Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Hawks' Akashi delivers crucial hits in triumph over Buffaloes

Kyodo

Kenji Akashi went 2-for-4 with three RBIs to help power the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks’ 5-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes on Tuesday.

Akahashi drove in the game’s first two runs with one out in the second. With runners on first and second and Orix ace Chihiro Kaneko on the mound, Akashi fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches outside before Kaneko came inside. The left-handed hitter turned on a low-inside fastball and drove it to the wall in right center for a two-run triple.

“He kept locating his pitches well, and I was saying to myself, ‘Come on, don’t keep throwing them there,'” said Akashi, who dropped the head and smashed Kaneko’s seventh pitch.

He cost his team a base on the next play, a grounder against the drawn-in infield. Akashi hesitated coming home and was caught in a rundown. But the batter, Shuhei Fukuda, advanced to second on the play and scored on an infield single when second baseman Masahiro Nishino dropped the ball.

Rick van den Hurk (11-5) started for SoftBank and entered the seventh with a 4-0 lead after Alfredo Despaigne homered to open the fourth inning. The Buffaloes, however, erupted for three quick runs in the seventh.

A Hiroyuki Nakajima double was followed by back-to-back home runs by Nishino and catcher Hikaru Ito. Van den Hurk left the mound having allowed three runs in six-plus innings. The right-hander surrendered five hits, two walks and hit a batter, while striking out seven.

The SoftBank bullpen, however, secured the win with three scoreless innings from Livan Moinelo, Sho Iwasaki and Dennis Sarfate, who earned his 39th save.

Nobuhiro Matsuda, who singled and scored in the second, tripled and came home on an Akashi single in the eighth.

Kaneko (9-7) allowed four runs on six hits and four walks over seven innings. The right-hander struck out nine.

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