Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Misfiring Shota Takeda and Seiichi Uchikawa find form as Hawks sink Eagles

Kyodo

A day after the Pacific League powerhouse Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks sank below .500, two of this year’s underachievers stepped up, as Shota Takeda and Seiichi Uchikawa led the way to a 4-0 win over the last-place Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on Sunday.

Takeda (3-7) continued his all-or-nothing season, earning his third shutout, while Uchikawa, batting .254, 53 points south of his .307 career average, had two hits and drove in three of the Hawks’ runs.

Takeda, whose other two wins came in back-to-back May shutouts, shook off a game-opening hit to go the distance. He walked one batter, while striking out five. All three of his wins have come at the Hawks’ home park, Yafuoku Dome.

“I want to thank the fielders for playing so hard behind me and allowing me to settle into a good rhythm,” Takeda said. “I have been fortunate to have so many people backing me up. I felt I was going to pitch well today, and that’s the frame of mind I had when I took the mound.”

After coughing up seven runs in two innings on July 18, Takeda was sent down to the farm team, but was brought back to make an emergency start after fellow right-hander Kenichi Nakata suddenly came down with an intestinal virus.

“For a long time I hadn’t been able to pitch the way I know I can, so it’s been a frustrating year for me and I was determined to turn things around,” said Takeda. “Although it was only 10 days (on the farm), I got in some quality practice.

“Hopefully this will be a turning point and I can pitch my kind of ball for the rest of the season. I’ll do my best to see if it goes that way.”

With two outs and a runner on second in the third inning, Uchikawa — one of just two hitters to lead both the Central and Pacific leagues in batting average — broke the ice with an RBI double.

In the fifth, Takuya Kai and Keizo Kawashima singled and Seiji Uebayashi drew a one-out walk to load the bases. Uchikawa cashed in two runs. With two outs, Akira Nakamura capped the rally with another single that completed the scoreline.

“In the third inning, there were two outs, so I didn’t want to get cheated on my swing and regret it afterward,” Uchikawa said. “Because I cashed in the runs, I’m considered the hero, but the guys who did all the work were the ones on base. It was indeed a team effort.”

When asked if it was a must-win game after dropping the first two games of the series at home, Uchikawa said, “Every game is a must win.

“I haven’t produced at the plate and that’s been tough, and on top of that, we’ve been losing so that’s been tough, too. Despite that, so many fans have kept coming to the ballpark, and not doing well I’ve felt apologetic. Today, at least, the fans can return home a little happier.

“From the manager to the last player, .500 is not the figure we aspire to. We want to finish with a win total that will satisfy our fans. And I want to do my best to make that happen.”

Eagles starter Wataru Karashima (3-8) gave up all four runs on five hits and two walks. He struck out three. The loss snapped the Eagles’ win streak at four games.

Buffaloes 8, Fighters 2

At Sapporo Dome, Donn Roach dueled Hokkaido Nippon Ham starter Hirotoshi Takanashi to a draw, each allowing two runs over six innings, but Stefen Romero homered and drove in five runs against the Fighters’ bullpen as Orix snapped its eight-game losing streak.

Lions 9, Marines 3

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Shuta Tonosaki and Takumi Kuriyama hit back-to-back, third-inning, two-run singles as Seibu hammered Mike Bolsinger (12-2) for six runs over four innings, snapping the Chiba Lotte right-hander’s win streak at 11 straight decisions.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Dragons 9, Giants 2

At Tokyo Dome, 20-year-old Yomiuri starter Hosei Takata (0-1) allowed the first five batters he faced in his pro debut to reach and surrendered six runs over two innings, while Yohei Oshima scored three runs and drove in two for last-place Chunichi.

Tigers 10, Swallows 4

At Jingu Stadium, Masahiro Nakatani’s eighth-inning, pinch-hit RBI single broke a 4-4 tie, while Kosuke Fukudome hit a two-run, first-inning home run and doubled in a ninth-inning insurance run as Hanshin snapped Tokyo Yakult’s seven-game winning streak.