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Hawks rebound from career-worst start to win series

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Hawks rebound from career-worst start to win series

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He's thrown the second-most innings against the Chiba Lotte Marines among all the opponents he's faced, but Toshiya Sugiuchi's efforts against the Chiba Lotte Marines have been ugly, to say the least.

Despite being 4-0 against Lotte going into this game, Sugiuchi's ERA wasn't exactly good. It only got worse as the Hawks lefty put up the worst start of his career. In just three and two-thirds innings, Sugiuchi (L, 15-6, 3.39) gave up a whopping nine runs on six hits. Even more shocking was that his usually-good control was simply not there, as he walked six and hit a batter to go with five strikeouts.

Despite the awful start, the Hawks bullpen once again kept the game close, as Sugiuchi's teammates mounted a rally, but it fell short in the 9-6 loss that put the Hawks and Marines in a flat-footed tie once again.

Five of the Marines' nine runs came in the first inning, as Sugiuchi gave up a single to begin the game, hit former teammate Iguchi, walked Kim Tae-kyun, and then surrendered an oshidashi to Fukuura. Imae then lifted a sacrifice fly and Ohmatsu hit a three-run home run (16).

The other four runs came in the fourth. A single and two walks loaded the bases, and two more oshidashi to Kim and Fukuura gave the Marines a 7-0 lead. Sugiuchi's day was done with two down in the inning, as he gave way to Fujioka. After Imae hit a two-run single, Fujioka got Ohmatsu down on strikes to end the inning and Lotte's scoring for the day.

Against Lotte starter Yuji Yoshimi (W, 6-5, 5.53), who had little trouble through the first three innings, SoftBank finally answered back in the bottom of the fourth, with the game seemingly out of reach. Petagine lifted a sacrifice fly to score Matsuda and cut Lotte's lead to 9-1.

In the bottom of the 6th, the Hawks added some more with an RBI single from Kokubo and a two-run shot from Tamura (22). All of a sudden, there was life in Yahoo! Dome at 9-4.

They would inch ever closer against Takuya Furuya with two more runs off him. Furuya loaded the bases, and then gave way to one-time Major Leaguer, Yasuhiko Yabuta. Lotte traded a run for an out with a Matsuda groundout, but Yabuta walked Kokubo to reload the bases. Tamura legged out an infield hit to keep the bases loaded and run the score to 9-6, but that was as close as SoftBank would get.

Shingo Ono snuffed out the rally, and born-again closer Hiroyuki Kobayashi worked around a walk to slam the door on the Hawks for his 25th save.

The rubber game in the series turned out to be an exciting pitcher's duel between hard-luck Kenji Ohtonari against new American import Hayden Penn.

Lotte struck first in the first inning as Kim doubled in Nishioka who had walked and stole second. However, that was all Lotte could get off of Ohtonari (W, 3-8, 4.60), as he was solid over five-plus innings, giving up only the one run on three hits, with six strikeouts and two walks.

When it was looking like the Hawks were once again not going to score anything to back up Ohtonari, they scored two in the fourth that proved to be all the cushion they would need. Honda led off the fourth with a triple, and after Matsuda beat out an infield single, Kokubo hit an RBI single that tied the game and gave the Hawks the same situation: first and third. Tamura then legged out an infield single of his own to score Matsuda for a 2-1 lead.

That was all for offense on this day, as the Hawks and Marines settled into a battle of the bullpens. Penn was very good in his six and two-thirds innings, giving up the two runs on nine hits, with four strikeouts and two walks.

The Marines sent Furuya and Yabuta to the mound, and each worked two-thirds of an inning with Yabuta working a clean inning, and Furuya giving up a hit, but striking out two and also getting a strike out-throw out double play.

SoftBank sent Morifuku, Settsu, Falkenborg, and Mahara to the mound to great effect once again. Morifuku seems to finally be coming of age as he worked around a hit and struck out two. SBM then contributed with three strikeouts and a hit, even though Mahara wiggled out of what little trouble he had in the 9th for his 28th save.

The Hawks now stand half a game ahead of Seibu for second place and a full game ahead of Lotte for third. However, the Hawks have three games coming up against the dreaded Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. DJ Houlton (7-6, 5.90) gets the start tomorrow against Bobby Keppel (12-6, 3.44).
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