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John E. Gibson

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Hasebe provides pitching as Eagles top Lions

by John E. Gibson (Jul 17, 2009)

The Rakuten Eagles proved they can shoot down anyone when well-armed.

Kohei Hasabe won his first decision since June 17, tormenting the reigning Japan Series champions over six-plus innings in a 3-1 win on Thursday in front of 14,471 at Seibu Dome.

Rakuten's recent eight-game slide featured a massive pitching slump. Hasebe (5-7), though, gave the Eagles a quality start, the offense got the lead and the bullpen was perfect over three innings.

New leadoff man Todd Linden smacked his second homer and Takeshi Yamasaki cracked his 17th for a first-inning lead that proved to be the difference as Rakuten's arms dominated.

Koji Aoyama got Hasebe out of a two-on, none-out jam in the seventh, Kanehisa Arime worked a 1-2-3 eighth and Kazuo Fukumori got the side in order for his first save since returning to the club in June after spending one-plus years in the Texas Rangers organization.

"I was worried about Hasebe--he seems to have trouble at the start of games. But he got off to a good start," said Rakuten skipper Katsuya Nomura, who added that while his bullpen looked sharp, he wasn't exactly stress-free while watching it work.

"If you're the manager, you can't sit back and relax when you watch your team. Until it's over, until that last out, you can't relax no matter what the score is," said Nomura, whose team won its first series in five matchups.

Hasebe said he wasn't perfect and still has some adjustments to make.

"I felt like my arm was coming through well and I really tried to get off to a good start," said Hasebe, who went six-plus innings, allowing five hits and a walk, while fanning five.

"In the seventh inning, I tried to get a strike early like I had been doing and gave up a hit. I'll have to figure that out."

Seibu starter Fumiya Nishiguchi got himself in trouble by falling behind in the count twice in the first inning. He was soon behind on the scoreboard.

Linden, who joined the Eagles in June, took him deep, opening the game by pounding a 3-1 pitch into the seats in right. One out later, Yamasaki blasted a solo shot, also in a 3-1 count, and Rakuten had a 2-0 lead.

"The first inning was everything," said Nishiguchi (3-3).

Nomura said he's not sure Linden should be in the leadoff spot, but he is happy with the new addition's production.

"He gets a hit in every game," Nomura said. "I considered putting him in the heart of the order, but no one really seemed to be in favor of that," he said.

Hiroyuki Nakajima's fourth-inning homer, his 14th of the season, cut the Eagles' lead to 2-1.

Hasebe benefitted from good defense behind him. In the fourth inning, Norihiro Nakamura made a fine stop on a ball hugging the third-base line and fired across the diamond to retire Akira Eto.

After Ginjiro Sumitani's sixth inning, leadoff single Teppei Tsuchiya raced in on a liner, made the catch and fired to first. First baseman Fernando Seguignol made an error-saving, short-hop scoop to double off Sumitani.

The Eagles added a run in the sixth. Tsuchiya singled and stole second before Daisuke Kusano drove him in with a single down the right-field line.


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