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Yamada wins second straight with help from Kokubo

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Yamada wins second straight with help from Kokubo
With all the young pitchers the Hawks have at ni-gun, it's actually surprising to see how many of them have actually made it to the top team so far this year. Even more surprising is that Hiroki Yamada, signed from an ikusei contract in the offseason, has had the most success out of any of them.

Two of the big names to look out for with the Hawks this year were Shingo Tatsumi and Sho Iwasaki. Neither of them did well, as Iwasaki was just painful to watch, and Tatsumi had trouble with his control.

That's not to say Yamada hasn't had his growing pains, but the last two starts he has had were very good. He notched his second straight quality start against a team that hadn't seen him yet, the Rakuten Eagles.

Given that the Hawks are in the midst of a pennant race, this is some pretty intense pressure to put on him. He did respond today, and he also got some help from the team captain, Kokubo, who drove in four of the Hawks' five runs today.

The real killing blow was in the top of the third. Leading 1-0 off thanks to an infield single off his bat already, Kokubo did it with the big fly in his second at-bat, crushing a three-run blast (13) to give the Hawks a 4-0 lead.

That's all that Yamada would need to work with, as he was just plain solid in six-plus innings. After Kokubo's home run, Randy Ruiz got one back with a home run of his own (8) to cut the deficit to 4-1, but that was all Rakuten would get on this day.

SoftBank added one more in the top of the sixth. Tomoaki Egawa recorded yet another extra-base hit, this time socking a two-out triple and coming in to score when Nori Nakamura booted a routine grounder from Tanoue.

Rakuten would add another of their own thanks to a SoftBank error in the 7th. Yamada gave up singles to Kusano and Shima before being removed in favor of Settsu. Nao Watanabe hit a grounder to Honda at second, but he threw it away, allowing Kusano to score, with the unearned run going to Yamada.

However, Falkenborg and Mahara didn't let the Eagles get any closer, as the two shut down the home team in the 8th and 9th, with Mahara getting save number 25 on the season.

Thanks to an extra-innings win by Nippon Ham today, the Hawks pull closer to the Lions at 2.5 games behind Seibu.

The Hawks get back to work tomorrow as Toshiya Sugiuchi (14-5, 3.04), who has been awful in Sendai this season (0-2, 6.00), takes on Kohei Hasebe (3-3, 5.30).
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