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Eye of the Lion / More selective about his pitches, Seibu's Brown belts 2 HRs in rout of Dragons

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Eye of the Lion / More selective about his pitches, Seibu's Brown belts 2 HRs in rout of Dragons

by Jim Allen (May 23, 2010)

Dee Brown saw things clearly on Saturday, and it made a difference.

Brown homered twice and drove in four runs in support of lefty Kazuyuki Hoashi as the Pacific League-leading Saitama Seibu Lions thrashed the Chunichi Dragons 8-0 in interleague play at Seibu Dome.

Brown's three-run homer in the third inning gave the Hoashi a solid lead against Kenichi Nakata (0-1), who was making just his third start of the season.

A sacrifice fly by the Lions' Takeya Nakamura opened the scoring in the third and left runners on the corners for Brown with one out.

Brown took a pair of low forkballs to run the count full and then drove a hanging slider over the center-field fence for his ninth home run.

"Brown has a good eye. Those pitches were ones he's likely to miss and he took them," Lions manager Hisanobu Watanabe said.

Brown himself, who was hitting just .223, said it was more a case being in the right place at the right time.

"He [Nakata] was one of the very few pitchers I've seen really well this season," said Brown, who has made Hoashi one of his prime beneficiaries.

Five of Brown's 10 homers have come in the southpaw's starts.

Hoashi (6-2), who went 7-2/3 innings, allowed five hits and three walks, while hitting a batter and striking out a season-high nine.

"The strikeouts just kind of happened," said Hoashi.

Normally a groundball pitcher, Hoashi got half his outs in the air and struck out four batters in a row in one stretch.

"Normally, when Hoashi is pitching well, he mostly gives up infield hits, but today we didn't see that," Watanabe said.

"He said he wasn't going to do anything differently for interleague, the lack of groundballs was probably the result of our opponents' studying him and not playing to his strength."

Hoashi improved to 4-1 in his career against the Dragons, while lowering his PL-best ERA to 1.30.

"I don't have any negative image about facing them," he said. "Nothing was all that different except for throwing a few more curves. [Catcher Toru] Hosokawa told me it was working really well and so from the fifth inning on, I warmed up before each inning just using the curveball."

Nakata, coming off a muscle tear suffered in spring training, had little command. In the third inning, it caught up with him.

Yutaro Osaki, the Lions' No. 9 hitter, saw some high fastballs and singled up the middle. Nakata then compounded his poor control with poor judgment and the game got away.

With Osaki on first, Nakata fielded a bunt by Yasuyuki Kataoka. The pitcher looked to second and had a clear chance. Instead, he hesitated before throwing to first, where the fleet Kataoka was safe with a single.

The runners advanced when Takumi Kuriyama grounded to first, and Nakata walked Hiroyuki Nakajima on five pitches.

Nakamura mishit a 1-0 fastball up in the zone but still drove it far enough for the runners on second and third to advance and give the Lions a 1-0 lead. Brown followed with his three-run shot and Hoashi faced only two more threats.

"It's been a long time since we've got any real run support," Watanabe said. "Hoashi was not as good as he can be, but he worked very comfortably once he had that lead."

In other games Saturday afternoon, Tsuyoshi Nishioka went 5-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs as the Chiba Lotte Marines bashed the hapless Tokyo Yakult Swallows 20-4 at Chiba Marine Stadium.

Yuji Yoshimi, purchased recently from the Yokohama BayStars, allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings in his debut for Lotte. He got more than enough support when the Marines exploded for 13-0 lead after three innings.

In Fukuoka, injury-plagued Hawks slugger Nobuhiko Matsunaka returned to the starting lineup for the first time since April 28 and singled in a run as SoftBank beat the Hiroshima Carp 7-4.

Jose Ortiz's two-run, third-inning homer broke a 1-1 tie, and Tsuyoshi Wada (6-3) won his 15th career interleague game despite allowing four runs in six innings.

Ortiz's home run was his PL-leading 15th.

In Kobe, Aarom Baldiris' sixth-inning leadoff homer broke a 3-3 tie as the Orix Buffaloes beat the Hanshin Tigers 5-3.

Matt Murton led off the game with a homer off Orix right-hander Hiroshi Kisanuki (4-5), while the Tigers' Craig Brazell hit his Central League-leading 15th homer.

In other Japanese baseball news:

--The Hawks have reached into their past to improve their overseas scouting.

On Saturday, the team named former closer Matt Skrmetta and Kent Blasingame as their American scouts.

Blasingame, who has scouted for the Colorado Rockies, is the son of former Nankai Hawks and Hanshin Tigers manager Don Blasingame.

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