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Muddied milestone …

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Muddied milestone …

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Kokubo hits 400th longball, but Hawks crash land

Hiroki Kokubo’s 400th career home run landed safely over the fence, but the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks crash landed with a 2-1 loss to the visiting Orix Buffaloes in his milestone game.

Alfredo Figaro (1-2) earned his first win in Japan, and pinch-hitter Hirotoshi Kitagawa’s scoring fly ball broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh and as the Buffaloes won for just the fourth time this month.

Kokubo took a Figaro 0-1 slider deep to left in the fourth inning for his first longball since last Sept. 18, giving the Hawks a 1-0 lead. The veteran, in his 18h season, looked like a high school player at Koshien Stadium as he rounded the bases with a wide grin that failed to hide a smidgeon of relief.

But that was all the Hawks could put up and he was left with mixed emotions.

“We lost the game so at the moment, the biggest thing is feel frustration,” Kokubo said. “In that inning, I was so happy I forgot the number of outs. Of all my home runs, that one’s going to be a special one in my memory.”

Kokubo hit No. 399 last season and because he was homerless over his first 17 games, the milestone was weighing on his mind.

“I thought I was going to hit it last season,” Kokubo admitted. “I’m relived now, and -- I don’t have to hear the fuss about that anymore -- so I just want to focus on what I have to do help the team win a championship.”

Figaro, who put in his third straight quality start, scattered six hits and a walk over six innings, and the bullpen shut the Hawks down for the win.

First-year import Mike Hessman ripped his second homer in as many days -- a solo shot in the sixth inning to tie the score.



Norihito Kaneto (1-0) went 5.2 innings, allowing just three hits, two walks and a hit batter with three Ks to put a halt to Yokohama’s five-game winning streak with a win at Tokyo Dome.

It was Kaneko’s first win as a starter since July 2007, and he helped the Giants snap a three-game skid. Struggling slugger Michihiro Ogasawara was inserted at the top of the order for the first time as a Giant -- the first time in 10 years -- and he doubled and singled.


Kenji Jojima homered twice to lead three players with two RBIs each as Hanshin routed Hiroshima in the rain at Koshien Stadium.

Joijima’s night gave him 1,000 RBIs between Japan and the states. Tomoaki Kanemoto and Matt Murton also cracked solo homers for the Tigers, who snapped a three-game slide.

Two other games were rained out.

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