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Seibu's 'bad' man Brazell helps KO Fighters

by Jim Allen (Apr 17, 2008)

Craig Brazell is not thrilled with being known as a bad-ball hitter, but he learned a long time ago to stick with what works.

Going for one out of the zone worked for him again on Wednesday, when Brazell drove a high pitch for a game-tying home run and the Saitama Seibu Lions went on to beat the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 4-2 at Seibu Dome.

Lions right-hander Hideaki Wakui allowed two runs, one earned, in seven innings to even his record at 2-2. The 21-year-old surrendered six hits, walked four and struck out three.

With the Lions trailing by a run, Brazell led off the bottom of the fourth inning and saw two sliders from lefty Mitsuo Yoshikawa (1-3). The big left-handed hitter swung at one in the dirt and let the next one go by for a 1-1 count.

"I knew he wasn't going to throw another slider. He's got to come fastball," said the 27-year-old Brazell, who hit 39 homers in the minor leagues last season before coming to Seibu over the winter.

"I look for a pitch. I don't look location. I just hit it where it's pitched. See the fastball, hit the fastball: like they teach you in Little League. When I try to do different little things, that's when I get in trouble."

This one was up and out of the zone and Brazell tattooed it for his ninth home run of the year and his second off Yoshikawa.

"My whole career, I've been labeled as a bad-ball hitter. When I was young they tried to change me. Luckily that's something I can do, even if it's not the greatest thing."

Brazell, who flied out with two men on in the bottom of the first inning after the Fighters scored first with the help of an error.

The Lions took charge in the fourth. Right fielder G.G. Sato threw out a runner at the plate to end the Fighters' half of the inning, and Brazell tied it in the home half.

A night after being struck just above the left knee with a pitch, Brazell insisted he play.

"If I can play, I'm going to play, that's just the way I am," he said before the game. "I may run even slower, but I want to make a good impression."

He left an impression on Yoshikawa's fastball, and then walked with two outs and two on in the fifth to load the bases. Sato then put the Lions in front with a two-run double.

Terrmel Sledge, who singled home the Fighters' first-inning run, trimmed the Lions' lead with a leadoff homer in the top of the sixth.

Wakui got a cutter in to Sledge but it got too much of the plate. Sledge, playing his first Japanese season after four in the majors, put a good swing on it for the fourth homer of the game.

An ensuing error gave the Fighters a chance to tie the game, but that evaporated when a one-out liner to right held up and pinch-runner Takahito Kudo was doubled off to end the inning.

Yoshikawa left after five innings, having allowed three runs on five hits and three walk. The lefty struck out six. His replacement, right-hander Yataro Sakamoto, gave up a run on three two-out singles.

Wakui allowed a pair of two-out ground singles in the top of the seventh, but got out of the inning with his third strikeout of the night. After a tough 111-pitch outing, Lions manager Hisanobu Watanabe turned the game over to his bullpen in the eighth inning.

Right-hander Shinya Okamoto, a veteran middle reliever acquired as compensation from the Chunichi Dragons for the signing of free agent outfielder Kazuhiro Wada, allowed a hit in a scoreless eighth.

Closer Alex Graman came on in the ninth, and allowed two singles, but no runs in recording his fifth save.

The loss was the third straight for the Fighters, who fell 1-1/2 games back of the league-leading Lions. Both teams are off today. The Fighters take on the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks at home on Friday, while the Lions don't play again until Saturday, when they meet the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Sendai.


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