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Murphy's wildness pushes Marines to brink

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Murphy's wildness pushes Marines to brink

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This was one of those games that could have gone either way. Bill Murphy terrorized the Hawks this season, as left-handed junkballers do (see Masaru Takeda). DJ Houlton had been nothing short of awful at times this season, and was also hurt for a good portion.

The last thing expected was a pitcher's duel, but that was what we got. It was Murphy's early bout with wildness and bad defense that cost his team the game, pushing the Hawks to a commanding 3-1 series lead.

A 1-0 nail biter through and through, SoftBank used their speed to their advantage and must have unnerved Murphy. The Hawks first ups were exemplary of that, as Kawasaki walked to start his team's offensive day. Honda came up looking to sacrifice his double play mate to second, but Murphy threw away the sac bunt attempt to give himself two on and nobody out.

Two quick outs followed, with Matsunaka lining out first. Kokubo flew out, but it was deep enough to advance Kawasaki to third. Honda then promptly stole second. With speedy runners on second and third with the dangerous Tamura up, Murphy uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Kawasaki to score what would be the game's only run.

Houlton was not quite his best, but he didn't give up any runs in his 5 and 2/3 innings of work, enough for the win. The Hawks foreign righty was solid in that span, with three strikeouts and two walks.

Lotte's chances were stonewalled at every turn, as they left seven runners on base, five in scoring position. Houlton wiggled out of jams before turning it over to Morifuku in the 6th. The diminutive lefty worked an inning, giving up one hit, then he gave way to Settsu. He perfectly set up Mahara, who struck out two of his three batters for the save.

Lotte's bullpen also put forth a strong effort, as Yabuta, Uchi, and Itoh all kept SoftBank off the board. However, it was Murphy's error and wild pitch that proved costly. He worked 4 and 2/3 innings, walking two, striking out 2, and hitting three batters (Matsunaka twice).

The win puts SoftBank on the cusp of making their first Japan Series apppearance since 2003. Today could be the red- letter day that Hawks fans have waited seven years for. Yao-hsun Yang gets the ball in the biggest game of his life. Shunsuke Watanabe, who has been in bigger game than this, gets the ball for the Marines as they try to keep their season going.
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