Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lions Weekly Digest: Laird tames pitching; Seibu loses six straight

The Saitama Seibu Lions were swept by both the Orix Buffaloes and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters this week. They have now lost six straight games and 10 of their last 11.

Game 1 against Orix saw a tremendous pitching matchup between aces Takayuki Kishi and Chihiro Kaneko. In this game, the Lions would fail to scratch anything off of Kaneko, though they were able to get him out of the game after the 7th.

Unfortunately the Lions would fail to get anyone across. They would score on a rally of ground balls in the third. In the fourth, a solo home run from Ryoichi Adachi on a hanging curveball would be the dagger in what was another fantastic Kishi outing where he ended up getting saddled with a loss. The Buffaloes would win by a score of 2-0.

Game 2 against Orix saw a slow start from Yusei Kikuchi. He went five innings, but all of his damage happened in the first with hits from the bottom of the order. Yoshitomo Tani hurt the Lions the most with a two-run gapper down the right field line and later the Buffaloes were up 4-0.

Tomoya Mori pulled a deep ball to right field, but it was a foul ball and not a home run. Okawari-kun had a solo HR, which was his 299th in his career. Orix's bullpen settled in after there were threats against starter Daiki Tomei. The Lions could not execute consecutive hits in the entire series, with the home run being their only run in 18 innings against Orix.

Game 1 vs. the Fighters was a tough outing from the start as Shohei Otani faced the Lions. Ken Togame had minimal damage until the fourth inning, where he hung a pitch to Brandon Laird for a solo HR. The bottom of the order did damage from Haruki Nishikawa and Kengo Ono matching up well to get base for the top of the order.

Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura would reach the precious milestone of 300 HRs and 1,000 career hits on one swing to bring the Lions within 2 making the score 3-1 after four innings. Unfortunately Togame couldn't get out of a jam again and Kazuki Miyata didn't do well with inherited runners to make it 5-1.

Okawari-kun would tie the game with a dramatic grand slam on his next at bat. Laird would get a run back for the Fighters in the sixth inning off Yosuke Okamoto which would give them the lead for good. Tatsushi Masuda couldn't get an out and was tagged for six earned runs in the eighth inning which ended any chance of a comeback.  It would be the Lions' fourth consecutive loss.

Game 2 against Hokkaido looked promising from the start as a few infield singles would put the Lions up 2-0. Shuta Tonosaki would also hit his first career home run in his first start with the ichi-gun and they retained a 3-1 lead after two innings.

Ryoma Nogami would be good for getting out of jams as he lasted six innings and had one earned run, but the scare came in the the bullpen. Masuda would allow a run and Tomomi Takahashi would blow the save on a ground rule double by Shinjo Ishikawa.

Laird would do damage again with a left field gapper and the Fighters would go ahead 6-4, extending the losing streak to five games. It was the third consecutive blown save by Takahashi.

Game 3 started well with an RBI single from Tomoya Mori and the Lions were leading 2-0. But a two-run HR from Laird tied the game and momentum went downwards.

The Lions would get a run back, but the fifth inning is where the meltdown began. Hideto Asamura fielded a ground ball on what should have been a routine double play, but the throw was wide and everyone was safe. Daikan Yoh made them pay with a three-run home run of his own as Kazuhisa Makita hung up another pitch.

Seibu wouldn't recover with more hits coming and even Takahashi allowed an extra run in garbage time. Patience is becoming thin and even the yellow uniforms couldn't save this week for the Lions.

The Chiba Lotte Marines are only three games behind and they are most likely licking their chops for the upcoming series at QVC. If the bullpen can't figure themselves out, this season could very well turn South for the worst. Takahashi's pitches had no zip while the hitting has been cold.

The only positives from this week were the milestones reached by Okawari-kun and Mizuguchi being promoted. Otherwise, the hitting just isn't there and the bullpen is unreliable from all pitchers.

Other developments to note include Tonosaki starting at SS while Hichori Morimoto while deactivating Fumikazu Kimura.  Couldn't also help but notice Ernesto Mejia moving down to 7th in the lineup and was benched for Sunday's game.

Things are looking down, but the team isn't dead yet. Be thankful we aren't the Chunichi Dragons or well-behind like Orix.


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