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Sweep sends Hawks tumbling to second place

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Sweep sends Hawks tumbling to second place
This was a series where nothing went right for the Hawks. They had their ace on the mound for one of the games and lost. Their best reliever choked away a lead in the last game. These and the injury to Jose Ortiz are troubling developments for SoftBank, a team that has been unable to get the job done in late August and all of September.

In the second game of the series, the Hawks sent Toshiya Sugiuchi to the mound, and he was roughed up for three runs in six innings, coughing up a 2-0 lead the Hawks staked him to with two runs in the 3rd and 4th innings.

That's not to say Seibu starter Kazuyuki Hoashi was bad in his start. Quite the opposite, actually. He was great over seven innings in which he gave up only two runs (one earned). His offense came to life for him in the middle innings, as the Lions scored two in the 5th, one in the 6th, and two more in the 7th off the normally-reliable Keisuke Kattoh.

Despite Shuichiro Osada and closer Brian Sikorski giving up runs in the 8th and 9th innings, it wasn't quite enough as the Lions came away with a 5-4 win.

The last game of the series was a game that the Hawks absolutely had to win. From the outset, it looked like it wasn't going to happen, as Shinsuke Ogura, who has been shaky of late, took the mound against Koji Ohnuma.

It started off well enough, as the Hawks got three runs in the third thanks to a sacrifice fly by Petagine and a two-run shot from Matsuda (13). However, it was another case of the Hawks shaky starting pitching that kept them from breaking their four-game losing streak.

Ogura gave up all three runs and then some in the following innings. Kuriyama, who had a spectacular series, doubled in Kataoka after he singled and stole second. Two more came across in the 4th when Hiroshi Hirao hit a two-run home run (3) to tie the game. Seibu took the lead in the 5th thanks to Hiroyuki Nakajima, who singled in another run of his own for the 4-3 lead.

Despite some excellent work from the Seibu bullpen, the Hawks were able to tie it up in the 8th off Atsushi Okamoto, who had already logged two innings. Fukuda pinch-ran for Kokubo (reached on a single) and stole second, and Tanoue reached on a dropped third strike that also allowed Fukuda to reach third.

Old man Kimiyasu Kudoh came in and promptly gave up an RBI double to Petagine to tie the game, but Tanoue was gunned down at home trying to vault the Hawks into the lead.

With the Hawks tied, they sent Brian Falkenborg into the game, but the improbable happened: the Lions scored a season-high three runs off Falkenborg, easily his worst outing of an otherwise spectacular year. Kuriyama, Nakajima, and Jose Fernandez all hit successive doubles for two runs. Dee Brown capped the rally with an RBI single to give the Lions the 7-4 lead.

Sikorski slammed the door in the 9th with a 1-2-3 inning and one strikeout for his 27th save of the year.

In more injury news, SoftBank lost Hitoshi Tamura in the 6th inning after feeling some discomfort in his right leg (if I'm not mistaken, this is the same leg he broke his tibia on in 2008).

Thanks to the sweep, the Hawks have now lost control of first place in the Pacific League and have also lost their fifth straight game. They trail the Lions by half a game and lead the third-place Marines by two games.

SoftBank gets back to work on Tuesday when they start a three-game series against the Orix Buffaloes. It is imperative that SoftBank gets back on track and quickly, otherwise they could be in for a long August and September.
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