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Houlton Gets Help as Hawks Inch Closer

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Houlton Gets Help as Hawks Inch Closer
DJ Houlton has been one of their go-to starters in the 2009 campaign, clearly benefiting from a defined role in the Hawks' starting rotation. He has been spectacular at times, giving quality innings on a consistent basis.

Despite a few bumps in the road, Houlton gave 7 strong innings and he was backed up by Yuya Hasegawa's 2-run single in the 6th to lift the Hawks to their second straight win over the Fighters and pull to within four games of their northern rivals.

The Hawks put together a solid offensive effort to follow up what felt like a miraculous win yesterday against Darvish. Shugo Fujii was not as accommodating as Darvish was in giving up runs, but he was touched up for a run in the 3rd thanks to a manufactured run. A walk to Hasegawa was followed up by a sacrifice bunt by career minor-leaguer Motohiro Yoshikawa. After a groundout, Honda then came up and singled his way on, which brought around the speedy Hasegawa.

SoftBank also got another run in the 5th off Fujii, thanks to a double by Hasegawa and a single by Satoru Morimoto which put SoftBank on top, 2-0. With Houlton on cruise control at this point, all signs pointed to a hard-fought SoftBank win. Fujii was done after 5 innings, in which he gave up 2 runs on 4 hits, walking 2 and striking out 5.

However, Houlton found some trouble in the 6th. After one-hitting the Fighters through the first 5 innings, the only man reaching base being Shota Ohno, Nippon Ham finally broke out. After Kazuya Murata singled his way on, the Fighters generated a little 2-out lightning. Shinji Takahashi singled home Murata, Tsuboi doubled home Takahashi, and Nioka singled home Tsuboi. After the dust settled thanks to a Konta strikeout, the Hawks found themselves on the short end of a 3-2 score.

Again, like they have so many times this season, the Hawks did not back down. Against Satoshi Ejiri, the Hawks answered back with the game-winning run in the bottom half of the 6th. Kokubo earned a free pass with 1 down. With 2 out, Tanoue doubled to put runners on second and third, leading up to what proved to be Hasegawa's game-winning single. The 2-run strike also tagged Ejiri with the loss, as he fell to 2-1.

Houlton recovered after his rough 6th with a strong 7th, and he took the win, improving his record to 9-7. Tadashi Settsu gave up a single in the 8th, but got himself out of trouble quickly to set up Mahara's 26th save.

The Hawks now trail the Fighters by 4 games in the PL. A prime pitching matchup is on the docket for tomorrow as the Hawks send Toshiya Sugiuchi (11-3, 2.54) to the mound against Hawks' nemesis Masaru Takeda (6-6, 3.69).

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Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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