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Back and forth; Nine-run 7th lifts Fighters

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Back and forth; Nine-run 7th lifts Fighters
Each of the last three games has shown a different side of the SoftBank Hawks, and it's a rather disturbing trend. They got shut out the other day, and they got a shutout of their own yesterday. Today, the Hawks had a big pitching mismatch, as Yoshiaki Fujioka took on Fighters super-ace Yu Darvish. For six innings, it was actually fairly close.

Then the Fighters Lucky 7 happened. For the second time this year, the Fighters put up at least nine runs in an inning on the Hawks hapless pitching. Thirteen batters took their hacks in the 7th against three different Hawks pitchers.

Fujioka (0-1) started the 7th by giving up a double to Itoi to center field. Then Koyano singled his way on to put runners on the corners. Tsuboi followed by singling in a run himself to put runners on 1st and 2nd. Kokubo made matters worse by booting a routine throw to put Tsuruoka on and loading the bases with one run already in and still nobody out. Iiyama ended Fujioka's day by hitting a sacrifice fly to give the Fighters a 5-0 lead at that point.

Akiyama-kantoku went to his bullpen, hoping that Masahiko Morifuku would be able to stem the tide. The diminutive lefty had been good so far this season, but this game was far from his best. He promptly walked Konta to reload the bases, then Yang (aka Yoh) was hit by a pitch to force in a run, and then Kensuke Tanaka chased Morifuku with a 2-run double.

Again, a normally-dependable arm was pegged with stopping the Nippon Ham onslaught. Keisuke Kattoh, who has been with the team on and off the last few seasons, came on to face Shinji Takahashi. Takahashi cleaned the bases with a single, then Itoi and Koyano both singled to re-load the bases again. After an out, the light-hitting Tsuruoka singled to drive in two more runs, but Koyano was thrown out at second to end the inning at long last.

That nine-run explosion was beyond enough for Darvish (1-1), whose only run surrendered came at the hands of Hitoshi Tamura, who hit his second home run of the season in the 5th. At the time, the score was 3-1 in favor of Nippon Ham.

Nippon Ham's first three runs came in the 4th off Fujioka, two of which came at once on a home run from Itoi (1), and just prior, Takahashi singled in Tanaka, who had singled his way on.

The Hawks get right back to work against the Fighters in the rubber game of this series, as it will be a matchup of dueling junkballers. Masaru Takeda (0-1, 3.06) takes on Kenji Ohtonari (1-1, 1.89).

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Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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