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Hawks relievers shine against Lions

Kyodo

Former National League All-Star Bryan LaHair drove in three runs, including two on a tie-breaking, sixth-inning single as the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks beat the Pacific League-leading Seibu Lions 7-5 on Thursday at Yafuoku Dome.

The Lions overcame a two-run deficit in the fourth to take a 5-3 lead on Ryo Sakata’s grand slam off former Lions lefty Kazuyuki Hoashi, who only lasted four innings. But the Hawks bullpen proved to be the difference in the game.

Righty Yoshiaki Fujioka (2-0) retired all six batters he faced and earned the win when his teammates rallied for four runs in the home half of the sixth.

“We were trailing by two, so I thought we would have a chance to comeback,” said Fujioka. “I may have used up all my good fortune tonight, so I’m scared to think about what might happen in my next game.”

Seibu right-hander Ryoma Nogami came out of the game after Softbank opened the frame with back-to-back singles and a sacrifice.

Reliever Atsushi Okamoto issued a walk and surrendered an RBI single to Yuya Hasegawa and was a heartbeat away from getting out of the inning with the lead. With two outs and the bases loaded, rookie shortstop Yuji Kaneko’s throwing error brought in a run and kept the inning alive for LaHair.

LaHair, who led off the third inning with his eighth home run of the season, stroked a single into center to plate two runs.

“I just wanted to make solid contact, put the ball in play and drive in a run,” said LaHair, who joined the Hawks this season after being named to the NL All-Star team last season when he was with the Chicago Cubs. “I just looked for a good pitch to hit, got one and was fortunate to get a hit.”

Hawks skipper Koji Akiyama went back to the bullpen and Kodai Senga, Sho Iwasaki and Brian Falkenborg each contributed a scoreless inning to send Softbank to its fourth straight victory. Falkenborg earned his seventh save.

Hasegawa proved to be Softbank’s sparkplug, drawing a leadoff walk in the first and scoring the game’s first run on a single by Nobuhiro Matsuda. He tripled in catcher and former Lion Toru Hosokawa in the second, and pushed across the Hawks’ first run in the big fourth inning.

Marines 6, Buffaloes 2

At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Katsuya Kakunaka went 3-for-3 and scored three runs in support of second-year lefty Takahiro Fujioka. Chiba Lotte’s first draft pick in 2011, Fujioka (2-3) allowed a run on three hits and three walks in a win over last-place Orix.

Josh Whitesell plated Kakunaka and Yoshifumi Okada with a third-inning double to make it 3-0. Trailing 6-0 in the fourth, new Buffalo Vinny Rottino hit a solo homer, his first hit in Japan.

Fighters 9, Eagles 1

At Sendai’s Kleenex Stadium, Hokkaido Nippon Ham’s Hiroshi Kisanuki (3-1) allowed a run over 6-2/3 innings and the Fighters scored nine runs on just 10 hits to blow out Tohoku Rakuten.

Taiwan international Yang Dai-kang opened the scoring for the Fighters with a two-run single in the third and former Chicago Cub Micah Hoffpauir hit a grand slam in the ninth to put the game to bed.