The Saitama Seibu Lions would go 2-3 against the Chiba Lotte Marines and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in the first week returning from the All Star Series. This also begins an entire month with emerald uniforms.
In Game 1 against the Marines, it would be Takayuki Kishi vs. Jason Standridge in the first matchup since the all-star break. Kishi would allow a run from an RBI groundout after a lack of control in the first, but it could've been worse.
Standridge would only last one inning after feeling back pain warming up for the second inning. Yuta Omine would take over and the Lions tied the game with an RBI single by Yuji Kaneko.
In long relief, Omine would settle in and go three consecutive scoreless innings to keep the Marines in the game, dueling toe-to-toe with Kishi. Takahiro Fujioka would enter in the 6th inning and Shogo Akiyama took him deep to right field to make it 2-1. The Lions had a chance to pour it on with two on and nobody out, but Tomohisa Otani earned a Houdini with Hideto Asamura tagged out at the plate on a single by Naoto Watanabe.
Masaki Minami would enter the 7th inning and after Yamaico Navarro dropped a short fly by Kyohei Nagae, Takumi Kuriyama would walk and create a chance for Akiyama. For the second time of the day, Akiyama went yard with a three-run blast to give the Lions a 5-1 lead.
Ginjiro Sumitani added insurance with an RBI single in the bottom of the 8th, but this day belonged to Kishi. The team's best pitcher went the distance for a complete game, his second of the season and 33rd of his 10-year career with eight strikeouts on the day. He only allowed one walk in the very beginning, but was great with drawing weak contact and whiffs.
Lions 6, Marines 1
-Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura was benched.
In Game 2, it would be Kota Futaki against Felipe Paulino with the latter seeking his first win in NPB. The Lions struck first on an RBI single from Yuji Kaneko in the second inning. They would take advantage of an error from Daichi Suzuki in the 4th where a grounder by Ginjiro Sumitani couldn't be fielded to make it 2-0.
After initially cruising through five innings, Paulino's control was lacking in the 6th and the bases would be loaded for Tatsuya Oishi with one out. Oishi gave up his first earned run, which was a grand slam by Tadahito Iguchi to give the Marines a 4-2 lead. Suzuki would also make up for his error with a two run HR in the same inning to put the game away.
The Lions had a chance in the 7th with two on and one out, but Nien Ting Wu grounded into a 6-4-3 double play off Otani. With the game out of reach, Atsushi Okamoto and C.C. Lee would concede one and two runs, respectively to mop it all up.
There were plenty of chances for the Lions this game, but they couldn't punch in the runs off Futaki and Paulino's control late in the game hurt him. Oishi looked like he was on a path to redemption, but ended up serving a meat ball which led to the game losing runs.
Marines 9, Lions 2
In the first game against the Hawks, Tsuyoshi Wada would face Kona Takahashi. The Lions blew an early chance with runners on the corners and one out. Okawari-kun flew out to short centerfield and Shogo Akiyama tried to bluff on third base, but was thrown out trying to return.
Sumitani would get a two-out RBI single in the 2nd to give the Lions a 1-0 lead. The Hawks answered back in the bottom of the third, where Yuichi Honda hit a two-out single. Control for Takahashi would show throughout the game, but with the bases loaded, he would get a ground ball for a 6-4-3 double play in the 4th.
Kenta Imamiya would take one to the left field porch in the 5th inning for a solo home run and gave the Hawks the lead at 2-1. Shota Takekuma came in and didn't help the cause. Nobuhiro Matsuda would then single and double the lead in the 6th. After Atsushi Okamoto came in with an inherited runner, Shinya Tsuruoka would hit a gapper and put the game out of reach at 5-1.
Okawari-kun would get a solo HR late, but it wasn't enough. Wada would settle in retiring consecutive batters in the 5th and 6th inning to prevent any threats. The Lions had two on with Roberto Suarez pitching, but did nothing with it.
It was just a game where Kona was fortunate to not concede more runs, but the Lions bats were all but forgotten. The base running blunder on Akiyama ruined early momentum and the lack of attention to detail continues to hurt.
Hawks 5, Lions 2
For Game 2, Ken Togame got his first start in two months against Kodai Senga. Togame struggled out of the gate, but stranded the bases loaded in the third. He would allow one run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly to Akira Nakamura. There were initially multiple runners on base, but a 6-4-3 double play to limited the damage.
Senga retired the first 13 batters he faced and the perfect game wasn't ended until Asamura had a single in the 5th inning. The inning would be short lived after a hit and run backfired, as Naoto Watanabe lined out and Asamura would be doubled up.
There was no base runner to get past second base with Senga on the mound, as he faced the minimum 18 batters through six innings. Kimiyasu Kudo elected to go to his bullpen with Masahiro Morifuku. After allowing a one-out single to Akiyama, Yuito Mori was in to see the right handed batters. Mejia struck out, but Akiyama stole second to create the first chance for Okawari-kun. On a 2-1 pitch, Okawari-kun hit one over Imamiya for a single and the game was tied.
Kazuhisa Makita would get a shutdown 7th inning and give a chance for the 8th. Yuji Kaneko would hit a single with one out and steal second. Tomoya Mori would pinch hit for the catcher's spot and come through with a single, scoring Kaneko as he was sent with his speed and break the tie.
There was a scare in the bottom of the 8th, where Yuichi Honda reached base, but was gunned down by Sumitani. Yuki Yanagita would then walk and steal second, but Seiichi Uchikawa flew out and Makita escaped. Watanabe would make contact for a sacrifice fly in the top of the 9th to give the Lions insurance.
Tatsushi Masuda would earn the save after a great diving play from Nagae to end it. Despite not getting a hit until the 5th, the Lions outhit the Hawks and only allowed three on the night.
Lions 3, Hawks 1
-Makita earned his 7th win of the season.
For Game 3, Ryoma Nogami would face Sho Iwasaki for the rubber match. The Lions struck first on an RBI single from Kaneko and doubled the lead with a HR by Asamura.
However, the bottom of the 4th would have some disaster with runners on the corners and one out for Yuya Hasegawa. On what looked like an RBI groundout, Mejia misfielded the ball and the Hawks would score one. Matsuda then took Nogami took for a three-run HR into the Lions Oendan making it 4-2.
Akiyama pulled the Lions within one with a solo home run to right field off Ryota Igarashi. The top of the 8th had the best chance late in the game with an error from Imamiya to put runners on the corners. With Tatsuyuki Uemoto batting, Roberto Suarez would strike him out and end the threat.
Nagae had multiple chances to put in a run, but couldn't take advantage of Iwasaki's lack of control in the beginning. Hirotaka Koishi and Tatsuya Oishi were able to eat up two innings each. Dennis Sarfate would create little drama in the 9th inning, striking out Mejia with two fastballs to end it.
Nogami just hurt himself on one obvious pitch, but it was a competitive game with not enough hits. Unfortunately, it was one run short.
Hawks 4, Lions 3
-To make room for Nogami, the Lions deactivated Atsushi Okamoto as the corresponding move.
It's good to see Makita back, but it's too little too late. Unfortunately, the bats haven't been good enough as they've lived and died by the home run to score. It's another losing week, but there was some competitiveness.
The Hawks are the Hawks and no reason to be angry over losing a series to them. We can only hope we see some integrity and will to win despite how the standings look.
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