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John E. Gibson

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Lions survive swooping Eagles

by John E. Gibson (Aug 29, 2008)

Thunder and lightning weren't only in the background as the Saitama Seibu Lions battled past the Rakuten Eagles on Thursday.

The power-laden Lions made some noise of on the field, cracking three home runs en route to a 5-4 win in front of 16,555 at Seibu Dome.

Hiram Bocachica hit a pair of solo shots, and Olympian Hiroyuki Nakajima had the other longball as the Pacific League's first-place team powered its way to a win in the rubber game of a three-game set with Rakuten.

The Lions had to hold off a ninth-inning rally in which the Eagles loaded the bases for last year's top home run hitter Takeshi Yamasaki. But closer Alex Graman locked it down for the victory--and his 25th save--to lift the Lions to a season-best-tying 18 games over .500.

"We weren't sharp late in the game; we were all over the place. But we got it done somehow," Seibu manager Hisanobu Watanabe said.

"Bocachica really came through for us tonight. The second homer was a good piece of hitting. He took a high pitch and drove it out."

Fumiya Nishiguchi (7-5) allowed seven hits and a walk, but limited the Eagles to two runs over 6-2/3 innings to get the victory.

"I felt a little lethargic out there tonight, but I was able to hit my spots and I'm happy with the result," Nishiguchi said. "The lineup did a good job of getting me some runs to work with."

The Lions wasted little time getting to third-year righty Hisashi Kitani (0-1), making his first pro start.

Nakajima touched him up for a line-drive home run to left, his 19th of the season, with two down in the first inning for a 1-0 Seibu lead.

The Eagles came back to square the game in the top of the third. Teppei Tsuchiya doubled to open the frame and after a sacrifice bunt, trotted home on rookie No. 9 batter Ryo Hijirisawa's RBI single to right.

But the Lions took the lead right back in the bottom of the inning. Bocachica connected off Kitani, tying Nakajima with his 19th homer.

Seibu used an old-fashioned rally for its third run. Craig Brazell led off the fourth inning off with a double, and two outs and a hit batter later, he strolled home on Toru Hosokawa's bloop single to right.

Takumi Kuriyama knocked in Yasuyuki Kataoka in the fifth with a double to make it 4-1 Seibu. But the Eagles came back with a run in the seventh, Hijirisawa coming home on Naoto Watanabe's triple into the right-field corner to cut the Lions' lead to 4-2. Bocachica, though, slugged his second of the game, a leadoff blast, to restore the three-run cushion in the bottom of the frame.


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