as he made Darvish pay for a second mistake, this one proving to be the eventual game-winner for SoftBank. The Fighters' ace gave up his second home run of the game, the second time this season that he has given up 2 home runs in a game. The Hawks had managed to take a 3-2 lead off the seemingly invincible starter.

Ohtonari was out after 6 innings, but he kept the damage to a minimum. He only gave up the 2 runs in the first inning, scattering 7 hits while walking 3 and striking out 8 in 120 pitches. With Brian Falkenborg out with an elbow strain, Akio Mizuta stepped up today to fill the void left by the dominating setup man's absence. His inning was successful, and Settsu worked a 1-2-3 8th to set up Mahara.

But not before the Hawks gave Mahara a lot more support. With SoftBank ahead 3-2, the Hawks continued their tradition of rallying against Darvish late. Kawasaki, Matsunaka, and Kokubo all singled to start the inning, which increased the Hawks lead to 4-2. Darvish retired Ortiz, but the groundout to the pitcher ended up putting runners on 2nd and 3rd. Tamura then came up with another clutch single, scoring both runners and staking SoftBank to a 6-2 lead, and that was how it would end.

Mahara did have a bases loaded 2 out jam in the 9th thanks to an error by Honda, and then walked Murata and gave up a single to Inaba, but struck out Takahashi to end the game.

After this huge win, SoftBank must be feeling good about themselves. They took down the Fighters' ace, and now sit 5 games in back of the Fighters. Again, a sweep is needed to put the Hawks back into the conversation of a possible PL Pennant.

The Hawks will send DJ Houlton (8-6, 2.80) to the mound tomorrow to take on Shugo Fujii (6-4, 3.36).

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Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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