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SoftBank takes first with eighth straight win

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SoftBank takes first with eighth straight win

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This is how you start the rest of the season on a high note. The efforts of the Hawks' bullpen paid off once again, as they slipped by the Rakuten Eagles at Kumamoto today, 4-3 thanks in no small part to a three-run seventh inning.

That inning helped SoftBank overcome another shaky start from DJ Houlton, as his struggles this season continued. The righty gave up three runs in four and 2/3 innings, while scattering 10 hits, walking three and striking out four.

Looking at the Eagles' hit total, it is indeed a tale of missed opportunities for them. They had ample chances, and converted on them early on as they were 3-for-12 batting with runners in scoring position off Houlton as the visitors took a 3-1 lead in the fifth.

Takehito Kanazawa came in, and the way he's been this season, Hawks' fans can only hold their breath and hope for the best. Today, Kanazawa got four clutch outs, bridging the gap to the rest of the bullpen. He handed it over to Keisuke Kattoh, who was also perfect with one strikeout.

By this point, it was getting to be panic time for the Hawks, as Eagles starter Hisashi Iwakuma seemed to be re-discovering his dominance of SoftBank. However, the home team had other plans.

Petagine flew out to begin the inning, but then the rally started with a double from Matsuda. Another clutch hit came form Hasegawa, who singled in Matsuda. Still down a run, Tanoue struck out, but Hasegawa swiped second base. Kawasaki drew an important walk to set up his teammate Honda, who rifled what proved to be the game-winning two-run triple.

With SoftBank ahead 4-3, Kattoh, now the pitcher of record, turned it over to Falkenborg, who once again recorded a scoreless inning. Mahara worked the 9th to seal the deal with his 20th save. Not only that, but there were also a couple of firsts: Kattoh recorded his first career win in four seasons (though this is his first full season), and this was SoftBank's first-ever win in Kumamoto.

Iwakuma (6-6, 2.61) took the hard-luck loss, continuing his surprisingly mediocre season against the Hawks, a team he has dominated the last two seasons. He gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits, with three walks and five strikeouts.

Coupled with a loss from Seibu today, the Hawks are now in first place, a rather unfamiliar position for them so far this season. SoftBank turns to All-Star Series Game 1 starter Tsuyoshi Wada (12-4, 2.88) to continue the team's eight-game winning streak. Rakuten counters with Kohei Hasebe (3-1, 6.52).
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