Sunday, May 20, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Shutouts galore

Photo credit: @n_524_photo
===

The Saitama Seibu Lions went 1-3 against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and Orix Buffaloes in a week with irregular locations. They maintain first place in the Pacific League with a three-game lead on the Fighters.

Here's how it all went down:

===

The first game from Tokyo Dome had Nick Martinez facing Fabio Castillo. There was no score until the bottom of the 7th where both pitchers were solid. The Lions had plenty of guys on base, but stranded runners every time, including a bases loaded situation in the bottom of the 5th with less than two outs.

Castillo had his own Houdini in the bottom of the 6th where the bases were loaded, but intentionally walking Kensuke Kondo paid off as Sho Nakata flied out to CF. He was left in too long when Brandon Laird hit a solo HR in the bottom of the 7th. Shinya Tsuruoka hit an RBI double shortly after and that was enough for the team to win. It was the third shutout loss for the Lions in 2018.

Fighters 2, Lions 0

===

The second and last game of the series had Ken Togame against Naoyuki Uwasawa in a rematch of a previous Tokyo Dome matchup. Both sides again pitched well where each stranded runners on the bases.

After a Houdini in the 6th, Togame had some bad luck in the 7th, where Kotaro Kiyomiya's fly ball was dropped after miscommunication by Fumikazu Kimura and Shogo Akiyama causing him to be on third base. A quick sacrifice fly made it 1-0.

Despite all of this, the Lions had a final chance against Uwasawa in the top of the 9th with two runners on and no outs, but Hotaka Yamakawa struck out, Tomoya Mori grounded into a fielder's choice and Shuta Tonosaki grounded out to end the game as the pitcher earned a shutout of his own.

In a game with three errors, one of them was costly and the Lions were shutout for the second straight night, as well have being shutout two times or the second consecutive week.

Fighters 1, Lions 0

Game note:

-Takumi Kuriyama was taken out after a walk. He fouled off a pitch that came off his foot, but initially stayed in the game.

-New Lions signing Deunte Heath was called up to the ichi-gun. Sho Ito was taken off as a corresponding move.

===

The road trip continued in Kobe where Shinsaburo Tawata was facing Taisuke Yamaoka. There was no score until the top of the 5th inning, where Mori reached home on a wild pitch to end the long offensive drought by the Lions. Ernesto Mejia hit his second HR of the season. A fourth run came when Yuji Kaneko reached on an error and advanced around the bases without a hit, scoring on a wild pitch.

Yamaoka's day was done after the 5th inning while Tawata went the distance with a shutout, allowing only six hits, one walk and recording five strikeouts. He flirted with a Maddux (under 100 pitches for a shutout), but a few hits prevented that in the 9th. For good measure, the Lions added to the score off a timely hit by Sosuke Genda and a HR from Yamakawa to put icing on the cake.

Lions 7, Buffaloes 0

Game note:

-This was Tawata's 4th shutout of his career, guaranteeing a streak of having at least one per season at the ichi-gun level.

===

The final game of the week had Daiki Enokida facing Daiki Tajima. Orix struck first on a timely single from Stefen Romero in the first and that is all the Buffaloes needed. The Lions couldn't score a run after Romero hit a HR in the 6th. 

Their best chance came in the top of the 7th, but Ernesto Mejia struck out while in the 8th, Hideto Asamura grounded into a double play. Enokida put in a quality start with two runs allowed in seven innings, but couldn't get the win. It was the third shutout of the week for the Lions offense.

Buffaloes 3, Lions 0

Game note:

-Deunte Heath made his debut in a Lions uniform and gave up a run in the bottom of the 8th. 

===

This was a disappointing week where the offense couldn't do anything despite the left on base party from Tuesday. It only gets tougher when the Hawks and will be the last clip before Interleague play.

Lots of work is to be done if this team has pennant aspirations.

===

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Enokida snaps four game skid

Photo credit: @Naoto_524_photo
===

The Saitama Seibu Lions went a combined 1-4 against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and Chiba Lotte Marines. They maintain their lead on top of the Pacific League being 4.5 games ahead of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and Hawks.

Here is how it all went down:

===

The first game from Omiya had Fabio Castillo against Kodai Senga. Both pitchers looked solid, but it was some defense that saved the Lions from allowing runs early. From a jumping catch by Fumikazu Kimura to a throw at home plate by Castillo, they didn't allow any damage through seven innings.

Senga didn't allow a hit until the 4th inning, but the Lions bats couldn't break through with several stranded runners. This included a groundout by Yuji Kaneko with runners on and Tomoya Mori striking out with the bases loaded.

The rain played effect on the game as Neil Wagner entered the 8th and gave up a walk and hit to the first two batters he faced. Things unraveled when Shuta Tonosaki couldn't field a slippery ball and the Hawks took a 1-0 lead. A sacrifice fly with the bases loaded made it 2-0.

Shogo Noda tried coming in to get two outs, but ended up walking in a run and allowing another through a hit to put the game away. This would be the first time the Lions were shutout in 2018.

Hawks 5, Lions 0

Game note:

-Seichi Uchikawa was going for his 2,000th hit, but the error by Tonosaki denied the milestone and he was 0-5.

===

The series went to MetLife Dome as Shuta Ishikawa faced Ken Togame in a rematch from two weeks ago. Togame gave up a solo HR to Nobuhiro Matsuda to give the Hawks an early lead. Seiji Uebayashi hit a no-doubt HR in the top of the 6th to make it 2-0.

The Lions bats were mostly cold again with minimal chances. Their best opportunity came in the bottom of the 7th, where the bases were loaded, but Takumi Kuriyama grounded into a 3-6-3 double play to end the threat. Ishikawa went 7.1 scoreless innings with two strikeouts, four hits and two walks allowed.

Takuya Kai pulled off a surprise bunt which led to a ball being thrown away and scored a third run for the Hawks to end any hopes. Togame collided with Hideto Asamura, but both players were alright.

This was the second straight night the Lions were shutout and the first loss in MetLife Dome.

Hawks 3, Lions 0

Game note:

-Seiichi Uchikawa recorded his 2,000th career hit in NPB against Shota Takekuma in the 8th inning. The game was stopped for a brief recognition.

===\

The homestand continued against the Marines where Yasuo Sano started against Hideaki Wakui. It was Sano's first start in nearly a year after recovering from a leg injury. Hideto Asamura started the scoring with a two-run HR in the bottom of the first, but that was all the glory for the night.

Sano was tagged for several runs in the top of the second, where Matt Dominguez hit a three-run HR. The hits kept coming and the Marines continued to bat around the order for a total of eight runs as Sano was taken out with two outs. Sho Ito allowed the inherited runners to score and it put the game away for good.

Asamura hit a second home run for a consolation, but that was it. The mop up bullpen team came in and allowed four more runs to put icing on the cake as the Lions lost their third straight.

Marines 12, Lions 3

===

The second game had Mike Bolsigner up against Shinsaburo Tawata. Like the previous game, it was over from the beginning where Tawata was hit for five runs in the top of the second, giving up timely hit after timely hit. He didn't even make it out of the fifth after allowing seven runs total on the day.

Even worse was how the Lions stranded the bases loaded in the bottom of the second when Akiyama grounded out. Bolsinger went six innings and allowed only one run for the day. The only run he allowed was on an RBI groundout by Shuta Tonosaki.

Naoaki Matsumoto and Shogo Noda allowed a couple of runs when the game was already out of hand and the Lions lost their fourth straight.

Marines 11, Lions 2

Game note:

-Kazuki Kaneko was called up and made his NPB debut in the top of the 9th as a defensive replacement at 3B.

===

The final game of the week had Daiki Enokida against Edgar Olmos. This one had an early score for the Lions as they put four on the board in the bottom of the first. None was more important than the timely double by Tonosaki with two outs.

Olmos was already done by the second inning, where he walked Yuji Kaneko and it was a nightmare from there. He threw the ball away twice to put Kaneko on third base and the run scored on a bloop single by Akiyama in the second.

An infield single by Fumikazu Kimura put another run on the board to make it 6-0 after five innings. The story was Enokida, who pitched seven shutout innings with six strikeouts and allowing only two walks to go with four hits. 

Neil Wagner and Tatsushi Masuda pitched scoreless 8th and 9th innings to secure the win, ending a bad losing streak.

Lions 6, Marines 0

Game note:

-Enokida is on a four-game win streak. By picking up his fourth win of the season, he already matched his win total with the Hanshin Tigers from 2011-2017. He has not allowed a run in 16.2 consecutive innings, where his last came on April 30.

===

It was a brutal week, but at least it ended on a high note. Enokida is looking like a fine pickup, possibly an asset through four starts, when the expectations weren't even high. Can't win them all and with a shortened week, the pitching rotation can use it to get healthy later.

Brian Wolfe could be back soon while Yusei Kikuchi is hoping to be ready in a few weeks. Are we getting another spot starter again in two weeks? We'll find out.

===

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Report: Seibu Lions reach agreement with Deunte Heath


The Saitama Seibu Lions announced that they signed P Deunte Heath on Thursday. This is the first foreign signing by the team since last December.

Heath, 32, was with the Hiroshima Carp from 2014-2015. He appeared in seven games for 2014 and recorded a 3-0 record with a 2.38 ERA as a starter. Heath spent the 2015 season out of the bullpen in 43 games where he had four saves and a 3-6 record with a 2.36 ERA. His strikeout per nine clip was 10.7 when as a reliever.

Most recently, Heath has been in Japan's independent BC League, where he played with the Toyama Thunderbirds. He was part of a combined no-hitter last month.

In his major league career, Heath played a total of eight games combined with the Chicago White Sox from 2012-2013./ He had a combined ERA of 10.24 in a total of 9.2 innings. He also spent the last two years in the Mexican League and a Venezuelan Winter League.

Senior Director Hisanobu "Nabe-Q" Watanabe stated that the Lions needed pitching reinforcements as the team has struggled in the bullpen. The Lions also liked his versatility where Heath could go as a starter or reliever if needed.

In an exit interview with the Thunderbirds, Heath confirmed that he is ready to take any role as a pitcher whether it's starting or in relief. Through seven games with Toyama, he did not allow a run and already recorded four saves and one win. He has a fastball that can top around 153 km/HR (95 mph).

The Lions bullpen is highly dependent on Katsunori Hirai, Shota Takekuma and Tatsushi Masuda if the team has a lead. Everyone else has struggled or has been mediocre to earn meaningful innings.

With the signing of Heath, the Lions have 67 players on their 70-man roster. Two spots are left open to possibly promote ikusei players OF Wataru Takagi and C Masato Saito. If the Lions feel they need more depth, one roster spot is still open.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Seibu Lions sweep monthly March/April Pacific League MVP Awards


The Saitama Seibu Lions won both the Pacific League hitter and pitcher of the month awards for March/April of the 2018 NPB season.

Hotaka Yamakawa was named the hitter in a landslide, where he hit .337 having 28 hits, 11 home runs, 33 RBIs. He also had a slugging average of .831. This is the third time he has won a monthly award in his career and it's the third consecutive time in a row after taking it for August and September/October of 2017.

"I was aiming for this award, Yamakawa said in a statement. "I planned to win it. I was conscious of my batting average with men in scoring position and my walks total."

To begin the year, Yamakawa had 22 walks and a .560 average with runners in scoring position. Last year, he had a poor April which led to his deactivation, but was called up and had a strong second half. The Lions used this as leverage to force a lower wage for the 2018 season. If he stays at the ichi-gun, he will get a payday. 

Tawata won his award for the first time in his career. He had a 5-0 record in 35 innings with one complete game, a 2.06 ERA and 22 strikeouts. In 2015, he was the Lions first round draft pick out of Fuji University.

"I'm happy to win this award because it is difficult to get it in baseball while pitching," Tawata said. "In addition, I revealed that my first child will be born in September later this year. I want to work hard first, I want to leave a good result and good content."

Tawata was married last offseason. 

Yamakawa and Tawata were both teammates at the high school level in Okinawa and college level in Iwate  before being reunited again on the Lions in 2016. Both of them played at Fuji University for two seasons together (2012-2013). 

===

Central League awards:

SS Hayato Sakamoto (Yomiuri Giants): .369 average, 38 hits, 2 HRs, 20 RBIs. 

P Randy Messenger (Hanshin Tigers): 4-1, 1.82 ERA, 28 strikeouts in 29.2 innings. 

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Sunday, May 6, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Kikuchi hurt as wins keep coming


===

The Saitama Seibu Lions went 4-2 against the Orix Buffaloes and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in a Golden Week holiday that was mostly on the road (when counting Monday's home outing). They still maintain first place in the Pacific League and have not has a losing week this year.

Currently, they have a six game lead on the second-place Fighters. Here is how we got there:

===

The first game against the Buffaloes had Hayato Takagi against Andrew Albers. Takagi started the first well, but loaded the bases all with two outs after hitting a batter and walking another. Ryoichi Adachi took the first pitch he saw into the gap and cleared the bases for a 3-0 Buffaloes lead.

Takagi looked like he'd settle in, but walked a run home in the 4th to end his day prematurely. Hirotaka Koishi came to relieve him and end the threat.

The Lions bats were mostly cold on the night, as Albers forced a double play and went seven strong innings. Fumikazu Kimura put the Lions on the board with an RBI single in the 5th and another came from Hideto Asamura in the 6th, but they failed to take advantage of the few chances.

Yuta Kuroki and Yoshinobu Yamamoto combined for the 8th and 9th inning to close the door, ending the Lions three-game win streak.

Buffaloes 4, Lions 2

/Game note:

-Ernesto Mejia and Kimura started with Albers being a left handed pitcher. Takumi Kuriyama and Tomoya Mori had the day off.

===

The next game had Fabio Castillo against Brandon Dickson. It looked like an early rout when Dickson allowed hit after hit, giving up four runs alone in the top of the first for a 4-0 Lions lead.

Castillo struggled early, but appeared to be cruising through three innings. Ernesto Mejia added his first HR of the year with a solo HR in the top of the 4th to make it 5-0. Castillo had a meltdown bottom of the 4th, giving up several hits including a two-run HR to Chris Marrero and a timely hit from Shuhei Fukuda, which tied the game at 5-5.

Both pitchers went five innings, earning a no decision. Shogo Noda allowed nothing in the 6th, but Hirai gave up a solo HR to Stefen Romero, giving Orix the lead and it finished off the Lions. The Buffaloes bullpen shut the door again and the Lions lost their second straight.

Buffaloes 6, Lions 5

Game note:

-Hayato Takagi was deactivated for Naoaki Matsumoto.

===

The final game of this series had Ken Togame facing Chihiro Kaneko. Hotaka Yamakawa opened the scoring in the top of the 4th with a solo HR. He added two more runs in the top of the 6th with the bases loaded to make it 3-0.

A timely double from Shogo Akiyama and RBI triple from Sosuke Genda made it 5-0 in the top of the 7th. Togame had his best performance of the season, with seven shutout innings, two walks and two hits.

Masatoshi Okada put no doubt into this game with a three-run blast for only his second career home run. Sho Ito and Naoaki Matsumoto closed it out to end the losing streak.

Lions 8, Buffaloes 0

Game note:

-This was the first shutout for the Lions in 2018.

===

The week shifted into Sendai with the opening game featuring Takahiro Shiomi and Tohoku native Yusei Kikuchi. Seibu struck first in the top of the third with a gapper by Yamakawa to plate two runs. Kikuchi appeared to be cruising as he retired the first 10 batters, but the damage came in the bottom of the 4th inning.

Timely hits from Zelous Wheeler and Toshiaki Imae tied the game with two outs. Japhet Amador then hit a two-run HR to give the Eagles the lead on a line drive shot, making it 4-2.

The Lions got a run back when Shogo Akiyama hit a solo HR off Shiomi, his former college teammate. Rakuten's bullpen came in for the 6th as Yoshinao Kamta came in. Shuta Tonosaki bunted two runners into scoring position and the plan worked, as Takumi Kuriyama dropped a bloop single so that both runners ended up scoring, giving the Lions a 5-4 lead.

Kikuchi appeared to have settled in with a shutdown inning, but Eigoro Mogi tied it all up in the bottom of the 7th with a solo HR. It became a battle of bullpens as Frank Herrmann and Neil Wagner had scoreless frames for both teams in the 8th.

Yuki Matsui was in for the top of the 9th and Fumikazu Kimura reached base on a single. He stole second and struck out Sosuke Genda which should have ended the inning. However, the ball skipped away from catcher Yuichi Adachi and Genda was safe, while Kimura scored from second base to give the Lions the lead once again.

Tatsushi Masuda closed the 9th and the Lions continued their winning ways against the Eagles.

Lions 6, Eagles 5

===

The second game had Shinsaburo Tawata facing Takahiro Norimoto. In the top of the 2nd, the Lions put three runs on the board from three balls that didn't leave the infield. A fielder's choice from Kimura led to everyone being safe with the bases loaded as the play at second base was off the bag. Akiyama beat out a double play for another run and Genda plated the third with an infield single, beating out a throw by Eigoro Mogi.

Rakuten got a run back from a double by Motohiro Shima. The Lions broke this one open in the top of the third. Mori hit his third HR of the year and Kimura hit a two-run HR to make it 6-1. Genda also hit an RBI double to make it 7-1.

Tawata was not dominant in this outing, where he only went 5.2 innings with three earned runs and four runs allowed overall. with eights hits and two walks allowed to go with three strikeouts. Both teams ended up trading runs for the rest of the day in what was a snoozer.

Akiyama hit another home run in the top of the 5th and two more runs came in the 8th with a timely single by Mori and bases-loaded walk from Kimura. The streak continued in Sendai as the team won their third straight.

Lions 10, Eagles 4

Game notes:

-Kikuchi was taken off the roster after this game with shoulder and neck stiffness, something he suffered as early as March 14. He will be ineligible to return until May 16.

-Tawata has won all six starts up to this point.

-Norimoto's three losses have all been against the Lions in a dominant fashion. It was his shortest outing of the year at three innings.

-Both Genda and Kimura had a modasho.

===

The last game of the series had Daiki Enokida against Shoma Fujihira. Shogo Akiyama started the scoring with a solo HR in the top of the third. After Genda singled, Asamura hit a HR of his own.

Yamakawa walked and Tonosaki legged out an infield single to setup a chance. Kuriyama made no mistake about it, hitting a deep three-run home run to right field and giving the Lions a 6-0 lead.

Even more runs came in the top of the 4th for the Lions, with timely hits by Asamura and Tonosaki as well as a sac fly from Mori to make it 9-0. Enokida put in another quality start for the Lions with six scoreless frames, four hits, two walks and seven strikeouts.

With this game being a easy one, the Lions added two more runs with Mori hitting a gapper and Yuji Kaneko grounding into a double play. Sho Ito had two flawless innings while Naoaki Matsumoto closed it out in the 9th to secure the Lions four game win streak and second shutout of the season.

Lions 11, Eagles 0

Game notes:

-This was Hideto Asamura's 1,000th career ichi-gun game. He celebrated it with a modasho.

-Every Lions starter had at least one hit in the game.

===

Hopefully Yusei Kikuchi will be alright after it was documented he was playing hurt the entire season up to this point. However, Enokida has been a solid pickup with three quality starts and earning three wins.

The bullpen is still shaky, but the close game in Sendai went the Lions way. A brief home stand against the Hawks will still be tough, At minimum, the winning streak in MetLife dome will likely be snapped in the four games ahead while one is in Omiya.

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Monday, April 30, 2018

2018 NPB Power Rankings: May edition


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With the month of April over, we here at Graveyard Baseball wanted to add a new Power Rankings segment on who are the best and worst teams in NPB by the month.  Keep in mind, there are several ground rules to this:

1. Standings do not always reflect the rankings. 

Even though one team may have more wins than another, some team could be listed higher based on other factors. Power Rankings based purely off standings and W-L record would be a terrible fallacy.

2. Being hot in the final week of a month could give a boost.

Power Rankings should be based on "What have you done for me lately?" While the work as a whole will be looked at, sometimes a surge could come and bump a team up/

3. Team stats definitely matter. 

Is a team hitting or poorly pitching? There will be factors to these rankings beyond just the usual wins and losses.

4. Rankings are based on the month that was. 

This ranking will only show what happened in March/April, not May.  Anything from May would be put in for the June Power Rankings edition.

===

Without further introduction, here is how we rank the NPB teams after one month of baseball:

===

1. Saitama Seibu Lions (19-5)

With no question, the Lions take the top spot to begin the season after doing all things right offensively. There are still plenty of flaws in the bullpen to look at, but the hitting and speed are looking effective through one month.

2. Hiroshima Carp (17-10) 

After a slow start to the year, the Carp bats have been on fire while the starting pitching has been decent, but like the Lions, their bullpen is still flawed. They're also going through some injuries, but this is a soft ranking given how inconsistent they are.


3. Yomiuri Giants (14-11) 

The Giants had a nasty stretch earlier this month, but they've rebounded well with an eight game winning streak and the offense is starting to click as Alex Guerrero is turning it up. It was very tempting to put them at the #2 spot, but the early Carp series loss keeps them just below.

They're getting quality starts from Shun Yamaguchi, who came off a forgettable 2017 season. While it's unsure what direction this team could be in, it's clear they're not going away anytime soon.

4. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (14-11)

An early surprise to the season, the Fighters starting pitching has been absolutely solid with Nick Martinez being a difference maker. Some of the younger pitchers like Naoyuki Uwasawa have stepped it up with the loss of Shohei Ohtani. If the rotation continues to be strong, they could easily finish in A-class.

5. Softbank Hawks (12-11)

The defending champions have dealt with some injuries, but they've weathered to the storm to remain competitive. This team isn't hungover, but they're finding out who can be the relievers for the long run as Dennis Sarfate and Sho Iwasaki are out for some time.

The good news is that Kodai Senga is back for May and the team's pitching will still be a work in progress with who is out. Don't expect them to fade given the talent in Fukuoka.

6. Yokohama DeNA Baystars (13-11)

What team is this? The Baystars dealt with pitching injuries to start the year and later went on an eight game win streak. They're pulling some wins with late magic, but they're very home run dependent for their offense, which remains inconsistent. Even with the injuries, the pitching has been solid, but it's unclear how to determine what this team is besides being consistently inconsistent.

7. Chiba Lotte Marines (12-12)

The Marines are not dead like last year, showing they can compete. Pitching is developing, while the hitting has improved from last year. Shakaijin  Yudai Fujioka has improved the team on defense while Shogo Nakamura is continuing his form from last year. With Ayumu Ishikawa off to a good start, there's a lot to like about this team competing in 2018 even though they lack some pop.

8. Orix Buffaloes (10-15-1) 

Controversial ranking? Yes. Both teams in Kansai have been hard to watch, but Orix has an edge when it comes to team rotation on being interesting with Daiki Tajima, Taisuke Yamaoka and more. They also have some offense behind the young Masataka Yoshida when he's healthy./They've been unlucky to start, but the talent is there.

9. Hanshin Tigers (11-12) 

Lack of speed and a lack of home runs at the ichi-gun have made this Tigers team hard to watch. Tomoaki Kanemoto makes head scratching moves, Yusuke Oyama has been a liability, which is why they're getting docked in this ranking. On paper, the pitching is there, but the dullness of the offense has become tiresome. Also, Shintaro Fujinami has been farmed indefinitely after still showing no control.

Crazy enough in their final game of the month, Willin Rosario hit a go-ahead home run and a stolen base made the difference to tie it. If the offense is clicking, maybe Kansai's main team will take a leap in next month's rankings.

10. Yakult Swallows (9-15)

Junji Ogawa has improved the team already, but it won't show in wins and losses. They're fighting tooth and nail while no longer being a cupcake. However, the pitching is still flawed as they miss Yasuhiro "Ryan" Ogawa. If anything, the offense has shown it can hit when healthy, something this team lacked in 2017.

11. Chunichi Dragons (10-15)

The Dragons continue to rebuild and all we're seeing is learning moments. Zolio Almonte looks like a good piece while Onelki Garcia is solid in the rotation, but the kids are still having their moments. Shinnosuke Ogasawara has been left in too long, Yuya Yanagi is still growing while the bullpen is a disaster.

Daisuke Matsuzaka's first NPB win in 12 years had to feel good, maybe he's not 100% washed up just yet despite the three year layover in Fukuoka. Even with that win, they have all the elements of a last place team, but one is still worse. Like the Swallows, at least they're competitive.

12. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (6-19-1)

The Eagles are an offensive disaster. At the bottom in on base percentage and runs scored (per game).  Rotation is still solid behind Takayuki Kishi and Takahiro Norimoto, but the bullpen is also a wreck. Home runs are lacking and the gaijin core of Japhet Amador, Carlos Peguero and Zelous Wheeler are all hitting under .240 to start.

They're the only team to not win a series of any kind with their closest being a 1-1-1 split against Orix from April 10-12. They also finished April with a seven game losing streak. It's not over, but this month was a dumpster fire to say the least.

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Any disagreements or agreements? Let us know!

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Sunday, April 29, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Still undefeated at home

Photo credit: @N_524_Photo

The Saitama Seibu Lions went a combined 4-1 against thee Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and Tohoku Rakuten Eagles. They still remain in first place for the Pacific League Pennant. Here's how we got there.

===

The first game was scheduled to take place in Kitakyushu with Ken Togame aganst Nao Higashihama, but it was rained out after a heavy douse of water in the afternoon.

===

Game 2 against the Hawks had both teams continue their rotation with Rick Van Den Hurk vs Fabio Castillo. Hotaka Yamakawa opened the scoring in the top of the third with a grand slam. Shuta Tonosaki followed that up with a two-run HR to make it 6-0. The Hawks got a run back when Yuichi Honda hit a sac fly.

The game was broken open in the top of the 6th, where Sosuke Genda had an RBI single with the bases loaded to get things started. Hideto Asamura then hit one off the wall to plate two more runs. Yamakawa hit his second HR of the night with a no-doubt three-run bomb into the Lions Oendan for a 12-1 lead.

Castillo struggled in the 6th with several walks, finishing the night with 5.1 IP, 4 R, 4 ER, 7 BB and 4 K. Shogo Noda cleaned up the mess when it was 12-4 after walking in a run. Daiki Enokida had two scoreless frames with Sho Ito allowed two runs to finish it off.

Lions 12, Hawks 6

Game notes:

-The Lions won their fifth straight game and also scored at least 9 runs during this span.

-Kazuo Matsui came in for Ernesto Mejia as a pinch runner. He scored and later recorded a hit.

-Fumikazu Kimura was hit by a pitch at the knee cap and taken out for precautionary reasons.

===

The second game had Ken Togame facing Shuta Ishikawa. Both pitchers didn't allow a hit until the third and fourth inning as this was looking like a solid pitcher's duel.

With two outs in the bottom of the 5th, Takuya Kai broke up the scoreless draw with an RBI triple down the RF line where Yuji Kaneko was just short. After Kaneko reached base on an infield single in the top of the 6th, Shogo Akiyama hit a big double down the RF line to create a chance. Sosuke Genda tied the game with a sacrifice fly, but the Lions failed to score more.

In the bottom of the 6th, Togame couldn't get a shutdown inning after some walks and with a high pitch count, Nobuhiro Matsuda hit a three-run HR to put the Hawks up again. The Lions couldn't score the rest of the night and the series was a split.

Hawks 4, Lions 1

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The start of Golden Week started with a home series as Takahiro Norimoto took the mound for the Eagles against Yusei Kikuchi. This one started off with the Lions scoring first as Genda hit an RBI triple shortly after Akiyama doubled to begin the bottom of the 1st. Asamura plated Genda with a single of his own to make it 2-0.

Norimoto appeared to be getting rocked, but continued to strand runners later in the game and didn't allow any damage for the next five innings. Kikuchi performed his best game of the 2018 season with six scoreless frames, three hits and seven strikeouts all on 71 pitches. In the 6th, he stranded Eigoro Mogi on second base and his day was done.

Katsunori Hirai and Shota Takekuma combined for a scoreless 7th inning while Masataka Nashida kept Norimoto in the bottom of the frame. This backfired bigtime as Ginjiro Sumitani hit a double and Shogo Akiyama brought him home on an RBI triple. Asamura erased all doubt in this game with a three-run HR to end Norimoto's day with a high pitch count. Yamakawa added on with a solo HR to make it 7-0.

Hirotaka Koishi allowed HRs to Mogi and Carlos Peguero, but that was it. Neil Wagner took the final four outs without issue and the Lions took the first game of the series.

Lions 7, Eagles 3

Game note:

-Asamura recorded his fourth modasho of the season when going 4-4.

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The second game had Shoma Fujihira against Shinsaburo Tawata in a battle of former first round draft picks. Rakuten struck first on an RBI single by "Ginji" Akaminai in the top of the 1st. The Eagles added another run in the third as Kazuya Fujita plated one through a hit.

In the bottom of the third things turned on Fujihira with Ernesto Mejia plating Takumi Kuriyama to put the Lions on the board. The game was tied shortly after as Hotaka Yamakawa walked with the bases loaded, but the Lions couldn't do more damage and settle for a tie after three innings.

Scoring wouldn't come again until the bottom of the 5th, where a timely single by Akiyama plated Kaneko after the latter advanced to third on a bad throw. Yamakawa hit another HR to make it 5-2 after five innings.

The game was broken open in the bottom of the 6th, all with two outs. Asamura cleared the bases on an RBI double. Hits continue to pile it on as Tomoya Mori dropped a bloop double to plate two more runs and Shuta Tonosaki got an RBI single.

Tawata settled in after a slow start, going seven innings with six hits and four strikeouts. He did not walk a batter on the day.

Sosuke Genda was missing out on the party and had his first hit of the day with an RBI triple in the bottom of the 7th. It was the first request in Seibu Lions history when Hatshiko Tsuji requested a replay look, which showed Genda was safe going to third base. Yamakawa added a timely while Mori hit his second home run of the season.

Sho Ito took the final two innings, giving up a HR to Carlos Peguero and the Lions took the series.

Lions 16, Eagles 4

Game notes:

-It was the 11th time the Lions scored at least five runs in a single season this year.

-Kuriyama's double in the third inning was the 308th of his career, tying the franchise record held by Hiromichi Ishige.

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While Golden Week already began, the series wrapped around into Monday with Daiki Enokida facing Takahide Ikeda. The Lions struck first when Asamura hit a sac fly, but the lead didn't last long. Zelous Wheeler hit a two-run HR in the top of the 2nd.

Akiyama tied the game with an RBI single in the bottom of the third to make it 2-2. There was better fortune in the bottom of the 4th, where Kuriyama doubled on a hit-and-run that scored Tonosaki from first base. Akiyama came up with a clutch hit to plate two more runners with two outs to make it 5-2.

Enokida put in a solid performance, going 6.2 innings and allowing only three hits. He struck out six batters and walked none. Katsunori Hirai retired one batter while Neil Wagner escaped with two runners on base in the 8th.

Tatsushi Masuda finished the game with a clean 9th inning and the Lions swept Rakuten.

Lions 5, Eagles 2

Game note:

-The Lions finished April with an undefeated record at MetLife Dome, going 12-0. They won eight of their last nine games.

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It's been a pretty solid week to say the least. Maybe it helped that the game in Kitakyushu was rained out as the bullpen is in good shape. The road trip to start May will be interesting as they go to Osaka and Sendai. No road game is a gimme even with the Eagles struggling.

Starting pitching? Check. Offense? Check. Bullpen needs to fix a few things, but it's encouraging that Wagner has looked better among the mop up pitchers.

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