Uchikawa sparks Hawks to series sweep of Marines


The reinvigorated Softbank Hawks are off to a flying start to the regular season after completing a three-game sweep since Opening Day of the Chiba Lotte Marines on Sunday.

Seiichi Uchikawa hit his second home run in three days following a three-run blast in Friday’s opener, and the Hawks edged the Marines 3-2 in front of a crowd of 35,862 at Yafuoku Dome.

The Hawks, who have enlisted wholesale reinforcements as they aim for their first Pacific League pennant in three years, had double-digit hits for the third straight game.

Former major league reliever Hideki Okajima (1-0), back with Softbank after two years, got his first win in Japan since 2006 with one scoreless inning of relief. Dennis Sarfate closed out the ninth for his second save with his new team since a move from Seibu.

The Hawks took a 2-0 lead on an error and left fielder Yuya Hasegawa’s sacrifice fly in the third. Craig Brazell and Luis Cruz rallied for Lotte with an RBI single and solo shot in the fourth and fifth, respectively, to tie it at 2-2.

But Uchikawa led off the eighth with a drive to left-center off Carlos Rosa (0-1) to lift the Hawks to victory.

“Honestly I got jammed somewhat on that pitch, but I just told myself not to swing at any balls in that situation. I wanted to get a compact hit if a strike came and that’s what happened,” said Uchikawa after smacking Rosa’s 148 kph fastball. “I thought that it would be a homer.”

Marines rookie starter Ayumu Ishikawa allowed two unearned runs in 5-2/3 innings but lacked the run support he needed. The Marines lost their opening three games for the first time in 12 years.

“I feel great, another win. Our offense once again came through. Uchikawa has been great. Starters, relievers, so we just have to keep it going,” said Sarfate.

Eagles 7, Lions 1

At Seibu Dome, Kevin Youkilis opened the scoring with a two-run single in the first inning and defending Japan Series champion Tohoku Rakuten banged out 13 hits en route to a sweep in the three-game, season-opening series.

Takero Okajima hit a run-scoring double in the second and Andruw Jones added a two-run double in the seventh. Lefty Wataru Karashima (1-0), who got a late start to last season due to an injured left elbow, limited the damage to one run in 5-1/3 innings. Seibu lost its first three games for the first time in 35 years.

Fighters 8, Buffaloes 4

At Sapporo Dome, Shohei Otani had his first career three-hit game, wrapping out three singles in Hokkaido Nippon Ham’s 12-hit onslaught to lift his team to a win over Orix.

Michael Crotta got his first win in Japan with 1-2/3 scoreless innings of relief.

Yang Dai-kang led off the home half of the first inning with a home run to center and Otani had a sac fly to make it 2-0. First baseman Juan Miranda, who joined the Fighters from the Mexican League, had an RBI double in the fifth among his three doubles.

Dragons 6, Carp 0

At Nagoya Dome, Daniel Cabrera pitched three-hit ball with seven strikeouts over seven solid frames, catcher Masato Matsui and former Giant Michihiro Ogasawara drove in two runs apiece, and Chunichi got its first victory of the season in a shutout of Hiroshima.

Cabrera (1-0) walked one batter in a sharp 92-pitch outing and Shinji Tajima and Koji Fukutani finished off from the bullpen. Bryan Bullington (0-1) surrendered three runs and eight hits in 6-2/3 innings but appears to have resolved most of his control issues from the spring.

Giants 12, Tigers 3

At Tokyo Dome, the mighty Giants erupted in a 17-hit onslaught, featuring Jose Lopez’s grand slam round-tripper in a five-run seventh inning, former Carp Kan Otake got his first win with his new team, and Yomiuri romped over the rival Tigers.

Otake (1-0) allowed two runs — one unearned — while striking out six in 6-2/3 innings. Tigers starter Daiki Enokida (0-1) was roughed up for four runs in three innings of the loss.

BayStars at Swallows — ppd.