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John E. Gibson

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Hawks outlast Lions in 12

by John E. Gibson (Apr 30, 2008)

Fukuoka SoftBank's Nobuhiro Matsuda was hitless after 11 innings of action in a game that saw just about every kind of pitch from nearly every Saitama Seibu Lions hurler on Tuesday.

It was the last pitch Matsuda saw that helped him produce his first hit and put a winning end to a 12-inning, 5-hour 19-minute marathon, the longest game in either league this season.

Matsuda's RBI triple off loser Koji Mitsui (1-1), the eighth Seibu pitcher, sparked a three-run outburst that gave the Hawks a 10-7 win over Seibu and allowed was left of the 26,619 at Seibu Dome to go home.

Matsuda had walked twice, but he and Hiroki Kokubo, who went hitless, weren't making good contact.

"Almost everybody else had a hit except me, and I didn't want to get left behind," said Matsuda, in his third season.

"[Hiroshi] Shibahara had gotten on base, so I just wanted to help get a rally going. I just went into the batter's box thinking, 'Get a hit and keep it going.'

"When I hit the ball, I knew the outfielders weren't going to catch it. I'm glad I was able to drive the ball in that situation."

Yusuke Kosai, who posted his first multi-hit game with a double and three singles, got Matsuda home with a two-out single up the middle to make it 9-7, and Satoru Morimoto's RBI single up the middle closed out the scoring and a 17-hit SoftBank attack.

Sadaharu Oh's club stopped first-place Seibu's three-game winning streak, but has more work to do to climb out of fifth place in the Pacific League.

"We got it done in the end. We're behind them in the standings, so this game was bigger for us," Oh said.

"But what a game. You never know what's going to happen in baseball."

Fukuoka survived Seibu's three home runs and got off to a strong start in the first of nine games in as many days.

"Starting this stretch with a loss and starting it off with a win is a completely different feeling," Matsuda said. "I hope we can use this victory to get some momentum going and win some more games."

Reliever D.J. Houlton (1-0), who shut the Lions down in the bottom of the 11th and pitched through a misplayed ball in the 12th, got his first win in Japan. He fanned three of the eight batters he faced.

The Lions exhausted their bullpen, using seven relievers after starter Matt Kinney couldn't make it out of the fourth inning.

The Lions drew first blood, Takahiko G.G. Sato slugging his sixth longball of the season on an inside fastball. Sato caught the ball on the sweet spot and Seibu grabbed a 1-0 lead.

The Hawks, though, answered in the top of the third by stringing together four hits and a walk. Hidenori Tanoue doubled to open the frame and Yusuke Kosai singled to make it first and third with none out.

Munenori Kawasaki bounced a single through the right side for the first SoftBank run, and three batters later Shibahara's clutch two-run single gave the Hawks a 3-1 lead.

Second-year man Yuya Hasegawa led off the fourth with his first pro homer (after not hitting one on the farm last season), driving a solo shot to right for a 4-1 advantage.

SoftBank added two more runs when Matsunaka singled to score Kosai and Mitsuru Honma for a 6-1 cushion.

Tanoue's two-out single in the fifth made it 7-2 Hawks, but the flood gates opened in the sixth.

Rick Guttormson, who labored through five innings and most of his 111 pitches, took a seat and Yoshiaki Fujioka and Shinsuke Ogura blew the lead in matter of minutes.

An error and two hits loaded the bases off Fujioka, who got one out before departing.

His successor, Ogura, didn't get the ball back after his first two pitches became opposite-field home runs. Hiroyuki Nakajima turned the first one into a souvenir for the Lions cheering section in right, blasting a grand slam that just cleared the fence.

Craig Brazell took Ogura's next pitch the other way, driving it deep down the line in left for his 11th homer to take over the Japan lead and even the score at 7-7.


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