Sunday, June 12, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Third Sayonara propels team to fourth straight series win


The Saitama Seibu Lions would go 4-2 against the Yomiuri Giants and Chunichi Dragons. They're now 30-30 and in the hunt only 1.5 games behind the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.
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In Game 1 against the Kyojin, it would be Yusei Kikuchi taking on Kazuto Taguchi. The Lions opened the scoring in the second with an RBI single by Shogo Akiyama after Yuji Kaneko stole second base.

Yomiuri answered back in the top of the 4th after Kikuchi walked two batters. Luis Cruz would hit a double off Takumi Kuriyama's glove and result in a 2-1 Giants lead. That lead wouldn't last long, as Yuji Onizaki would benefit from an error by Luis Cruz and setup a runners on the corners and out one out situation. Kaneko singled on the next at bat to tie the game.

Akiyama would then hit a gapper of his own to left field and score two more runs, giving the Lions a 4-2 lead. The bottom of the 5th would see Onizaki add one with an RBI single and Kuriyama walking with the bases loaded, making it 6-2.

Taguchi wouldn't last in the fourth inning, after giving up multiple hits including Akiyama's double. Chiaki Tone was supposed to come in and help the Giants bullpen in the 5th, but Onizaki took the first pitch to centerfield to score the Lions 5th run.

Kikuchi would go seven innings with nine strikeouts, earning his fourth straight win. It wasn't a dominant outing, but he made the pitches when they counted, limiting the damage to only two runs. He had some control issues on the night, but settled in once it was the fifth inning, inducing weak contact.

Esmerling Vasquez and Yasuo Sano would clean up the 8th and 9th innings, respectively and the Lions would take the game.

Lions 6, Giants 2

Game note:

-Yusei Kikuchi's streak of consecutive scoreless innings would snap at 25.

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In game two, it would be Kona Takahashi facing Tetsuya Utsumi. The scoring would begin in the second, where the Giants took advantage of some sloppy errors by Onizaki and Ginjiro Sumitani getting runners on base. Hayato Sakamoto would cap it off with a two-run single having the bases loaded making it 5-0.

The Lions answered back in the bottom of the frame with an RBI groundout from Onizaki and double by Kaneko. There were plenty of opportunities with runners on base following the 2nd inning, but nothing would come.

Sakamoto would add an RBI single in the 6th and it appeared this game would be out of reach at 6-2. Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura would get an RBI double and the tying run would come to the plate in the bottom of the 6th, but Hideto Asamura would flyout on the first pitch to end the threat.

Hirotaka Koishi would allow a solo home run to Shuichi Murata making it 7-4 in the top of the 8th. However, the bottom of the frame provided a chance for the Lions with runners on the corners and nobody out. Shogo Kimura hit a sacrifice fly to bring them within two, but that was as close as it would get.

Kyojin reliever Scott Mathieson would strikeout Akiyama and get Kuriyama to ground out to end the threat. Hirokazu Sawamura would shut the door in the 9th, striking out the side as the Kyojin took Game 2.

Takahashi would last seven innings, but in the five-run frame, despite multiple errors by the defense, his aggressive pitching would backfire. He attacked batters and the Giants hitters would smash him alive. There were plenty of chances squandered on the offensive side and the bats couldn't take advantage until it was too late.

Giants 7, Lions 5

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For Game 3, Andy Van Hekken made his second start since returning to face Kan Otake. The Kyojin would score first from an RBI by Shinnosuke Abe to make it 1-0. They'd add a run in the third and fifth inning, but do no more damage off Van Hekken despite some jams. They had a chance in the top of the 6th to break the game open, but Van Hekken drew a 1-4-3 double play and gave the Lions a chance.

It wouldn't let them down as the Lions would get two quick doubles by Akiyama and Kuriyama off Otake in the bottom of the 6th making it 1-0. Mejia would reach on a fielder's choice, but stole a base which would loom large as Okawari-kun grounded out on what could've been a double play ground ball. Asamura would slap an RBI single to bring the Lions within one as the inning ended.

After Kazuhisa Makita worked a clean shutdown inning, the offense came alive in the bottom of the 7th after the Lucky 7 Hoero Lions. Kimura would reach base on a ball that could've been caught by Taishi Ota for a double. Then Kaneko tied the game on a triple to right-center field and the Lions were in business.

With the infield playing in, Akiyama would hit a double over Abe's head and the Lions kept the lead for good. Kuriyama would be hit by a pitch and he would leave the game. Mejia would make the team pay as the Kyojin brought in a new pitcher. He hit a deep three-run home run for his 20th of the year and it gave the Lions a 7-3 lead.

The top of the 8th had some drama with Vasquez pitching. He would get one out, but walk two batters and allow a hit. Kimura had an error which loaded the bases and it was 7-4 after a single from Yoshiyuki Kamei. Shota Takekuma would clean up the mess, striking out Ryoji Aikawa and Itaru Matsumoto on back to back at-bats to end the threat.

Tatsushi Masuda locked down his 10th save of the year and the Lions would win their third straight interleague series. This was a more encouraging start from Van Hekken compared to the past, but he could be seen as a spot starter.

Lions 7, Giants 4

Game note:

-Kuriyama would leave the game, but there would be no bone damage as he suffered minor bruises.

-Tomoya Mori would get a hit in six consecutive games dating back to his ichi-gun callup.

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In Game 1 against the Dragons, it was Jordan Norberto against Shinsaburo Tawata. This was a classic pitcher's duel, where both starters would go at least seven innings without allowing a run. The Lions had a bases loaded threat in the second inning, but Kaneko would flyout and they wouldn't score.

Tawata would go eight innings, allowing only three hits and two walks to go with eight strikeouts.  He would only have one scary inning in the eighth, but forced a groundout with two runners on. Norberto would also have a solid outing, going seven scoreless innings with five walks and nine strikeouts spreading out three hits.

Daisuke Yamai and Toshiya Okada would work three scoreless innings for the Dragons while Tatsushi Masuda had a clean ninth inning for the Lions. Makita allowed one hit in the 10th, but no runs.

The top of the 11th inning is where the drama would start. Makita allowed a leadoff walk to Masahiro Araki and he would steal second shortly after. Yohei Oshima would bunt him to third with both Dragons foreigners up. There would be an impressive Houdini as Dayan Viciedo and Ricardo Nanita would both groundout 6-3 to end the threat.

Shinji Tajima took the 11th made it easy for Chunichi. The top of the 12th had Takekuma give up a one-out double to Kyohei Kamezawa. However, there would be another houdini as Naomichi Donoue would groundout on a comebacker and Iori Katsura would do the same, making sure the Lions couldn't lose.

Tatsuyuki Uemoto would pinch hit and get a leadoff single on first pitch off Tajima. After Sumitani would bunt him to second, Uemoto would advance to third on a groundout by Kimura. Kaneko would be hit in the ankle by a pitch, giving a great chance for Akiyama with runners on the corners. Motonobu Tanishige would not intentionally walk Akiyama despite Shogo Saito on deck, due to being a defensive sub. This would backfire as Akiyama singled up the middle and the Lions won their second straight, with their third Sayonara victory of the season.

Lions 1, Dragons 0 (12 innings)

Game note:

-This would be the second straight year the Lions would go 12 innings against the Dragons. The last result was a tie.

-Kuriyama sat out recovering from the hit by pitch the previous night.

-Fumikazu Kimura was called up while Masato Kumashiro was deactivated.

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In Game 2, it would be Dragons ace Yudai Ono facing Yasuo Sano in a spot start for the Lions. The Lions opened the scoring in the third inning with a sacrifice fly from Asamura. Chunichi answered back in the top of the 4th with a sacrifice fly of their own from Nanita. Katsura would hit a sacrifice fly in the 5th to give the Dragons a 2-1 lead.

In the bottom frame, the Lions would load the bases and Mejia would walk to tie it. Unfortunately, Mori would flyout to centerfield and the team wouldn't score again. Ryosuke Hirata, coming off an injury and sitting out on Friday, would take a pitch from Koishi to deep left field into the Lions Oendan and the Dragons wouldn't need to look back with a 4-2 lead.

Sano would last five innings with two earned runs, two walks and one strikeout. He allowed hard contact, but the Lions defense was good on this day to keep them alive.  Ono would end up pitching the entire game and the Lions couldn't take advantage of their chances when they came. They were on base, but couldn't punch in the runs.

Dragons 4, Lions 2

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In Game 3, Ryoma Nogami would take on Kazuki Yoshimi for the rubber match. Mejia began the game with a solo home run for his 21st of the season, but the Dragons answered back in the second with a timely hit from Shota Sugiyama.

A two out rally would come out of nowhere after Nanita would single and Donoue would hit a gapper to right field. Mori's range would be too short as he couldn't catch it, making it 2-1 in the 6th.

The Lions blew a chance in the 6th inning, where two were on with two outs. Kaneko would hit a grounder that would result in an infield single, but pinch runner Shogo Saito over-ran third base and was tagged out.

For the bottom of the 7th, drama would begin. Akiyama lead the inning off with a double. After Kuriyama struck out, Mejia would reach base on a fielding error from Dayan Viciedo and Akiyama would score from first base. Asamura would then hit a deep single off the LF wall giving the Lions a 3-2 lead.

Makita would have a clean 8th inning and Masuda would close it out after allowing a single. The Lions took the series in what was a gritty pitching series that required good defense.

Lions 3, Dragons 2

Game note:

-Tomoya Mori would snap his 8 game hitting streak going 0-2 with a walk. Saito came in to pinch run for him in the 6th inning.

-Okawari-kun and Kuriyama both returned to the starting lineup.

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The Lions continue to rack up series wins as it continued against the Kyojin and Dragons. Pitching looks much improved while the defense and offense remain inconsistent. Still, in perspective, it was a great series win against Chunichi when they saw their front end starters in Seibu Dome. They've been relentless getting on base. Chances are there, but the Lions need to continue punching in runs.

Overall, the team weathered the storm with injuries and still won despite Kuriyama and Okawari-kun out. The best news is that Takayuki Kishi will return to the ichi-gun this week. It should provide a boost.

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