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Baseball: Senga, Hawks blast past Giants in Japan Series opener

Kodai Senga outduels 15-game winner Shun Yamaguchi and SoftBank cashes in against Yomiuri's bullpen in a 7-2 Game 1 win over the Giants in the Japan Series on Oct. 19, 2019. (Kyodo)

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) -- Hawks ace Kodai Senga outdueled 15-game winner Shun Yamaguchi and SoftBank cashed in against Yomiuri's bullpen in a 7-2 Game 1 win over the Giants in the Japan Series on Saturday.

    The victory at Yafuoku Dome extended the two-time defending Japan champions' home winning streak in Japan Series games to 13. The Giants are making their first Japan Series appearance since 2013 and are aiming to be the first Central League club to win since 2012.

    Senga allowed a run on three hits and three walks while striking out five. He left after the Hawks scored four runs against the Giants bullpen in the seventh.

    The Giants struck first, Shinnosuke Abe pulling a high fastball over the permanent wall in right with one out in the second inning.

    The Hawks fired back against Yamaguchi with one out in the bottom of the inning after Akira Nakamura lined a double to right. Yurisbel Gracial put the hosts in front with a drive to left-center that landed in the "Home Run Terrace," the dome's field seats in front of the permanent wall.

    "I may have given up the first run, but I believed we'd be able to come from behind," said Senga, who was making his third straight Game 1 start. "We are facing an amazing team, so winning the first game is so important."

    When the Hawks went to bat in the bottom of the sixth, both starting pitchers had retired 10 straight batters, but SoftBank quickly loaded the bases against Yamaguchi, who was suddenly lacking the razor-sharp control he had for most of the first five innings.

    Taisei Makihara smashed a ground ball down the line for a double and was sacrificed to third. A walk and a hit batsman juiced the bags for Nakamura.

    Yamaguchi jammed him but Nakamura's fly carried just far enough into medium-deep center for Makihara to score ahead of a good throw from center fielder Yoshihiro Maru.

    Makihara contributed with his glove in the top of the seventh with a diving catch of a line drive for the second out. Singles by Alex Guerrero and Shuta Tanaka followed to put runners on the corners but Senga struck out pinch-hitter Shinnosuke Shigenobu to end the threat.

    "I want to thank Maki for that," Senga said. "Takuya (catcher Takuya Kai) wanted to make use of all my pitches (when we were in a jam) and I just followed his lead."

    Despite giving up the Gracial homer, Yamaguchi's superb control and great command of his splitter made him look like more than a match for Senga until his control deserted him. He allowed five hits, a walk, and a hit batsman while striking out eight.

    Scott Mathieson surrendered a leadoff double to Nobuhiro Matsuda in the seventh. After the Hawks sacrificed with two-time batting champ Seiichi Uchikawa, lefty Kazuto Taguchi came in and allowed four straight batters to reach base and was charged with three runs.

    Makihara singled in two runs to make it 5-1. Yuki Yanagita singled in another, and Kenta Imamiya scored on a groundout to make it 7-1.

    Rookie Hiroshi Kaino worked a scoreless eighth for SoftBank, and despite the big lead, closer Yuito Mori worked the ninth, when he allowed a solo home run to Takumi Oshiro.

    This is the 11th time the Hawks and Giants have met in the Japan Series, the most of any two franchises. The first nine clashes, however, came before the Hawks were sold by the Nankai Electric Railway and moved from Osaka to Fukuoka in 1989.

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