SoftBank has been playing .900 baseball all throughout the interleague campaign, and it has been nothing short of amazing for the two-time champions of the event. As we close in on the end of this event, the only close competitors are the equally-hot Nippon Ham Fighters.
Fukuoka's boys of summer took care of business in their latest series against the Yomiuri Giants, keeping the Fighters at four back in the loss column.
In this series, the Giants had one weapon that they didn't have the first time around: Michihiro Ogasawara. However, the SoftBank pitching staff rendered his return irrelevant for the hapless Giants bats. He was clearly the team's best hitter, going 4-for-8 in the series with a home run, but the rest of the team seems to still be unable to get their hitting shoes on.
In the first game of the series, SoftBank did have their hitting shoes. With Tsuyoshi Wada still not pitching at 100% after taking a batted ball off his ankle in his last start, he gutted his way through five innings of two-run ball before handing it over to the bullpen. Kanazawa, Morifuku, Falkenborg, and Teruaki Yoshikawa only gave up one run between them to seal the deal.
Down 2-0 in the fourth inning, SoftBank vaulted into the lead off Norihito Kaneto and ended up getting enough runs to win the game. Alex Cabrera got an RBI single, and after Tamura reached on an error by Hayato Sakamoto, Matsuda crushed a 3-run blast to give the Hawks a 4-2 lead.
Yomiuri got one back in the 7th with a solo home run from Mr. Full Swing, but still trailed 4-3. The Hawks put the game away in the bottom of the inning with a three-run inning, two of which came off the bat of Uchikawa's triple, and Cabrera's RBI groundout.
The second game of the brief 2-game set was another nail-biter, but the Hawks' superior pitching once again prevailed.
DJ Houlton took the mound against Shun Tohno, and once again Tohno pitched well, but not well enough. In a game that featured 11 total hits (four off Houlton, seven off Tohno), the Hawks scratched across runs in the fourth and eighth innings, thanks to an RBI double from Cabrera and a sacrifice fly from Uchikawa.
Houlton only needed 96 pitches to complete his eight-inning outing, but to ensure the win, Akiyama-kantoku went to a revitalized Mahara for the 9th. Mahara struck out a batter in his 1-2-3 outing for the save, his sixth of the season.
On a quick side note, Uchikawa recorded his 1,000th career hit in the 6th inning, and SoftBank got their 9th shutout of the season (5th win in a row), lowering the team ERA to 2.12, second only to Nippon Ham's 2.10.
With about a week to go in the interleague competition, the final result is not yet decided as the Fighters continue to stay alive in the standings. The Hawks will stay at Yahoo! Dome to take on the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. Toshiya Sugiuchi (3-2, 1.45) will go to the mound to face fellow lefty Masanori Ishikawa (4-2, 2.11).