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Tigers leave Lions flailing

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Tigers leave Lions flailing

by John E. Gibson (Jun 12, 2008)

On a moderately warm night there was a light breeze blowing through Seibu Dome. Unfortunately for Seibu fans, some of the wind came because the Lions were swinging at air.

Keiji Uezono struck out nine over five innings, and Hanshin pitchers combined to fan 16 Lions--including every starter at least once--en route to a 6-4 win in front of 32,383 mostly Hanshin fans in interleague action on Wednesday.

Takahiro Arai went 3-for-4 with a walk and a run scored, and Tomoaki Kanemoto was 1-for-3 with an RBI to lead a 13-hit attack as Hanshin earned its sixth straight victory, its longest winning streak of the season.

The Pacific League-leading Lions tried to mount a comeback, but Hanshin's vaunted bullpen made the difference.

The Central League's front-running Tigers used Ryo Watanabe in the sixth and went to the "JFK" trio of Tomoyuki Kubota, Jeff Williams and closer Kyuji Fujikawa to close it out, giving Hanshin the best record in interleague play (12-5).

Kubota was the only one to allow a run over the final four frames, with Fujikawa striking out the side to nail down his 23rd save and preserve it for Uezono (2-0). The win lifted the Tigers 22 games over .500, their high-water mark since winning the 2003 pennant.

"Uezono did a good job--he went five innings and that was enough," Hanshin skipper Akinobu Okada said of his righty, who escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the first inning.

"He stood in there and fought to get out of the first inning. But his pitch count went high. I would have liked to have seen him go longer, but our bullpen was ready."

The Tigers got a big insurance run in the eighth inning when pinch-hitter Shinjiro Hiyama tripled in the game's final run and improved to 11-for-23 as a pinch-hitter this season.

"I wonder myself what's going on here," Hiyama joked. "[Ikuro] Katsuragi singled to start the inning and I just wanted to do what I could to get him around."

The Lions turned to seldom-used Mitsunobu Takahashi in the DH role and he performed well in his only at-bat. His clutch double over Hiram Bocachica's head in left plated two runs in the first.

The Lions loaded the bases with none out in their half of the first. A pair of infield hits and a hit batsman set the table for cleanup man Craig Brazell.

But Uezono got the PL home run leader to swing through a forkball out of the zone, and fanned G.G. Sato and Takeya Nakamura to wriggle out of the jam.

Lew Ford, who came in batting .216, inside-outed a ball that carried over the fence in right for his second longball of the season and a 3-0 cushion.

Kanemoto lined a comebacker off Seibu starter Kazuhisa Ishii in the third inning and knocked the Lions lefty out of the game.

Ishii, who suffered a fractured skull and a concussion when hit in the head by a comebacker while with the Los Angeles Dodgers in September, 2002, went hopping off the field on one leg after a taking a liner off his right foot that ricocheted and popped him on the left shin.

X-rays were negative, but Ishii (7-3) got saddled with the loss after just 2-2/3 innings and 58 pitches.

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