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John E. Gibson

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Lions let Carp off hook

by John E. Gibson (Jun 13, 2010)

If the Pacific League-leading Saitama Seibu Lions fail to win the interleague title, it'll be because they let the Fish off the hook.

The Hiroshima Carp put up a couple of three spots and right-hander Kan Otake won his first game since Oct. 10 as the Fish came back to bite the Lions 6-2 interleague play on Saturday at Seibu Dome.

Seibu, which entered the game tied with the Orix Buffaloes for first place in the interleague standings, led 2-0 after one inning but wasted numerous chances to bury the Central League's fourth-place team before a crowd of 31,618.

The Carp wiggled free and came from behind to take the lead on a two-run single by Akihiro Higashide in the fifth inning and padded their lead on homers by Shigenobu Shima and Yoshiyuki Ishihara in the seventh.

Now the Lions have to beat the Carp in today's finale against the CL and hope the Buffaloes, who topped the Yokohama BayStars to take a one-game lead in the standings, lose to claim their first interleague title. The team with the best finish last year wins a tiebreaker, and Seibu was 11-11-2 last season, while Orix was 8-16.

"We knew if we didn't win this game, even if we win tomorrow, [the interleague title] would be decided on what our opponents did," said Lions skipper Hisanobu Watanabe.

"In that respect, this was a game we had to figure out a way to win. I don't think there was any real pressure on us, but there was a different feel to the game than what we have experienced up to now."

Otake (1-0) wobbled through the first three frames--when the Lions stranded eight runners--but went six innings, allowing two runs on five hits, six walks and a hit batter. He fanned three.

"It wasn't pretty, but I somehow escaped the trouble," said Otake, who was making his second start after shoulder problems slowed the start of his season. No one was throwing in the bullpen that early and Otake said, "It was all on me."

Loser Kazuyuki Hoashi (6-5), the early season PL ERA leader, started out strong but got hit hard in the middle innings, allowing six runs.

The Carp used four hits to take the lead in the fifth inning, Tetsuya Kokubo plating the first run with a single before Higashide's base hit to left put Hiroshima on top 3-2.

Hoashi, who came in with six wins in day games, has lost three straight starts. He seemed to wither in the Saitama heat, giving up three runs in the fifth on four hits and getting knocked out after 6-2/3 innings, allowing two homers.

"He just wasn't able to battle," Watanabe said. "His pitches were up. He wasn't throwing like does when he's on his game."

But the skipper also pointed to the wasted opportunities.

"We did well getting the two runs, but after that we had scoring chances--albeit because of walks--and swung at pitches out of the strike zone to help [Otake] out."

Both teams were without their recently deactivated cleanup hitters. Seibu slugger Takeya Nakamura has a bad right elbow, and Hiroshima No. 4 man suffered a break in his right wrist when he was hit by a pitch on Thursday at Chiba.

The Lions don't have a time frame for Nakamura's return, while the Carp know Kurihara will be out at least a month.

At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Alex Cabrera smacked a three-run, third-inning homer, his first since May 13, and drove in four runs, and Takahiro Okada also had a three-run longball as the Orix Buffaloes topped the Yokohama BayStars 7-1.

The Buffaloes can win the interleague title with a victory today over the BayStars, who have lost eight straight.

At Kleenex Stadium Miyagi, Hiroyasu Tanaka broke a scoreless tie with a two-out infield RBI single and Aaron Guiel followed with a two-run hit to lift the Tokyo Yakult Swallows past the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles 4-1.

Lefty Masanori Ishikawa (2-7) allowed one run on 10 hits over seven innings for the win.

At Chiba Marine Stadium, righty Yasutomo Kubo (5-4) haunted his former club by holding Chiba Lotte to a run over eight innings as the Hanshin Tigers topped the Lotte Marines 4-2.

Craig Brazil moved into a tie for the CL lead in homers with his 18th, a bases-empty shot, and Kenji Jojima and Tomoaki Kanemoto also had solo blasts to back Kubo, who scattered five hits and a walk, while fanning six.

The Yomiuri Giants and Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and Chunichi Dragons played night games.


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