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Eagles’ Matsui records career-best nine strikeouts in victory over Hawks

Kyodo

Marquee rookie Yuki Matsui overcame a shaky first inning and a seventh-inning crisis to earn his first win as a starter on Wednesday as the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles beat the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 7-4 and snapped the Pacific League leaders’ win streak at nine games.

In a duel between rookie lefties, the 18-year-old Matsui (2-5) allowed two runs in seven innings and snapped Rakuten’s losing streak at six games. He gave up four hits and three walks, while striking out a career-high nine and hitting a batter. Matsui had a near miss in the first inning. After a bloop leadoff single and a one-out walk, Lee Dae-ho golfed a low fastball to the warning track, but Matsui was soon cruising and didn’t give up another hit until the seventh.

“It feels like it took a long time,” said Matsui, who owns the National High School Baseball Championship record for 22 strikeouts in a game, earned his other PL win in long relief after failing to win as a starter and being sent down to the minors.

“Until now, I’d given up a lot of runs in the sixth inning and had been taken out, so I was conscious of getting through the sixth.”

Hawks starter Yuya Iida (1-3), who began his pro career on a developmental contract and went 9-0 in the Western League this season, finessed his way through five hitless innings before Hiroaki Shimauchi’s leadoff double sparked a three-run Eagles sixth. The 23-year-old Iida allowed three runs in 5-1/3 innings on three hits and three walks, while striking out six.

After surrendering his first hit, Iida balked Shimauchi to third with no outs, but caught Eagles captain Kazuo Matsui looking at a backdoor slider for the first out. Iida struck out the next batter but the ball was not caught and the batter reached on a wild pitch. Takero Okajima then broke the ice with an RBI single, Andruw Jones followed with his league-leading 77th walk and Ginji Akaminai doubled home two runs.

Hawks lefty Shinya Kayama allowed two runs in the seventh as Rakuten seemingly put the game out of reach, but Matsui was asked to soldier on in the seventh after his pitch count broke 100 and his command became spotty.

The rookie surrendered two runs in the inning on three hits and a walk and left the mound having thrown 133 pitches. Matsui allowed four hits, walked three and hit a batter.

“I’ve caused a lot of extra work for the bullpen,” Matsui said. “So I was very happy to be able to pitch my way out of the seventh.”

The Hawks scored twice against Eagles reliever Hiroyuki Fukuyama in the eighth to make it a one-run game, but it got no closer. Shimauchi, who had singled with one out to open the Eagles’ rally in the seventh, doubled to open the ninth and scored his third run on Kazuya Fujita’s RBI single. Another run scored on an error to make it 7-4.

Buffaloes 0, Lions 0 (12)

At Seibu Dome, Seibu lefty Yusei Kikuchi struck out a career-high 14 and allowed two hits over nine innings, and four relievers completed a two-hit shutout that was called a tie after 12 innings.

Orix starter Brandon Dickson allowed five hits in six innings, and the Buffaloes bullpen allowed one hit over the last six.

Fighters 4, Marines 1

At Sapporo Dome, rookie right-hander Hiroshi Urano (5-2) allowed three hits over the distance for his first career complete game and Eiichi Koyano hit a two-run homer in the second inning as Hokkaido Nippon Ham beat Chiba Lotte.

CENTRAL LEAGUE
Giants 5, Tigers 1

At Tokyo Dome, Hisayoshi Chono homered to open the home half of the first inning and league-leading Yomiuri scored four runs — three earned — off lefty Minoru Iwata (8-6) to beat Hanshin and prevent the Tigers from taking over first place.

Yuki Koyama (4-0) allowed a run in six-plus innings to earn the win.

Dragons 5, BayStars 4

At Nagoya Dome, Masahiro Araki sparked a comeback with a two-run fifth-inning double and Chunichi took the lead for good on a Ryosuke Hirata RBI infield single in the seventh in a win over Yokohama.

Young BayStars left fielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo was taken from the field in an ambulance after a first-inning collision with center fielder Takayuki Kajitani and the game was delayed for 18 minutes. Tsutsugo is batting .292 with 18 home runs.

Carp 7, Swallows 3

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Tsubasa Aizawa hit a three-run home run and an RBI single and Bryan Bullington (9-8), allowed three runs over seven innings and squeezed home a run as Hiroshima defeated Tokyo Yakult.