FUKUOKA – Seiichi Uchikawa played hero for the second straight night for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, who broke up a pitchers’ duel en route to a 6-1 win over the Chiba Lotte Marines in Thursday’s Game 2 of the Pacific League Climax Series final stage.
A night after his 10th-inning sayonara single lifted the hosts to victory in Game 1, Uchikawa’s two-out, two-run double broke up a 1-1, sixth-inning tie at Yafuoku Dome.
The Hawks lead the six-game series 3-0 by virtue of a one-win advantage received as league champions. Since Climax Series stages that end in ties, are awarded to the higher-seeded host team, the Hawks only need to record a 12-inning tie Friday’s Game 3 in order to reach the Japan Series for the second straight year.
While Dutch hurler Rick van den Hurk was forced to battle, Lotte lefty Takuya Furuya appeared effortless, allowing a run on three hits and no walks through the first 5-2/3 innings. But with two outs in the sixth, the Hawks turned the game on its head. And once more Uchikawa provided the breakthrough.
“We hadn’t been able to create many scoring opportunities, but Vandy was working really hard, and we wanted to get him some runs as soon as we could,” Uchikawa said. “In the regular season, I didn’t do much to create moments like this, but in the Climax and Japan Series I want to make up for that.
“The last win (we need to advance) is not in the bank, and we will keep fighting.”
Van den Hurk allowed a run on five hits, a walk and a hit batsman. He struck out five but was forced by the Marines to throw 100 pitches over the first four innings. He pitched out of a first-inning, bases-loaded jam and didn’t give up a run until the fourth. Van den Hurk then overmatched the last seven batters he faced.
“It was a battle today,” said van den Hurk (1-0), who went 9-0 with a 2.52 ERA in 15 regular-season games. “I just wanted to execute my pitches and keep the team in the ball game as close as possible.
“I knew at some point with the great team we have, we were going to come through and we did. It was awesome.”
With the game tied 1-1, Furuya (0-1) retired the first two batters in the sixth on a total of four pitches before the Hawks offense sprang to life. Kenta Imamiya lined a single, and speedy slugger Yuki Yanagita beat out a chopper to short to bring up Uchikawa. The right-handed-hitting Softbank cleanup hitter fouled off Furuya’s first pitch before hitting a breaking ball into the gap in left to put his team in front.
Lee Dae-ho, whose second-inning solo homer opened the scoring, singled off reliever Naoya Masuda to plate Uchikawa. A hit batsman and a single by Akira Nakamura loaded them up for Yuki Yoshimura, who singled in two more to cap the five-run knockout blow.
Yuito Mori, Ryota Igarashi and Hayato Terahara mopped up for the Hawks with one scoreless inning each.