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John E. Gibson

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Swallows settle score with Fighters

by John E. Gibson (Jun 5, 2011)

The fuss over the Nippon Ham pitchers' scoreless streak was over by the third inning Saturday. Yakult settled the score six frames later.

Kazuhiro Hatakeyama's RBI single, one of his three hits that included a solo homer, sparked a three-run rally as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows battled to a 5-1 interleague win and ended Hokkaido Nippon Ham's scoreless innings string at 52. The win also denied the Fighters' bid for a sixth straight shutout.

Both tied Japan pro baseball marks, but the Swallows got the victory before 26,559 at Jingu Stadium.

Nippon Ham's fifth-year starter Mitsuo Yoshikawa, who began the shutout streak with 6-2/2 scoreless innings on May 28, couldn't keep the Swallows off the scoreboard. When asked about the blowing the consecutive scoreless innings streak, Yoshikawa was indifferent.

"I was just going after them one batter at a time. I wasn't really worried about that," the lefty said.

Yoshikawa surrendered four runs on eight hits and four walks over four innings, leaving the Fighters tied with the 1942 Hanshin Tigers for most scoreless innings pitched by a team.

"The streak started with him and it ended with him," said Nippon Ham skipper Masataka Nashida.

"I'm sure he was feeling a lot of pressure. Having the string stopped is OK, but it'd been better if it had been just one run. That would have kept it more of a game, but three runs hurt us."

Masanori Ishikawa (4-2) limited Nippon Ham, second in the Pacific League, to a lone second-inning run, allowing six hits and three walks, while fanning six over seven innings for the Central League leaders.

"I gave up the first run of the game, but the lineup did a great job of getting us the lead, so I was able to regroup, hit my spots and battle through," Ishikawa said.

Hiroyasu Tanaka opened the third with a single to center. He scored on Hatakeyama's first hit and Wladimir Balentien followed with an RBI single off the wall in left.

Ishikawa helped his own cause by drawing a bases-loaded walk after an intentional pass to cap Yakult's biggest inning since it scored three runs in the fourth inning of a 6-4 win over the Yokohama BayStars on May 13.

The Swallows had a golden opportunity to snap Nippon Ham's string in the second inning. Ishikawa bounced a high chopper--generously scored an infield single--to load the bases with two down.

Norichika Aoki followed with another bouncer that Yuji Iiyama fielded at third and had no shot to get Aoki at first. He went the short route, firing to second to get the forceout on a bang-bang play to get Ishikawa and end the inning.

Elsewhere, Hiroki Kokubo broke a scoreless tie with an RBI single in the top of the ninth and Toshiya Sugiuchi (3-2) allowed two hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts over eight shutout innings as the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks blanked the Hanshin Tigers 2-0 at Koshien Stadium.

Hitoshi Tamura followed Kokubo with an RBI double for the Hawks, who lead interleague play with an 11-1-2 mark.

At Mazda Stadium, Takahiro Okada capped a four-run second inning with a two-run single as the Orix Buffaloes topped Hiroshima 5-2, sending the Carp to their eighth straight loss--their longest skid since August 2004.

The loss came a day after the Carp set a CL record for most consecutive innings without scoring a run (50) in dropping a 6-3 decision to Orix.

At Yokohama Stadium, Kim Tae Kyun slugged a three-run homer--his first longball since last Sept. 18--in the ninth inning off Shun Yamaguchi (1-1) as the Chiba Lotte Marines rallied to shock the Yokohama BayStars 6-5 and snap a four-game skid.

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Prince has rehab outing

Nippon Ham rookie Yuki Saito, nicknamed the "Handkerchief Prince," allowed two runs on two hits over two innings against Yokohama in an Eastern League rehab appearance on Saturday.

The righty, who left his May 8 start because of a left oblique injury, is slated to return to the first team at the end of the month.


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