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Hawks Take Two of Three From Lions

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Hawks Take Two of Three From Lions
How quickly things change. The Hawks showed that they can buckle down and get to work quickly, as they showed in the last two games of their series against the Saitama Seibu Lions.

After an embarrassing loss in the first game of the series, the Hawks returned the favor with a resounding 10-3 win the next day. Even though Toshiya Sugiuchi only pitched 6 innings in that game, the bullpen was beyond effective, as the trio of Settsu, Falkenborg, and Mizuta kept the Lions from mounting any threats. All three of the Lions runs came off of Sugiuchi, who was lit up for a 2-run home run in the 4th by Takeya Nakamura (23), and then Nakajima doubled home a run in the 6th.

The Hawks offense was much more potent against the struggling Kazuhisa Ishii. A home run by Tamura (5) and a sacrifice fly by Tanoue accounted for SoftBank's first 2 runs of the game in the 2nd inning. The next inning saw SoftBank scratch across one more run thanks to singles from Kawasaki, Matsunaka, and Kokubo.

The game was 4-3 in favor of Fukuoka in the 6th before the Hawks got into the Seibu bullpen and chased Ishii in the process. The Lions bullpen was a strength for them last year, but without closer Alex Graman, the Lions are struggling for consistency.

The game-winning runs were scored in the Hawks Lucky 7, when the Hawks were on the receiving end of the last of Ishiis four walks. After retiring the first two batters, Ishii walked Matsunaka. Okamoto was then called on, but he hit Kokubo, and then gave up the go-ahead double to Tamura, which scored both runners and put SoftBank on top 6-3 at the time.

Koji Mitsui did well in his inning, relieving Hsu after he failed to retire both of his batters in the 8th. However, the normally-reliable Chikara Onodera was on the receiving end of a disastrous 9th inning. After Okamoto gave up a single sandwiched by two outs, he developed a sudden allergy to the strike zone. Walking both Tamura and Hasegawa to load the bases, he had to face the #8 hitter in Matsuda. He did not waste his opportunity, tripling home all three runners. Jun Yamamoto came in to clean up the mess, but when the dust had settled, SoftBank scored 4 runs to up their lead to 10-3, and that was how it ended.

While yesterday was a duel of the lefties, today was a matchup of the second-year gaijin. DJ Houlton took his stellar record to the mound, facing former Red Sox pitcher John "Way Back" Wasdin. Wasdin was a one-time Yomiuri Giants pitcher, and while his return to Japan has not been stellar, he has pitched marginally better than he did in '02 with Yomiuri. Today he was lit up again, and he lived up to his nickname which was given to him by the Boston press.

He did get some help from his offense, though. Houlton struggled through a rocky first, walking speedster Kuriyama, then giving up a 2-run blast to Nakajima (11) to put Seibu on top quickly, 2-0.

Wasdin was solid through the first three innings, giving up three hits, but the second time through the lineup has always been Wasdin's weakness, and SoftBank capitalized on it. A leadoff walk and two singles led to SoftBank's first run of the game before Wasdin recorded an out, slashing Seibu's lead to 2-1, with Tamura providing the damage. Two batters later, Matsuda tied the game up with a single of his own.

Being good teammates though, the Lions roared back with 2 runs of their own to bump their total to 4-2. Yasushi Ishii singled, and then G.G. Satoh clubbed a home run of his own (his 11th of the season) to put Seibu back on top. That was the worst of it for Houlton, as he labored through 6 innings, giving up 4 runs (the most he has all year) on 6 hits, walking 1 and striking out 2 in a span of 87 pitches.

Wasdin lived up to his nickname the very next inning, though, as Jose Ortiz took the journeyman deep for his 11th of the season as well, and the Hawks were back within one run again. Wasdin's day was done the next inning, as he was able to go 5 and 2/3 innings, giving up 3 runs on 8 hits, walking 3 and striking out 5 over 111 pitches.

Settsu worked a scoreless 7th in his 34th appearance of the season, and Brian Falkenborg, while effective, was scored on for the first time in just over a month in the 8th, as the dynamic relievers worked on consecutive days. Seibu's last run of the game came thanks a a leadoff single by Kataoka, and a double by Kuriyama.

SoftBank on the other hand, had their way with the Lions bullpen. In the 7th, against Tomoki Hoshino, SoftBank hit the 4th home run of the game between the two teams. Jose Ortiz singled, and then the dormant Nobuhiko Matsunaka slammed his 10th home run of the season down the line into the right-field seats to put the Hawks in the lead for the first time in the game, 5-4. It was also Matsunaka's first home run since May 20th.

Seibu hung tough against Falkenborg, scoring a run off him to tie the game, but Koji Mitsui was tagged with the loss after his performance in the 9th. Honda led off the 9th with a single, and Kawasaki bunted him to 2nd. Ortiz completed his 4-for-5 day by doubling in Honda to give SoftBank the lead for good, 6-5. Ortiz was then driven in by Kokubo, who singled to make Mahara's job that much easier, giving SoftBank a 7-5 lead. Mahara earned his 13th save of the season with a 1-2-3 9th.

Coupled with a Nippon Ham loss, SoftBank has again pulled even with the Fighters, with the two teams in a flat-footed tie, although the Fighters have one game in-hand.

SoftBank has Monday off, and then they get back to work against the Orix Buffaloes at Yahoo Dome. Even though the Buffaloes are 8-22 on the road so far this season, the Hawks have to be careful, as Orix has killed them the past 2 years.
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