Recent years have been kind to the teams with D.J. Houlton on the roster.
Houlton has been part of pennant-winning squads in each of the past four seasons, capturing the Pacific League title with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in 2010 and 2011, while adding a Central League title last season, his first with the Yomiuri Giants.
The Fullerton, California, native also helped the Hawks win the Japan Series in 2011 and did the same for the Giants in 2012. He’ll get started on title No.3 Wednesday night at Tokyo Dome, when he toes the rubber against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to start Game 4 of this year’s Japanese Fall Classic.
“I think you just have to keep the ball down here at Tokyo Dome,” Houlton said prior to Game 3. “Obviously they’re a really good team, because we’re in the Japan Series.
“I know they have some speed there, from my days in the Pacific League. I know they’re kind of a fast team, and they have some power this year. Probably just keep the runners on first, keep them close and keep the ball down, especially with the guys who can hit the ball out of the park.”
One of the players he’ll want to be especially careful against is Andruw Jones, who was the Eagles’ primary designated hitter this year but will play in the field in Games 3, 4 and 5 since those games are held under CL rules.
“He’s been around for a long time and he’s got a lot of power,” Houlton said. “Just gotta keep the ball down to him, and just hope for the best. If I have the ball up in the zone, he’ll probably be trying to hit home runs with that. So I just gotta keep the ball down.”
Houlton has had success against Rakuten during his career and is 9-2 against the Eagles since arriving in Japan in 2008.
“I don’t know why,” he said. “I don’t do anything special. I try to pitch the same to every team.”
The right-hander will be coming off a long layoff when he takes the mound Wednesday. Houlton’s last outing came Oct. 3, when he allowed a pair of runs over five innings in a win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
He had been due to pitch Game 4 of the CL Climax Series Final Stage, but the Giants were able to wrap that series up in three games.
“It’s always nice to be out there on a good team and throwing every week,” Houlton said. “I just try to do the best I can with not throwing games. So I think I did well enough.”
Houlton won his final five starts of the regular season and was 9-4 with a 3.73 ERA overall. He’s hoping to get off to a fast start when he finally gets his chance on the mound.
“In the Japan Series, it’s really quick,” he said. “So you have to do well early. I don’t want to think about the next inning, I just want to think about each batter and be aggressive from the start.”
Houlton probably won’t get another start this season, so he wants to use Game 4 as a springboard into the winter.
“Especially here at Tokyo Dome in front of all of the fans,” Houlton said. “I think just to have a good start to end the year, that would help me have a good offseason. Obviously if we won as well.”