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Kiyohara grabs Lions' spotlight

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Kiyohara grabs Lions' spotlight

by Jim Allen (Sep 29, 2008)

Things could hardly get more curious.

The new Pacific League champion Saitama Seibu Lions returned home and celebrated with their fans following the team's sixth straight loss in a game in which a former Lion stole the show by striking out.

Before a crowd of 33,229 at Seibu Dome, the Lions lost 7-2 to the second-place Orix Buffaloes, who snapped a two-game skid to move a game ahead of the third-place Chiba Lotte Marines.

Satoshi Komatsu (15-3), who allowed five hits and a walk over the distance, said he just tried to block out the club's indifferent results of late.

"I just forgot about the way we've been playing said Komatsu, who struck out eight but gave up a first-inning run on two singles and a walk.

"I have to admit I was a little tight, though. There's no excuse for giving up the first run. All I could do was bear down and remember how well our batters have been swinging."

Although the bats didn't show any life in the first three innings against Matt Kinney (2-4), Tomotaka Sakaguchi sparked the offense in the fourth. The leadoff man bunted his way on, went to third on an error and scored on a Tuffy Rhodes single.

Sakaguchi pushed the Buffaloes ahead in the fifth inning with a squeeze bunt single. He plated another run with another squeeze in the middle of Orix's three-run sixth.

"I'd been thinking of doing something like that for a while with him," said Orix manager Daijiro Oishi. "With his [Kinney's] fastball so good, I thought this might be the right time to do it."

But the bulk of the excitement, however, was reserved for retiring slugger and former Seibu star Kazuhiro Kiyohara, who brought the house down when he came on deck as the seventh inning ended.

The 41-year-old, who has 2,121 career hits--among them 525 home runs--brought the crowd to its feet by leading off the eighth. After four pitches, Kiyohara struck out for the 2,003rd time before doffing his helmet to the appreciative crowd.

The Lions took the lead in the first when Takumi Kuriyama singled with one out and scored from second on Takeya Nakamura's two-out single.

The Buffaloes jumped in front after Keiji Obiki and Hiroyuki Oze singled with one out in the fifth. After Sakaguchi's bunt single plated one run, a double steal allowed both runners to score on a single by Alex Cabrera.

Oze doubled in a run in the sixth off Koji Mitsui. After Sakaguchi completed his bunt hat trick, Oze scored Orix's final run on a Shinji Shimoyama double.

"I didn't run more to try and shake things up," Oishi said. "This is how we play our best ball."

Long after the Buffaloes walked off winners, the Lions did a lap of honor with the PL pennant before completing the afternoon with retirement ceremony for second baseman Hiroyuki Takagi, who is completing his 14th season.

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