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John E. Gibson

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Kishi keeps consistency for erratic Lions

by John E. Gibson (May 22, 2009)

Every time a pitcher takes the mound he expects to win. Every time right-hander Takayuki Kishi takes the mound, he seems to be able to win.

The third-year Saitama Seibu Lions hurler has won 12 straight regular-season decisions since last July 5. His 6-0 record this season has him tied with Rakuten's Masahiro Tanaka for the Pacific League lead in wins.

His lone loss over that span came in Game 2 of the second stage of the PL Climax Series against Nippon Ham when he allowed five runs in four innings.

"I just go out and try to create a good rhythm for the team and pitch to win," the 1.80-meter, 68-kilogram Kishi told The Daily Yomiuri on Wednesday at Seibu Dome.

"I think that has led to good results."

His numbers aren't spectacular--37 strikeouts in 51-2/3 innings and a 2.96 ERA--but Kishi is an obvious winner.

He stepped into the spotlight in the last year's postseason. Bouncing back from his beating in the PLCS, he tossed an impressive 147-pitch four-hit shutout against the Yomiuri Giants in Game 4 of the Japan Series. He followed that up with a 91-pitch, 5-2/3-inning scoreless effort out the bullpen on two days' rest in Game 6 to earn the win and the Series MVP award as the Lions won the championship.

But Kishi is content to be a right-hand man. He defers to Hideaki Wakui, a fifth-year pro who wears the label as the club's top starter.

"Wakui is our ace and I don't think about being the No. 1 pitcher on our club," Kishi said.

The Miyagi Prefecture native, though, said Wakui's absence during last summer's Beijing Olympics made him change his mental approach.

"Wakui was gone for the Olympics and because of him being out, I just felt different," Kishi said.

"I have no idea what it was that changed. But I also was able to straighten out my form and was able to execute better."

Coming off his Series heroics, his confidence is also high this season. And if Kishi wins his next decision, he'll tie Yoshitaka Katori's club record for consecutive victories at 13.

Kishi, though, said the streak is the last thing on his mind when he's pitching.

"I don't care how I do as long as we win the game," he said of his starts. "I just go out and try to do my job as a starter and hopefully we can come away with a victory."

The Lions, though, haven't tasted victory as much as defeat. They are at 19-21 and haven't looked like the ball-bashing team that won the Series last year.

"By no means do I expect this to continue for us," Kishi said emphatically.

"The pitching and the hitting will start to mesh and we'll get over .500."

They won't with games like Tuesday's loss, in which Kishi left the mound in the eighth inning with a two-run lead that the bullpen couldn't hold. A wild pitch, a sacrifice fly and a two-run homer later and Kishi's victory had been erased in what ended up a 7-5 loss.

And there's no date set for the return of injured closer Alex Graman, who was deactivated after blowing a save on May 8 against SoftBank.

That's bad news for the Lions, who have allowed the third-most runs in the PL. They resume interleague play by hosting the Yokohama BayStars tonight at 6 p.m.


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