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Houlton's mix leaves Giants' heads spinning

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Houlton's mix leaves Giants' heads spinning

by John E. Gibson (May 28, 2009)

It was a familiar tune with Fukuoka SoftBank's D.J. on the hill on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome.

Hawks right-hander D.J. Houlton spun his seventh quality start in eight games, helping SoftBank stay undefeated in interleague action with a nail-biting 5-3 win over the Yomiuri Giants.

The second-year hurler locked the Central League-leading Giants down over six scoreless innings, scattering three hits and a walk while fanning five as the Hawks won their sixth straight.

Houlton (3-3) has gone at least six innings in all his starts and allowed more than three runs just once--on April 29 against the Seibu Lions.

"They have a great lineup--they have some great lefties and [Alex] Ramirez," said Houlton (3-3), who earned his first win since beating Nippon Ham on April 22.

"I knew I really had to throw my pitches and really bear down. But this was a team win. The bullpen picked me up, the offense did really well and [catcher Hidenori] Tanoue called a really good game today."

Tadashi Settsu worked the seventh, Brian Falkenborg allowed a two-out, two-run single to Ramirez in the eighth and Takahiro Mahara gave up a homer and faced the tying run before closing the door in the ninth to preserve the win for Houlton.

"Houlton was good and the batters strung hits together for us tonight and we were able to get out of here with a win," said SoftBank's first-year skipper Koji Akiyama. "Houlton is throwing very well for us."

Yuichi Honda had his first four-hit game of the season, cracking a pair of doubles and scoring twice to lead a 13-hit attack that gave Houlton some run support--the lack of runs a big reason Houlton is not among the Pacific League leaders in wins.

"We hadn't been able to score runs for D.J.," said Honda, who doubled in the third inning and again in the eighth. "It was nice to put some runs on the board for him like this and I hope we can stay on this roll for a while."

The Hawks used extra-base hits to take a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Honda missed a home run by less than a meter, sending a drive high off the wall down the line in left for a double.

Munenori Kawasaki smacked a ball to the gap in right-center field and motored around to third for an RBI triple for the game's first run.

SoftBank made a series of jam-shots and flares pay off in the fourth after Nobuhiko Matsunaka opened the frame with a walk. Hiroki Kokubo's dunker found the turf in right and Matsunaka lumbered to third.

He came home on Yuya Hasegawa's looper got down in left. With two outs, Tanoue's lineout to left functioned as a sacrifice fly, although Kokubo had to hustle and slide under the relay throw to make it 3-0 SoftBank.

Kokubo's two-out RBI single in the fifth made it 4-0 and chased Greisinger. Yuya Kubo came on and wild pitched a run home before loading the bases but escaped further damage.

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