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Kishi quietly showing he is one of PL’s elite hurlers

by Jason Coskrey

Hokkaido Nippon Ham ace Yu Darvish and Tohoku Rakuten fireballer Masahiro Tanaka have — and deservedly so — dominated most of the headlines regarding Pacific League pitchers this season.

But while unassuming Seibu Lions pitcher Takayuki Kishi can’t compete in media attention, he’s more than holding his own in wins.

Kishi went 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs — one earned — on Monday against the Chunichi Dragons to win his seventh game of season, tying him with Darvish and Tanaka for the league high.

“Kishi pitched with patience today,” Lions manager Hisanobu Watanabe said during his postgame interview with the media.

Not that tying the league’s star pitchers in wins seemed that important to the 24-year-old, who admitted as much when questioned about the whereabouts of the winning ball.

“I threw it into the stands,” Kishi told Sports Nippon. “It wasn’t like it was a special game or anything.”

If Kishi keeps up his current pace there’ll be more special games and fewer balls flying into the stands during Lions games.

Largely overshadowed by staff ace Hideki Wakui (6-2, 2.51 ERA with three complete games), Kishi has toiled away far from the limelight afforded the more glamorous NPB hurlers.

Not to say the 24-year-old can’t handle the spotlight. After all, the only reason the Lions are the defending champions is because Kishi stepped onto Japanese baseball’s biggest stage against the NPB’s most popular team and delivered.

Facing the Yomiuri Giants in last year’s Japan Series, Kishi pitched 14 scoreless innings — including a 10-strikeout complete game shutout in Game 4 — en route to being named the Series MVP.

This year started with a bit of disappointment after Kishi failed to make Japan’s final roster for the World Baseball Classic in February.

That setback hasn’t done much to derail the rising star, who has gotten off to a more than solid start to the regular season.

Through Monday’s games, in addition to being tied for the league-high in wins, he was tied with Tanaka for the lead in winning percentage (.875), third in innings pitched (71 1/3), seventh in ERA (2.91) and ninth in strikeouts (56).

Kishi may not be taking the world by storm with Darvish and Tanaka’s eye-popping numbers, but he’s keeping up with Japan’s elite pitchers in wins, the category that really counts. Which will be key if the Lions want to be roaring deep into the fall.

Mauled: Fukuoka Softbank Hawks closer Takahiro Mahara is having a tough time taming the Hanshin Tigers.

Nursing a one-run lead, Mahara gave up a sayonara two-run single to Tomoaki Kanemoto on Sunday as the Hanshin Tigers rallied to beat the Hawks 4-2 at Koshien Stadium.

“I gave it up as a result of my ability,” Mahara told reporters. “That’s my ability . . . and I feel sorry.”

It wasn’t the first time this season Mahara had been victimized by the Tigers in the ninth.

Wei Lin Ju homered in the ninth against Mahara on May 19, a game which would eventually end in a 1-1 12-inning tie.

“It was too high,” Mahara was reported as saying about the pitch after that game. “My careless pitch. I just couldn’t match up with him equally.”

In all, the Softbank hurler has given up four runs to the Tigers in 3 1/3 innings, the last three of which have proven to be costly. Mahara has a 10.80 ERA against Hanshin.

Hawks starter Toshiya Sugiuchi can relate to his teammate’s pain. The left-hander was in line to earn victories in both of the games in which the Tigers rallied against Mahara.