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Van den Hurk triumphs again

Source: Fukuoka KYODO

Dutch right-hander Rick van den Hurk on Tuesday became the first NPB pitcher to start his first-team career by winning his first 14 decisions.

The 30-year-old, who pitched in 50 major league games before moving to South Korea in 2013, allowed a run in eight innings to improve his ERA to 1.98. Van den Hurk struck out 10 without issuing a walk in the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks’ 2-1 Pacific League win over the Chiba Lotte Marines at Yafuoku Dome.

Van den Hurk, who went 9-0 last season, entered the game tied with two other pitchers. Kuo Tai-yuan, known as Taigen Kaku in Japan during his time with the Seibu Lions, and former Yomiuri Giants ace Tsuneo Horiuchi each won his first 13 career decisions.

“It’s something special,” van den Hurk said. “But a record like that, you don’t get by yourself. We do this all together, with my teammates, with our organization, with all the fans, with my awesome wife, with my team at home. It’s a combination, and I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart. It means a lot to me.”

Yuki Yanagita, last year’s league MVP, broke a scoreless tie in the sixth inning when he homered to the opposite field with a man on against Ayumu Ishikawa (2-2).

The Marines narrowed the gap in the eighth, when Katsuya Kakunaka singled, stole second and scored on former Hawk Tadahito Iguchi’s RBI double.

But SoftBank closer Dennis Sarfate retired the visitors in order in the ninth to record his 11th save.

“It was my first game at the dome this year in the regular season. It’s always special to pitch here. I am very happy that I could throw a lot of good quality strikes and keep the hitters off balance and we can score,” said van den Hurk, who was taken off the hook for the loss in his previous start.

“We have a great offense, and my mission is to go out there and give our team a chance to win. With the offense we have, if you keep it close, we’re going to come through. We’ve been doing that, so it’s been great to be a part of this team.”

Ishikawa allowed two runs on six hits and three walks over the distance, while striking out three as Lotte fell four games behind the first-place Hawks in the PL standings.

Since leaving the Korean Baseball Organization as that league’s ERA leader in 2014, van den Hurk’s only loss came last year with the Hawks’ Western League farm club, where he was 5-1 before establishing himself as one of the PL’s top starters.

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