Sunday, May 1, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Rookies make their ichi-gun debuts in team losses

Photo credit: Seibu Lions
The Saitama Seibu Lions would go 1-3-1 in a five-game week against the Chiba Lotte Marines and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. It was the second straight week with only one win.


In Game 1 against the Marines, it was Ryoma Nogami taking on Ayumu Ishikawa. The Lions got off to a good start with the first run with a hit from Hideto Asamura, but that was the only glory they'd find.

The top of the 4th proved to be too much for Nogami as he allowed a two-run home run to Alfredo Despaigne. Chiba would keep getting hits including a gapper by new pickup Yamaico Navorro (who served a one-month suspension) and Katsuya Kakunaka would score from first. After a sacrifice fly from Tatsuhiro Tamura, it would be 4-1 and Chiba wouldn't need to look back.

Ishikawa would settle in after the 2nd and go seven innings on the night with four strikeouts. For Nogami, he was able to eat up seven innings and allowed an extra run in the 7th from a single by Takashi Ogino.

The Lions bats were no threat for majority of the night minus the second inning when runners were on the corners. Ishikawa did his job spreading out the base runners and making sure there was no life on offense. He has been the Lions nemesis and the team has not figured him out.

Norio Tanabe got rather greedy keeping Nogami in for the 7th and it cost him a run, but the game was already decided with the four-run fourth inning. In many ways, Nogami did what the coaching staff wanted in eating up innings for the night.

Game Notes: 

-Tadasuke Minamikawa made his debut. He's the first 2015 Lions draft pick to appear with the ichi-gun. He drew two flyouts and a groundout in a scoreless 8th inning.

-Isamu Sato also made his ichi-gun debut in the 9th inning. He gave up a single and a walk, but also fielded a ball for a 1-6-3 double play.

Marines 5, Lions 2


In Game 2, Yusei Kikuchi was once again on short rest (five days) taking on Kota Futaki. Early on, this game had the makings of a pitcher's duel through five innings and there were only runners on second, but no major threats.

It wouldn't until the 6th inning where the wheels fell off. Kikuchi could not get an out as it all started with an infield single from Shogo Nakamura. Ikuhiro Kiyota would get a single and Alfredo Despaigne hit a deep gapper for the Marines first run. The bases would later be loaded with no outs and Kakunaka added on with a two-run single.  After walking Tadahito Iguchi to load the bases again, Daichi Suzuki broke the game open with a two-run single of his own.

Asamura gave the Lions a consolation home run, but it was already late. Chiba would tag Hirotaka Koishi with two more runs to put the game out of reach for good.

This game was a classic third-time through the order penalty, where Kikuchi's pitch count wasn't high, but batters solved him by the time the 6th inning came in. He cruised early on, but it all became tough later.

Marines 7, Lions 2


Game 1 against the Hawks featured Ken Togame against Kenichi Nakata with the latter making his first appearance for the 2016 season. Togame allowed a run to begin after he committed a throwing error as it was 1-0 thanks to a double by Seiichi Uchikawa.

Mejia hit his 9th home run going opposite field to tie the game. It wasn't until the top of the 4th where things started to break. Ryo Sakata would get an RBI single to take the lead and with the bases loaded, a chance came for the bottom of the order. Yuji Kaneko would pull a triple down the right field line and clear the bases, making it a 5-1 ballgame. Shogo Akiyama made important contact to make it 6-1 with a sacrifice fly.

Takumi Kuriyama added on with a solo home run in the 7th inning to make it 7-1. The Hawks would add two runs off Shota Takekuma in the 8th, but that was as close as they would get. Tatsushi Masuda shut the door in a non-save situation striking out two batters in the process.

Togame would go seven innings with no earned runs thanks to his own error in the first. He only had three strikeouts and had to keep the ball in the park for outs. There were multiple "loud outs" with hard contact, but he was saved with players like Naoto Watanabe and Mejia standing in the right spot to prevent a hit. Given his recent outings, he has been better than his ERA is, but nothing flashy like the boxscore may show.  We'll take it.

Lions 7, Hawks 3

Game note:

-The Seibu Lions would deactivate OF Yutaro Osaki and activate Ryohei Fujiwara after the game.


In Game 2, it was Kona Takahashi's 2016 ichi-gun debut against new nemesis Kodai Senga. The Hawks were on the board first with three consecutive hits from Yanagita, Uchikawa and Yuya Hasegawa to make it 1-0 in the first.

The Lions would answer back with back-to-back home runs by Mejia and Sakata. Both of them would fall in the "porch" or terrace of private seats to give the Lions the lead.

Takahashi would continue to be in trouble the entire day, with only the third inning being a 1-2-3 frame. He had a bases loaded, no out situation but only one run would score on a sacrifice fly from Shuhei Fukuda.

Trouble would continue in the 5th, where the bases were loaded again with one out.  Takahashi would walk Hiroaki Takaya on a full count pitch to give the Hawks the lead.  Kenta Imamiya would then hit a sacrifice fly to double the lead at 4-2.

It wasn't until the top of the 7th where there was drama. Hayato Terahara would come in and allow multiple hits to Watanabe and then Shogo Kimura, who was pinch hitting. Kimura would get a key triple and bring the Lions within one. Then Tatsuyuki Uemoto came in as a pinch hitter and doubled home Kimura to tie the game at 4-4. Despite having runners on the corners, the Lions could not take the lead.

Koishi pitched a scoreless 6th inning and Kasuhisa Makita would enter in the 7th having a tie game. He did a tremendous job as a long reliever, taking four scoreless innings. It didn't come without pressure though, as the Hawks had two runners on and a Sayonara chance in the 10th. However, they intentionally walked Fukuda and Yuichi Honda would flyout to end the threat.

Masuda would take the 11th inning where another threat would come with a runner on base and Nobuhiro Matsuda up. However, Masuda would ring him up on the inside corner with a strike three and we went to the 12th.

Shinya Tsuruoka would get a double for the Hawks with one out off Masuda and the drama began. Despite a runner in scoring position, Tomoaki Egawa hit an infield fly and Fukuda would also flyout to centerfield and the Lions had their second tie of the season.

Takahashi should have allowed more runs, but the Hawks would strand the baserunners and keep the Lions within striking distance. This was a game where he was getting hit hard, but fortunate that the ball would bounce his way a few times. The bullpen, however, was tremendous.

Tanabe managed this game as best as you can, having Makita in the smart role of being the team's long reliever. The pinch hit decisions were timely combined with the urgency to play Masuda for the last two innings. It's one of those times where a draw is like a win due it being against the Hawks.

Lions 4, Hawks 4


In Game 3 against the Hawks, Chun-Lin Kuo was given his first start of the season against Shota Takeda. Things started well for the Lions as they were on the board in the first after Uchikawa couldn't catch Matsuda's throw on a hop to make it 1-0.

Kuo was cruising through the first three innings, but the damage came in the fourth. After giving up his first hit to Honda, he would get two outs, but Hasegawa would get a bloop single to fall and tie the game. After Matsuda singled, the backbreaker would come from Akira Nakamura where he would hit a three-run home run as Kuo hung up a pitch making it 4-1.

Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura would get the Lions within two by hitting a no-doubt solo home run in the 6th, but that's as close as they got. Takeda would cruise for majority of the game and the Lions had minimal life with weak contact throughout the day.

There was a chance in the 8th where Kimiyasu Kudo stuck with Takeda for the inning as Kaneko and Kuriyama reached base, but Roberto Suarez would strikeout Okawari-kun on three pitches to end any threat.

C.C. Lee would come in the bottom of the 8th inning and allow a two-run home run to Hasegawa to rule out any chance of a comeback. Mejia hit his 11th home run of the season in the 9th, but it was too late.

Takeda was owning the Lions like he usually does. It was a standard outing for him even though he had minimal strikeouts on the day. Seibu would hit into too many double plays for the game and it would bail out any mistakes from the Hawks pitcher.

Hawks 6, Lions 3


Right now, we're in a bad state with Takayuki Kishi suffering a right adductor muscle in the previous week. He could be out for up to two months and the Lions will have to play two consecutive weeks six-games a piece.

More questions rather than answers have come. Does Andy Van Hekken come back after a decent outing in ni-gun? Is Kuo going to remain in the rotation? Can the bats show up against quality opponents?

This team isn't far from a playoff spot due to the rest of the competition being poor, but we shouldn't be at the point where scoreboard watching benefits the Lions. It's not looking good to say the least, with limited bullpen options and a rotation that's half empty.


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