• Kyodo


With their big guns struggling, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters got big games from the backups on Monday, snapping a six-game losing streak with a 7-1 win over the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

Before 35,961 at Kyocera Dome, Journeyman right-hander Toru Murata pitched out of a couple of tight spots to hold the Hawks to a run before he was forced out of the game early. After allowing a run on three hits and two walks over four innings, the right-hander’s right calf cramped up during his fifth-inning warm-up throws.

Hawks starter Yuki Matsumoto (2-4) allowed the opening run on two singles and two productive groundouts. Two of Murata’s walks set the Hawks up to tie it 1-1 in the second inning, and a leadoff walk cost Matsumoto in the fourth.

Kensuke Nakata walked on six pitches and scored when substitute infielder Kengo Ota tripled with one out.

Ota, an eighth-round draft pick in 2014, was starting at third in place of PL home run champ Brandon Laird, who is out with back stiffness. After fouling off a pair of two-strike fastballs, Matsumoto hung a slider in the heart of the zone and Ota tattooed it to the wall in center.

Matsumoto was charged with three runs on five hits and two walks over four innings. He struck out three.

Five Fighters relievers kept the Hawks off the board, while the visitors tacked on four more runs, including two in the ninth on back-to-back homers by Shohei Otani and Sho Nakata off veteran right-hander Kenichi Nakata.

The Hawks’ defeat dropped them into second place in the Pacific League.

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