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Pitching, defense prevail as SoftBank takes series

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Pitching, defense prevail as SoftBank takes series
After two wild games that saw the starting pitchers on both sides almost totally ineffective, two of SoftBank and Ortix's best starters took the mound looking to not only put forth good starts, but rest each team's weary bullpens.

Kazuki Kondoh and Tsuyoshi Wada both delivered. An epic pitcher's duel occurred over eight innings, but like yesterday, the deciding factor was a throwing error from the pitcher. This time, it was Kondoh who was victimized by his own bad defense in the 9th. This led to three unearned runs, and the Hawks would scratch out one more to give them a 4-run 9th and a 5-1 victory.

The error was Orix's third of the day, and this one hurt them in the worst way. Kazuki Kondoh (1-2, 3.00) pitched brilliantly in his 8 and 1/3 innings of work and 133 pitches, wiggling out of what few jams he was in, and working around two errors before the 9th. All four of the runs he gave up were unearned, and he gave up four hits. One of Kondoh's problems last year was the walks, and he surrendered none today while striking out eight Hawks.

SoftBank sent Tsuyoshi Wada to the mound to counter, and he was just as good, if not better. Wada (3-1, 2.67) pitched 8 innings and threw 129 pitches himself, and while he wasn't as spectacular as he was last week against Lotte, he still only gave up one run on three hits, walking three and striking out five.

The only run that Wada surrendered was in the 4th, when Mitsutaka Gotoh doubled home So Taguchi. Orix threatened further when Alex Cabrera followed with a walk and he hit Greg LaRocca with a pitch, but Wada wiggled his way out of the only real trouble he was in all day by getting two straight groundouts.

Poor defense has been the undoing of both teams in this series, and the theme continued in the 9th. SoftBank were beneficiaries of two errors, one of them coming on Hiroshi Shibahara's infield single which allowed him to reach second. With Kidokoro pinch-running, Kawasaki hit a tapper back to Kondoh, who threw it away himself, allowing the speedy reserve outfielder to score and break the 1-1 deadlock.

After Honda laid down a sacrifice bunt, Ortiz cleaned the bases with a 2-run double to make it 3-1. Three batters and an intentional walk of Matsunaka later, Tamura hit a 2-run double of his own off Hawks-killer Satoshi Komatsu to give the Hawks a 5-1 advantage. Mahara worked the 9th in a non-save situation, and gave up two hits but no runs.

With the win, the Hawks move into 3rd place, half a game ahead of the slumping Buffaloes, who are 10-10 after starting 7-1. Next up, SoftBank heads home for a weekend series with their nemeses, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. The Hawks will send Toshiya Sugiuchi (3-1, 2.89) to the mound to face Eagles starter Hiromichi Fujiwara (1-1, 14.14).

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Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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