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Hawks' Shattered Bullpen Feasted on by Marines

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Hawks' Shattered Bullpen Feasted on by Marines
Oh boy, how did it come to this?

The Hawks' bullpen was just going along, dominating opposing teams, and inevitably, there would be problems. First, promising young righty Yuki Kume went down with a broken bone in his foot in May. Then Brian Falkenborg, who has been dominating hitters this season, strained his right (throwing) elbow. And now, thanks to a rash of ineffectiveness by anybody other than Mahara, Mizuta, or Settsu, the Hawks have been forced to call up people who haven't pitched all year.

Case in point was today. Hideaki Takahashi only went 2 innings, and Yao-Shun Yan proved once again that he does not belong at ichi-gun as the last-place Chiba Lotte Marines doubled up on the Hawks, 10-5 at Chiba Marine Stadium.

The Marines did not waste any time in the first inning. The first batter of the game was Tsuyoshi Nishioka (9), and he crushed a Takahashi pitch into the right field stands for a quick 1-0 lead, and later Iguchi doubled home Ohmatsu after he walked. People believe that the first inning can set a tone for the rest of the game, and it couldn't have been more true today.

Takahashi took the mound for the second inning, and it wasn't much better for him. Another leadoff home run was hit, this time from Tomoya Satozaki (9), and just like that, it was 3-0 Lotte. Despite the fact that the Hawks' starter set down the next three batters, all on ground balls, Takahashi wasn't given the chance to continue his outing, which was rather strange.

Akiyama-kantoku's attempt to stem the bleeding looked genius at first, with Yan coming in and setting down the Marines in order in the 3rd. Then it backfired in the 4th when Yan all of a sudden developed an allergy to the strike zone. The Taiwanese reliever walked the bases full, then Nishioka doubled and Hayasaka singled to clean the bases out for four runs. Needing innings from his bullpen, Akiyama kept his man in to take the beating.

The next inning was almost more of the same, but part of the problem was from an error by former Marine infielder Jose Ortiz that allowed Iguchi to reach. Three more runs would come across to score for Lotte, ending the scoring for them for the day. In all, Yan gave up 7 runs total (4 earned) in 3 innings, on 4 hits, walking 4 and striking out 4. The good news is that recently recalled Keisuke Kattoh (2 innings, 2K) and veteran Makoto Satoh (1 inning, 1 hit, 1K) each had scoreless outings.

On the other side for pitching, Yuta Ohmine went the distance for Lotte's own shattered pitching staff. Valentine-kantoku obviously has no faith in his bullpen, and also felt comfortable with a large lead because he let Ohmine go as long as he did, despite his starter giving up 3 runs in the 9th, which was far too few for SoftBank to even think about a comeback. In all, Ohmine gave up 5 runs on 10 hits, striking out 8 and walking 2 on 137 pitches.

There were really no standout offensive stars for SoftBank today as the middle of the order came up empty. Neither Tamura nor Kokubo could come up with a hit, and Hasegawa and Tanoue combined went 2-for-7 as the middle of the order went another game without Nobuhiko Matsunaka in the lineup.

The Hawks did not lose ground to the Fighters, however. Nippon Ham dropped their 5th straight game, a wild 11-10 extra inning affair with the Orix Buffaloes, keeping the gap between themselves and SoftBank at 3 games. Saitama Seibu also won their game with Rakuten as those two teams jockey for the last playoff spot in the Pacific League.

With Justin Germano inexplicably dropped to ni-gun for readjustment, the Hawks go with a different pitching approach tomorrow. Lefty Yasushi Kamiuchi (2-2, 3.70) makes his first start since July 11th. Lotte counters with big righty Hiroyuki Kobayashi (2-11, 4.79).

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Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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