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John E. Gibson

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Lions eat up Hirano, rout Buffs

by John E. Gibson (Apr 10, 2009)

A bad elbow kept Orix Buffaloes hurler Yoshihisa Hirano off the mound for more than a year. A bad outing kept him from enjoying his return on Thursday night.

The Saitama Seibu Lions made up for a lack of offense the night before, bashing 17 hits en route to a 13-6 rout in front of 9,813 at Seibu Dome.

After the reigning Japan Series champs had just three hits in Wednesday's loss to the Buffaloes, they beat Hirano senseless in the rubber game of a three-game set. Seibu pounded the fourth-year right-hander for nine runs on 11 hits over 2-1/3 innings, sending nine men to the plate twice in the first three innings.

Last year's Pacific League home run king Takeya Nakamura hit Hirano the hardest, going 3-for-3 with a double, a homer and three RBIs as the Lions won their second first series.

"We wanted to win this series after losing at Chiba and I'm glad we were able to do it," said Seibu skipper Hisanobu Watanabe, who also praised his cleanup man.

"We want to have Nakamura in the fourth spot all season, and if you look at the way he's hitting the ball right now, he's doing exactly what we need in that spot."

Toru Hosokawa had three hits, as did former Yomiuri outfielder Takayuki Shimizu, who added his first homer with the Lions after spending 13 seasons with the Giants.

Hirano had little to say about his effort.

"At times I couldn't get it together, but... I'm just sorry I let the team down," said Hirano, who had his elbow rebuilt last year and hadn't pitched since Sept. 30, 2007.

Nakamura opened the scoring with a two-run double in the first inning, and G.G. Sato and Hosokawa had RBI first-inning singles that gave Seibu a quick 4-0 lead.

Yasuyuki Kataoka opened the second inning by rifling a solo blast on a line over the fence in left-center for a 5-0 advantage.

Takumi Kuriyama also came up with his first hit of the season after 26 empty at-bats. Kuriyama, who led the league in hits last season, singled in the third to drive in a run, and added an RBI double in the seventh.

Fifteen-year righty Fumiya Nishiguchi was the beneficiary of the offensive outburst. He lasted six innings, allowing five runs on nine hits--three of them homers--and a walk, while striking out five for his 160th career win.


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