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Rob Smaal

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Hosokawa paces Lions with 5 ribbies

by Rob Smaal (Jun 2, 2008)

As the saying goes, "That's what friends are for."

Seibu starter Kazuyuki Hoashi improved to 6-0 on the season Sunday, thanks in large part to the efforts of his batterymate Toru Hosokawa.

Lefty Hoashi held the Chunichi Dragons to one run on five hits through six innings at Seibu Dome and catcher Hosokawa had a five-RBI afternoon--highlighted by a three-run homer--as the Pacific League-leading Leos romped to a 10-3 interleague win over the defending Japan Series champions.

"I seemed to allow guys on base nearly every inning I was out there, but Hosokawa's hitting was really big for us," said Hoashi, who threw 123 pitches as he struck out three and walked three. "He also called a great game behind the plate, so I'd like to thank him for everything he did today."

Relievers Hsu Ming-chie and Atsushi Okamoto combined to hold the Dragons to two runs on five hits over the final three innings.

Hosokawa connected for a three-run homer to left off Dragons starter Kenichi Nakata in the fourth, his eighth HR of 2008, and smacked a two-run single up the middle an inning later off reliever Susumu Kawai to make it 9-0, essentially putting it out of reach.

The Lions teed off on Nakata in the five-run fourth, with Takeya Nakamura belting a one-out, bases-loaded two-run single to left to open the scoring shortly before Hosokawa went yard.

Chunichi skipper Hiromitsu Ochiai brought in Kawai for the fifth, but the Lions once again erupted for a five-run inning as they bat around. With runners in scoring position, DH Craig Brazell singled through a drawn-in infield to score a run and another run came home when Dragons third-baseman Tomas De La Rosa couldn't handle a hot grounder off the bat of G.G. Sato. Hosokawa later lined his two-run run single to center and De La Rosa also figured in the Lions' 10th run when he jumped out of the way to avoid a chunk of broken bat, allowing the ball to roll into left field for an RBI single for Yasuyuki Kataoka.

Kazuhiro Wada, De La Rosa and pinch-hitter Kazuki Inoue each drove in a run for Chunichi.

Nakata (4-4) took the loss, giving up five runs on five hits in four innings.

Eighteen-year-old rookie Kazuyuki Akasaka made his pro debut for the Dragons, pitching a hitless eighth inning in which he gave up a walk.

Seibu manager Hisanobu Watanabe echoed the sentiments of his starter after the game.

"With all those (Chunichi) runners getting on base, it was tough for him, but he battled through it," Watanabe said of Hoashi's outing. "I'm sure he's really tired mentally and physically right now. We'd lost our last two in a row (3-1 to the Carp and 4-3 to the Dragons on Saturday) so we really needed Hoashi to come through for us today. We got that big lead so we were also able to get some of the guys from the bullpen into the game."

The surprising Lions, who finished fifth in the PL last season with a 66-76-2 record, have ridden some hot hitting and solid starting pitching to the top of the standings this year. Sunday's result makes them 34-21-1 on the season and 5-5 against Central League clubs.

The Dragons are now 28-22-3 overall and 4-6 in interleague play.

(IHT/Asahi: June 2,2008)


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