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Sugiuchi reflects on costly mistake

by Kaz Nagatsuka

An ace pitcher is expected to lead his team to victory any time.

But Toshiya Sugiuchi could only regret the outcome of the Softbank Hawks’ first game of the Pacific League Climax Series final stage against the Chiba Lotte Marines at Yahoo Dome on Thursday night.

The 29-year-old lefty allowed three runs on a three-run home run to Chiba’s Shoitsu Omatsu in the second inning in Softbank’s 1-3 loss.

“My pitches were too high and I had a tough time overall,” said Sugiuchi, who gave up six hits and five walks in 6 1/3 innings. “But it doesn’t matter. No matter how many runs I gave up, I tried to give a performance that would bring a win to the team.”

Sugiuchi recalled the scoring play for the Marines in the second frame. The visitors had two runners on bases with no outs.

“Omatsu did it,” said Sugiuchi, who is now 1-4 in postseasons. “I threw thinking it’d be OK to allow a run in that situation. But it turned out to be a home run. It was my mistake.”

The final stage will be played up to six games with no days off. Sugiuchi, a 16-game winner in the regular season, could start once again with four days rest, or be in the bullpen to come out as a reliever in Game 6.

The Hawks coaching staff, including manager Koji Akiyama, has not clarified Sugiuchi’s status yet.

“I’ve not been told anything yet,” Sugiuchi said. “But I’m just going to tune up the best I can.”

Bosses in the house: Hawks owner Masayoshi Son and chairman Sadaharu Oh were in attendance for Game 1.

Softbank had been 22-10 with a .688 winning percentage when Son came to the team’s home field. But he wasn’t able to bring luck this time around as the Hawks fell to Chiba Lotte.

Son said that he wants to visit the dome in the final stage to root for his team as much as possible.

“I’ll be here tomorrow, too,” he said.

Not doing anything fancy: Saturday’s projected starter for Softbank, D.J. Houlton, said before Friday’s Game 2 that he is not going to do anything special to prepare for his turn the following day, even though it is a significant postseason game.

“Yeah, of course it’s different (from the regular season),” the right-hander said. “But I want to treat it like it’s a regular-season game and not get too excited.”

Houlton said that being able to play at home surrounded by the enthusiastic Hawks fans definitely calms his nerves.

“Thanks to be here,” he said. “It’s more comfortable with our crowd, instead of being somewhere else.”