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Masubuchi brings 'Stars to earth

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Masubuchi brings 'Stars to earth

by Jim Allen (Apr 18, 2011)

The Swallows' Tatsuyoshi Masubuchi and Kazuhiro Hatakeyama lifted the Swallows to their first win of the season on Sunday afternoon at Jingu Stadium.

Masubuchi came within three outs of his first career shutout, and Hatakeyama continued to be the BayStars' worst nightmare as Tokyo Yakult beat first-place Yokohama 4-0 before 21,268. The Swallows, who blew a ninth-inning lead the day before, are just 1-3-1.

Masubuchi allowed one hit over eight innings, but dodged a bullet in the first, when he walked the bases loaded. He escaped trouble with the help of some good defense and a base-running mistake by the BayStars.

He struck out six and walked five, while Hatakeyama homered twice and drove in three runs.

"Hatakeyama often hits when I pitch, so before the game when I said I was starting today, he said he'd hit," said Masubuchi, who last won as a starter on July 19, 2008.

"I never thought it would actually happen that way."

Since 2006, Hatakeyama has hit .356 against the BayStars, .255 against everyone else combined. His second homer was the 31st of his career and his 10th against Yokohama.

"I am not really conscious of doing well against them, I was just concerned with today," he said. "This season, the batters hadn't been able to produce runs. When we did, the pitching fell apart."

The BayStars let Masubuchi off the hook in the first with some bad base running after he walked the bases loaded. With two outs, Takehiro Ishikawa took off from third when catcher Ryoji Aikawa failed to control a pitch. The ball rolled only far enough for Ishikawa to be caught halfway between third and home and run down for the final out.

When the pitcher returned to the bench, pitching coach Daisuke Araki told him to stop aiming and start pitching.

"He told me I was too timid and aiming too many pitches," Masubuchi said. "After that I started working in the zone much more.

"Getting through that inning without a run made me believe I could keep them from scoring."

He began locating in a 1-2-3 second, and Hatakeyama homered to lead off the second against lefty Shogo Yamamoto, who was making his Central League debut after joining Yokohama in a trade over the winter from Orix.

With a lead in hand, Masubuchi became confident and aggressive with his slider and sinker. The right-hander retired 15 straight batters before Terrmel Sledge's seventh-inning fly fell in for Yokohama's only hit.

The Swallows backed Masubuchi with solid defense. In the first inning, third baseman Shinya Miyamoto caught a tricky fly over his head with one on and one out.

"The fielders had my back," the pitcher said. "If Shinya doesn't make that catch, they probably score a run."

In the seventh, second baseman Hiroyasu Tanaka helped stop the 'Stars with a good sliding stop with two on and one out.

Hatakeyama made it 2-0 in the third with the third of three-straight two-out Swallows singles. After Norichika Aoki was caught stealing for the second out, Tanaka lined a single up the middle, winter signing Osamu Hamanaka singled Tanaka to third and Hatakeyama ripped a 1-1 fastball up the middle.

Hatakeyama led off the sixth with his second homer. The Swallows tacked on another run in the inning set up by singles from Aikawa and Wladimir Balentien.

Closer Lim Chang Yong, who blew the save in Saturday's 6-6 tie, retired Yokohama in order in the ninth to seal it.

In Hiroshima, rookie Yuya Fukui allowed two runs in seven innings for his first win as the Carp beat the Yomiuri Giants 4-3.

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