The Chiba Lotte Marines secured third place by beating the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters on Sunday by a score of 5-3. As a result, the season is over for the Saitama Seibu Lions with a .500 record.
While it came down to some games beyond the Lions playing 143 on the season, the season was decided well-before the Marines took the last spot.
The Lions were hampered by a 13-game losing streak which started before the All-Star break. Despite playing well up to that point, everything unraveled and nothing was going right while the team was running on fumes.
They weathered the storm without Takayuki Kishi to start the season for two months with an oblique injury. He missed the final week against Chiba, but the Marines themselves battled injuries from Luis Cruz and Katsuya Kakunaka out.
Head to head, Chiba had the Lions' number until the middle of the season. Seibu would benefit playing the back end of the Marines' rotation for the final series at QVC.
However, they had no answer for Ayumu Ishikawa whenever he would face the Lions and Hideaki Wakui would put in some respectable outings against his former team. There were two games in the Seibu Dome against Chiba and both of them went the Marines' way.
The last game had no urgency where they even took Yusei Kikuchi out early, having a retirement moment for Fumiya Nishiguchi in an important game. While it's understandable to give a retiring player a final farewell, everything was on the line and there was nothing that indicated the Lions wanted to win.
The bullpen collapsed with Tomomi Takahashi became ineffective, but the bats were cold against quality pitchers. It's understandable to lose to an ace, but the Lions treated any above average pitcher like they're world beaters.
In order to be the best, you have to beat the best and the Lions weren't good enough. We're thankful for the season that Shogo Akiyama gave us as well as the fun ups and downs with this year, but this season is now in the books.
We tip out hats to the Chiba Lotte Marines for overachieving this year when they were projected to finish in the bottom two. This blog will continue to write in the offseason with plenty of material to cover as well as one Lions OenDEN podcast to summarize the season.
There will be more to come, stay tuned everyone.
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