Sunday, May 22, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Sayonara secures first winning week in more than a month

The Saitama Seibu Lions would go 3-2 combined against the Chiba Lotte Marines and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.


In Game 1 at QVC in Chiba, it was nemesis Ayumu Ishikawa against Isamu Sato as the latter started for the second time in his career.  After not scoring in the first three innings, the Lions would strike first off a home run from Hideto Asamura in the 4th.

Sato was cruising through four innings, but the fifth inning is where the damage would be done. With a low pitch count and facing the bottom of the Marines lineup for the second time, it became difficult. Yamaico Navarro would double to begin and Daichi Suzuki would walk. After a bunt from Yuta Yoshida to move the runners over, Shogo Nakamura would ground into a fielder's choice where Navarro was tagged out.

With one out away from escaping, runners were on second and third, but Kei Hosoya would slap a single to plate both runners and the Marines took the lead. Ryohei Fujiwara wouldn't fare better with a walk and then a single from Alfredo Despaigne to extend the lead at 4-1.

The Lions had a chance to respond in the top of the 6th with runners on second and third with one out, but Asamura and pinch hitter Naotaka Takehara would ground out to end the threat. Esmerling Vasquez gave up a run through a wild pitch in the bottom of the 6th, but it all remained academic as the Lions would score until much later.

Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura would get the Lions a consolation home run in the 8th inning off Tatsuya Uchi, but that would be it as Yuji Nishino shut the door.

Marines 5, Lions 2

Game note:

-Shuta Tonosaki and Ryohei Fujiwara were taken off the roster for OF Shogo Saito and Tatsuya Oishi.


In Game 2, it was Yusei Kikuchi against Kota Futaki. Last time the Lions saw Futaki, he only allowed one run over the course of six innings.

This time, it was the Lions who were on the board first in the third inning as Yuji Kaneko reached base on an error from Shogo Nakamura. He would then steal second and take advantage of Yuta Yoshida at catcher. Takumi Kuriyama would then double for the opening run of the game.

In the fourth with two outs, Shogo Kimura would walk and Ginjiro Sumitani would single to create a chance for Yuji Onizaki. Despite being the 8th hitter, the veteran infielder would strike a deep gapper and plate both runners in to make it 3-0.

Kikuchi would then have his own jam in the bottom of the 5th. After allowing two singles and one out, he would get Katsuya Kakunaka to fly out, but then he walked Navarro to load the bases. With Suzuki, their hottest hitter up to this point batting, he would groundout to first base and earn a shutdown inning the hard way.

From then on, he was in cruise control with a clean 6th inning. He would go six innings total with six strikeouts, two hits and two walks allowed. The bullpen proved to be reliable as Vasquez and Shota Takekuma each recorded a strikeout in an inning pitched.

Tatsushi Masuda would earn his first save since April 24 and the Lions took the second game of the series. After having left the starter in for too long last week, we give credit to Norio Tanabe to yank Kikuchi out after 89 pitches and six innings, but third time through the order.

Lions 3, Marines 0


In Game 3, ex-Lion Hideaki Wakui would see his former team with Kona Takahashi making his third start of 2016. After what was a slow start, Takahashi would force multiple double plays to keep the Marines off the board through three innings.

Chiba was open the scoring as Kakunaka opened the bottom of the 4th with a leadoff double. Navarro would get a clean single and bring Kakunaka home making it 1-0. The Lions responded in the top of the 5th with an improbably rally. Onizaki would get a double with two outs and then Kaneko singled slicing one past Taiga Hirasawa to tie the game.

Okawari-kun would then show off his power again, with a no-doubt home run crushed to left-center field, giving the Lions their first lead of the game. Takahashi had his scares, but had a clean shutdown 5th inning and delivered again in the 6th allowing only a hit to Kakunaka as he went 3-3 facing the 19-year old pitcher.

Kazuhisa Makita would then take the 7th and 8th inning where drama would come in the latter frame. Kakunaka would get his fourth hit of the game and there would be two on and two outs. Sumitani would call for Makita to pitch around Suzuki in order to face Yoshifumi Okada. It was a success, as Okada grounded into a fielder's choice and ended the threat.

Wakui would go the distance and allow only two runs with one walk and nine hits to go with eight strikeouts. It wasn't enough as Masuda shut the door again for the second consecutive night. With Chiba playing the bottom of the order (Hirasawa) and pinch hitting their catcher earlier, Tatsuhiro Tamura was forced to bat at the top of the order making it easier for the Lions closer to finish it off.

It was the first time the Lions won a series since April 8-9, which was also at QVC Marine Field against the Marines. This was also the first time the team had won consecutive games with the same dates.

Lions 2, Marines 1


In Game 1 against the Hawks, Shinsaburo Tawata made his second career start against Kodai Senga. The Hawks would strike first on a triple from Yuki Yanagita. Okawari-kun tied it with a two-out single off the wall and it was 1-1 after the first inning.

The Lions would take the lead off an error from Kenta Imamiya as Mejia would be safe from a fielder's choice. They were unable to pad their lead in the third despite numerous chances, which had base running blunders. Softbank tied the game in the 5th off a single by Yuichi Honda after Akira Nakamura doubled.

Tawata had a shaky start and drew multiple double plays, but only allowed two runs through his five innings and took a no decision. The Lions worked through Senga forcing him to leave in the bottom of the 6th with a chance. Kuriyama was up with the bases loaded, but was unable to bring home any runners with a groundout.

Makita would pitch two scoreless innings and Vasquez would take the eighth.  Yanagita would walk to leadoff the 8th and it would be a costly mistake. With two outs, Nobuhiro Matsuda would hit a double down the left field line and break the tie at 3-2.

The bottom of the 8th was different, as the Lions would get two runners on base thanks to a great at-bat from Tatsuyuki Uemoto to force a walk and a bunt single from Kaneko. With two outs, Kuriyama would get a key single and pinch runner Saito scored from second to tie it.

After Masuda worked a clean 9th inning which included a strikeout, the bottom of the 9th became interesting. The Hawks elected to pitch Hayato Terahara instead of the closer Dennis Sarfate. Asamura would reach base on a single with one out. Kimura would advance him to second on a groundout and Saito would walk to create another chance for the bottom of the order.

Onizaki would make contact and with the Hawks outfield playing in, it would be the Lions second sayonara of the season. Not only was it another win over the Hawks, but it also became a three-game win streak to keep the Lions out of the cellar.

We applaud Tanabe for being urgent with the managing again as he dialed it up perfectly. Kimiyasu Kudo did not put in his best relief option for the bottom of the 9th and it backfired.

Lions 4, Hawks 3


In Game 2 against the Hawks, Ryoma Nogami faced Shota Takeda, a longtime nemesis. Asamura opened the scoring with a solo home run in the bottom of the second, but the Lions couldn't capitalize on a bases loaded situation with two outs, as Kuriyama hit a weak grounder to shortstop.

The Hawks would tie the game after Ryuma Kidokoro doubled and would score on a sacrifice fly from Honda. Mejia would break the tie again in the 5th inning with a home run, but the Hawks would answer quickly. Honda would hit a triple to leadoff the 6th and Imamiya would plate him on a double. Seiichi Uchikawa would then get his own base hit to give the Hawks the lead at 3-2.

Hawks manager, Kimiyasu Kudo, would take a risk in stretching out Takeda even though he was closing in on 130 pitches and facing the Lions the fourth time through the order. Akiyama's caught stealing would loom large especially after Takumi Kuriyama would double with two outs and with Mejia up to bat, he'd advance to third on a wild pitch. Mejia would not be able to drive in Kuriyama as he'd tap out to the shortstop to end the inning, and that would be the last bit of offense the Lions would provide in this game.

Shota Takekuma would provide a perfect two innings in relief, but Esmerling Vasquez would give up a solo home run to the reigning Pacific League MVP, Yuki Yanagita. That would extend the Hawks lead to 4-2, but that was more than enough for the incredible back-end combo of Robert Suarez and Dennis Sarfate who would pitch perfect innings in the 8th and 9th to nail down the win for the Hawks.

The Lions had their chances against Takeda, but their failure to capitalize would mark the day and another tough loss would be charged to Ryoma Nogami who has pitched quite well in the early part of this season.

Hawks 4, Lions 2


The first winning week in a month, and it was a long time coming. The Lions looked a lot better as they continue to try and weather the storm before some of their key guys on the pitching staff return. Going up against the two best teams in the Pacific League and going 3-2 is a step in the right direction.


Wes Mills also contributed to this report.

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