|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
-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
-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
-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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