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Many happy returns: Houlton wins first game back

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Many happy returns: Houlton wins first game back

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Riding high following a sweep of the Orix Buffaloes which saw the Hawks beat one of their nemeses in Satoshi Komatsu, the Hawks completed the sweep of the Buffaloes the next day by getting to Kazuki Kondoh, who was masterful the last time he faced SoftBank.

With victories of 9-2 and 4-2 against the Buffaloes, the Hawks headed home to Yahoo! Dome with the best team in Japan waiting for them: the Saitama Seibu Lions.

However, the Hawks have seen a few of their pitchers come back recently, whether they were banished to ni-gun or on the sidelines thanks to injury. One such return today was DJ Houlton, who had a rocky start to the season, but was getting better until he tweaked his knee covering first base in a game against the Hanshin Tigers in May.

With the injury fully healed, Houtlon was free to pitch as he pleased, and he did well today over six innings of two-run ball. He also added seven strikeouts and no walks to his line, and he got some help from the usual suspects as SoftBank rolled into second place with a rousing 11-4 victory.

With the crowd and the friendly confines on their side, the Hawks wasted no time against Seibu starter Ming-Chieh Hsu. A little small-ball and a balk helped the home team in the first as Ortiz singled in Kawasaki for a quick 1-0 lead.

Hsu exchanged outs and baserunners in the second as he walked Petagine, got Matsuda to fly out, Hasegawa singled, Tanoue struck out, and Kawasaki drew a walk to load the bases. The out-baserunner exchange ended when Honda legged out an infield single to score Petagine.

The home team would add one more for the third successive inning as Matsuda singled home Tamura for a 3-0 lead.

Seibu would get one back as Houlton traded a run for two outs as Dee Brown hit into a double play, allowing Takumi Kuriyama to score after he reached on a single and Hiroyuki Nakajima followed it with one of his own.

With his team still within striking distance, Hsu coughed up any chance his team might have had to close the gap further when the Hawks knocked him around for four runs in the 5th, chasing the Seibu starter.

Petagine was the first to reach with a single, and he was removed in favor of speedster Shuhei Fukuda, who promptly stole second. Matsuda and Hasegawa both hit singles of their own, with the Hasegawa knock scoring Fukuda for a 4-1 advantage.

Rookie Tetsuya Iwasaki was called on to replace Hsu, but he allowed his inherited runners to score when Tanoue singled to score Matsuda, and Hasegawa came around when Hisashi Takayama couldn't handle the ball in right. The error allowed Tanoue to take third, and Kawasaki sent him in with another single. After plunking Honda, Iwasaki settled down and got Ortiz and Kokubo to fly out.

That would close the book on Hsu (L, 5-6, 4.10), as he was tagged with six runs (five earned) on 11 hits, with two walks, three strikeouts, and a balk.

Houlton (W, 6-4, 4.88) was touched up for one more run in the 6th as Kuriyama singled home Kataoka, but it wouldn't be anywhere near enough.

SoftBank added two more in the 6th off Iwasaki when Matsunaka pinch-hit for Fukuda and drilled a two-run home run (7). Two more were added in the 7th when Shibahara, who came in as a defensive replacement, doubled home two more off Shinji Taninaka.

Takehito Kanazawa ran into some trouble of his own in mop-up duty in the 8th, as Kuriyama walked, Nakajima doubled, and new acquisition Jose Fernandez doubled home both.

With the final score at 11-4, the Haws gained a game and vaulted over Lotte by half a game for second place. With still a little more work to do before the All-Star Break, the Hawks go right back at it tomorrow as ace Toshiya Sugiuchi (11-4, 3.55) takes on utility pitcher Ryoma Nogami (1-0, 5.20).
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