As a Hawks fan, one of the pitchers I always hope to avoid when facing the Fighters is Masaru Takeda. The owner of 14 career wins and an ERA just north of 2.00 against Softbank, he is never a welcome sight.
But--surprise of all surprises--the Hawks solved the crafty Nippon Ham lefty last night with a 4-0 win. The four runs surrendered were the most that Takeda had given up all season long, and the eight hits were tied for second most on the year.
It certainly has been a year of the pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball this year, and Takeda's opposition--Toshiya Sugiuchi--did his best Darvish impression today. Mirroring what the Fighters' ace did yesterday, the Hawks' ace tossed a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts, one walk, and one hit batter.
Offensively, the Hawks did it with both small ball and the long ball. The third inning saw an RBI single from Kawasaki and a sacrifice fly by Uchikawa for a 2-0 lead. SoftBank struck again with a solo home run the very next inning off the bat of Hitoshi Tamura (3). Uchikawa capped the scoring with an RBI single to give the Hawks a 4-0 lead.
The shutout was SoftBank's 17th as a team this season
and Sugiuchi's 3rd. The Hawks also extended their lead on Nippon Ham to three and a half games, so they can't lose any more than one game in the standings. The rubber game features Tadashi Settsu (10-5, 2.72) against hyped rookie Yuki Saitoh (3-2, 2.84). This marks Saitoh's first career start against SoftBank.