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Kishi, Lions heed wakeup call

by Jim Allen (Jul 8, 2009)

Takayuki Kishi pitched like an All-Star on Tuesday. It just took three innings and some sharp words from his skipper to find his game.

Kishi gave up four early runs, but recovered to throw his first complete game this season and the Saitama Seibu Lions bounced back to beat the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 6-4 at Seibu Dome.

The 24-year-old, who was named by Lions and All-Star manager Hisanobu Watanabe to the Pacific League's team on Monday, was trailing 4-2 after three innings and on his way out of the game.

"He said I was blowing it and I knew I had to gut it out," Kishi said. "I don't remember his exact words."

Kishi got the message, allowing four base runners over the final six innings as he improved to 9-1. It was his third straight start in which he had allowed four or more runs. He gave up eight hits, including a pair of solo homers, walked two and struck out six.

The Lions tied it 2-2 in the bottom of the first on Yoshihito Ishii's bases-loaded double off Keisaku Itokazu (1-4).

A two-out single by Ginjiro Sumitani and a throwing error made it 4-4 in the fourth, and Japan longball leader Takeya Nakamura put the Lions up for good in the fifth with his 27th home run, a two-run shot.

Itokazu gave the Lions a pair of no-out, bases-loaded chances. Both times it appeared he might get out of jail free.

With the bags juiced and no outs in the first, Nakamura struck out looking.

"That was my being weak," Nakamura said. "On a full count, I was thinking I might walk in a run. What a waste."

Ishii, however, salvaged Seibu's inning by going the other way with a fly down the left-field line that plated two.

In the fourth, Itokazu turned a liner up the middle into a double play by catching the ball and then catching the runner out at third base. But Sumitani's line single and an unfortunate hop on a wicked throw from center fielder Yoshio Itoi combined to plate two runs.

"When the first man fails with no outs and the bases loaded, often you don't score at all," Watanabe said. "It puts a lot of pressure on the next batters. But Ishii and Ginjiro got the job done.

"That was big, but unless our pitcher is able to shut them down, it doesn't mean anything."

Itokazu, who won his first career game in his previous start, was charged with six runs, five earned in 4-1/3 innings. The right-hander surrendered five hits, issued three walks and hit a pair of batters.

Four Fighters pitchers combined to hit four Lions batters, the league's second highest total this season--five Seibu batters were plunked on May 15 in Chiba.

The visitors got off to a smoking start when Kensuke Tanaka doubled to open the game and scored on a sac fly by Atsunori Inaba. Cleanup man Shinji Takahashi followed with his fifth homer.

Yoshinori Sato, whose first career hit was a homer last season, homered in his first at-bat of 2009 to make it 3-2 in the second. In the third, Itoi walked, went to third on Inaba's run-and-hit single and scored on a sacrifice fly by Takahashi.

"I gave up two homers right off the bat, so they were hitting me pretty good," Kishi said.

Although the right-hander completed a game for the first time since last August, Watanabe didn't like anything about him at the start.

"He looked heavy," the skipper said. "His arm motion wasn't very good. I told him that if he kept going the way he was, he wouldn't be in the game much longer."


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