A seventh inning grand slam by Softbank rightfielder Jolbert Cabrera enabled the Hawks to pull away from the rival Seibu Lions for a 10-5 victory at Seibu Dome Friday. Kazumi Saito started for the birds of prey and while it wasn't exactly one of his better nights (seven innings, five runs, one earned, on eight hits), he nonetheless picked up his 14th win.
Hironori Matsunaga started for Seibu and was stewed for six runs (five earned) on six hits in 4.1 innings and evened his record at 2-2.
Hawks centerfielder Naoyuki Omura commenced the match with a double into the leftfield corner and went to third on a sacrifice bunt. DH Hidenori Tanoue slapped a comebacker to Matsunaga, who had Omura caught off third. But in the rundown, Lions third baseman Yoshihito Ishii made a bad peg and Omura slid in safely for a 1-0 lead.
Seibu then had two on and two out in the bottom portion and abandoned them. The Hawks made them pay for that in the second, as Jolbert Cabrera singled to center and third baseman Tadaatsu Nakazawa blistered a shot up the leftcenter alley and Cabrera put it in fourth for the plate on the double. A sacrifice got Nakazawa over to third. One out later, Omura singled to left for the RBI and a 3-0 edge.
Seibu surmounted that in the third, though, when Hawks shortstop Munenori Kawasaki kicked Lions shortsop Yasuyuki Kataoka's ground ball and Ishii singled to left Saito ran a pitch up and in on first baseman Alex Cabrera and the big Venezuelan slammed his bat on the plate and then began walking out to the mound. Saito, lanky but a pretty big guy, walked toward the plate and the benches emptied. The two calmed down and Cabrera torched one into left for an RBI single. Leftfielder Kazuhiro Wada got an 89mph fastball on the inner half of the plate and flattened it, propelling it more than 440 feet into the leftfield seats for a three run homer that put Seibu up 4-3.
In the fourth, Lions catcher Toru Hosokawa obliterated a curve ball, this one also travelling more than 440 feet into the leftfield stands, to hike it to 5-3. Saito and two relievers scattered four hits the remainder of the evening.
The Hawks then took it to Matsunaga again in the fifth, as Omura walked and Kawasaki was nailed by a pitch. One out later, leftfielder Nobuhiko Matsunaka walked to load the bases. Minoru Yamagishi stood in for Matsunaga. First baseman Julio Zuleta flied out near the wall in left and Omura tagged up and scored while the other two runners also advanced. Cabrera singled to left and Kawasaki and Matsunaka both reported to put Softbank up 6-5.
Seibu had a man on third with nobody out in the third and stood him up.
Softbank then got busy in the seventh, as Kawsaki reached on an infield hit and went to second on a groundout. Matsunaka walked. Zuleta grounded to Kataoka, whose toss to second was off the mark and Zuleta beat the peg to first as well and the bases were loaded. Cabrera got a first pitch slider and parked it in the leftfield bleachers for a granny and a 10-5 lead.
Takayuki Shinohara had little trouble in the eighth for Softbank and Yoshiaki Fujioka was perfect in the ninth to put it in the books.
Alex Cabrera was still livid about the pitch in the third after the game, calling Saito "an idiot" and claiming that he will break the Hawks ace's arm next time. .
For Softbank, Zuleta was 2-4 with a sac fly and is at .295. Jolbert Cabrera was 3-5 and is at .279.
For Seibu, Alex Cabrera was 1-3 with a walk and is at .315. DH Jeff Liefer was 0-4 with two strikeouts and is at .231.
The Chiba Lotte Marines got back within three games of third place Nippon Ham Friday in the playoff chase, as starter Hiroyuki Kobayashi held them to a run on five hits in 7.2 innings while striking out six in a 4-1 victory. Naoyuki Tateishi started for the Fighters and didn't do badly, two runs on four hits in five innings, but was still saddled with his second loss.
Nippon Ham obtained an early lead when first baseman Michihiro Ogasawara ripped a fastball over the centerfield fence to make it 1-0 in the first.
But in the second, Lotte equalized it, as leftfielder Matt Watson doubled up the rightcenter alley with two outs and third baseman Toshiaki Imae doubled down the third base line to spring Watson home and put it at one all.
Nippon Ham had two on and two out in the third, but Ogasawara struckout to end the inning.
The Marines subsequently seized the upper hand in the fifth when second baseman Takeshi Aono cleaned and jerked a slider into the leftfield stands for a 2-1 advantage.
Lotte had a man on third in the sixth and couldn't get him home and they didn't make anything of a bases loaded and two out opportunity in the seventh, either.
But in the eighth, after Nippon Ham had left a man on third in the top half, Marines catcher Tomoya Satozaki teed off on a sinker from Yoshinori Tateyama and deposited it in the leftfield seats. Watson singled to right and went to second on a sacrifice. One out later, centerfielder Akira Otsuka singled to left. Akio Shimizu was substituted for Tateyama. Backup shortstop Hisao Heiuchi was hit on the knee by a fastball, but he was alright and headed to first to juice the bags. Shimizu also plunked rightfielder Val Pascucci to force a run in and make it 4-1. First baseman Kazuya Fukuura grounded out and now it was time for the other Kobayashi, Masahide.
In between a double to left by DH Fernando Seguignol, Kobayashi struckout the side to finalize it. It was his 200th career save, making him just the third man to that mark in NPB history, the other two being Kazuhiro Sasaki and Shingo Takatsu.
Kobayashi was advised to learn a changeup by manager Bobby Valentine, but he couldn't make it work and has stuck with his main repetoire, his 91-94mph fastball, a shuuto and a slider. When he has gotten into trouble it is usually because he leaves his fastball or his shuuto above the belt and middle out.
For Nippon Ham, Seguignol was 1-4 with two strikeouts and is at .266. Brad Thomas also got into the game asn went 1.1 scoreless innings on a hit and two walks while striking out three.
For Lotte, Pascucci was 0-3 with a walk and an HBP and is at .232. DH Benny Agbayani was 1-4 and is at .277. Watson was 2-3 with a walk and is at .290.
Before this start, Rakuten righthander Hiroki Yamamura was told that this was his last chance, that he was looking at a demotion to the Eastern League if he didn't get the job done against Orix Friday. Fortunately, he was perfect for four innings and allowed only a run on five hits in the other four and didn't walk anyone to help the Eagles grab a 4-2 victory at Kobe Green Stadium. Yamamura is now 6-8 and compacted his ERA down to 5.19.
Rookie Shinya Nakayama started for Orix and had some control problems, 100 pitches in 5.1 innings and walking three, but he kept the offensive lid on the Eagles at two runs (one earned) and five hits in taking his first pro loss.
Nakayama had just a minor scrape in the third, two on and two out and evaded any consequence from that. So it was scoreless through five before Rakuten second baseman Yosuke Takasu walked in the sixth and third baseman Jose Fernandez singled to left. The runners moved up on a sacrifice. DH Takeshi Yamasaki flew out to right and Takasu tagged up and crossed. Chihiro Kaneko came on to face catcher Akihito Fujii,, who slapped one back to him, but Kaneko threw the ball away and Fernandez toed the dish for a 2-0 lead.
Orix had two on and two out in the sixth and didn't push anything across.
Rakuten expanded their lead in the eighth when leftfielder Rick Short doubled to left with one out and Yamasaki was intentionally walked. One out later, pinch hitter Katsunori Nomura doubled to rightcenter and both runners managed to circle the bases and put it at 4-0.
Good thing that Nomura, who is only hitting just over a buck, delivered in the clutch. Because in the bottom half, Buffs catcher Takeshi Hidaka doubled to right and, two outs later, shortstop Masahiro Abe, back from the ranks of the injured, singled to left to drive Hidaka in and make it 4-1.
Then in the ninth, Orix DH Kazuhiro Kiyohara took reliever Hisashi Ogura's 90mph fastball out of the yard to rightcenter to slice it to 4-2. One out later, third baseman Makoto Shiozaki reached on an infield hit. Rightfielder Karim Garcia singled to right to put the tying run on. Hidaka grounded to second for the out and then one of the runners got himself hung out to dry on the basepaths and it was see you later. This was the first time Rakuten has won back to back games in two months.
This was Kiyohara's 39th birthday and he is now within one bomb of being the first man in Japanese baseball history to have 21 straight seasons since coming into the league with at least ten homers.
This was the first time in five years that Yamamura has had half a dozen wins.
Orix rookie first baseman Okada had his first pro hit, a single to left in the sixth.
For Rakuten, Short was 2-3 with a sacrifice and is at .319. Fernandez was 1-4 and is at .302.
For Orix, Garcia was 1-4 and is at .221.
|Softbank Manager Sadaharu Oh is now taking walks for an hour near the hospital he is currently staying at, accompanied by his two daughters.|