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Hatakeyama's 5 RBIs help Swallows batter 'Stars

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Hatakeyama's 5 RBIs help Swallows batter 'Stars

by Jim Allen (Sep 1, 2008)

Tokyo Yakult's atypical cleanup hitter Kazuhiro Hatakeyama went 4-for-6 with a home run and five RBIs as the BayStars imploded at Yokohama Stadium on Sunday night.

Hatakeyama blasted a three-run, first-inning homer and lefty Masanori Ishikawa worked seven innings as the Swallows laid a 17-5 cataclysm on last-place Yokohama.

"I was lucky that I had so many runners on base in front of me," said Hatakeyama, who had a career night.

"I felt this was a good chance for us, so I wanted to be aggressive. Never had four hits, never had five RBIs either."

The stocky right-handed-hitter, who was taken out of high school in the fifth round of the 2000 draft, had hit for average in the minors but without much power. Hatakeyama had hit well in various roles all spring, but manager Shigeru Takada still raised eyebrows when he stuck the 25-year-old into the cleanup spot on May 18 at Koshien Stadium.

"I've been working on my form, doing small things with my stance that make me more relaxed," said Hatakeyama, who raised his average to .301. "If I can keep it above .300, that will be a plus for the team."

On Sunday, Hatakeyama took big swings at fat pitches and battled until he got pitches he could handle.

Although his homer came on a 1-0 pitch, he singled in a run on the 10th pitch from BayStars starter Kentaro Kuwahara (3-5) in the third. He saw 12 more pitches over his next two at-bats, which resulted in a single and a double.

Hatakeyama, who has two triples this season, denied thinking about hitting for the cycle in his last two trips to the plate.

"It isn't going to happen,--never," he said. "OK. I might hit a triple, but there's no way I'm thinking it. I was looking for a home run, though."

Ishikawa (9-9) allowed four solo home runs in seven innings but no other hits or walks, giving the BayStars no chance to catch up.

Ishikawa, who typically gets lots of ground balls, was better than he needed to be. He recorded 10 groundouts, and most balls hit in the air against him were popped up. The lefty started to tire near the end of his 92-pitch stint as the BayStars began to hit the ball in the air.

The BayStars plummeted out of the game in the fifth inning, immediately after Hatakeyama's fifth RBI made the Yakult lead 5-2.

Third baseman Shuichi Murata gave the BayStars a chance for a double play in the frame, but when the runner at first reached, the hosts fell apart. With runners on the corners, Murata grabbed a grounder and fired home, but catcher Ryoji Aikawa played it as if there was a force at the play.

He made no tag as a run scored, no out was recorded and the Swallows crossed the plate six times in the inning.

BayStars manager Akihiko Oya, who sent Saturday night's failed starter Futoshi Kobayashi back to the mound for two innings of mediocre relief, said: "I don't ever want to get used to this kind of lousy game."

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