Sunday, April 30, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Wolfe prevents a winless end to April


The Saitama Seibu Lions would have their first six game week of the 2017 season. They would start in Kansai against the Orix Buffaloes then come home to face the Chiba Lotte Marines.


Game 1 against Orix in Kobe featured Brandon Dickson facing Shinsaburo Tawata. It would be another slow start for the second-year Lions pitcher as Orix smashed three runs off him in the first inning. Takahiro Okada and Brent Morel would have timely hits to give the early lead to the Buffaloes. Okada drove in another run during the third inning as Eiichi Koyano scored from first.

The Lions wouldn't go down without a fight. They were able to tie the game with four runs in the top of the 5th. Shogo Akiyama, Sosuke Genda and Ernesto Mejia would deliver timely hits with Genda having a double scoring two.

Unfortunately, the downward spiral for Tawata continued as he gave up a solo HR to Okada in the bottom of the 5th, giving Orix the lead for good. The Lions had two chances late in the game to tie it. The top of the 7th had two runners on base against Kazumasa Yoshida. but Mejia would strikeout to end the threat.

Ginjiro Sumitani would fail on a bunt attempt resulting in a double play in the 9th inning. However, Akiyama was on second for one last gasp. Genda would ground out and come up short with a head slide as Orix snapped the Lions' four game win streak.

Buffaloes 5, Lions 4

Game notes:

-Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura would sit out as a healthy scratch due to ankle inflammation.  Shuta Tonosaki would play 3B as a result.

-Takumi Kuriyama would pinch hit for Hotaka Yamkawa in the 8th inning.


Game 2 at Kyocera Dome had Kona Takahashi against Chihiro Kaneko. The game would be scoreless until the 5th inning, where Takahashi saw the order for the third time of the night. Yuki Miyazaki would draw first blood with a two-RBI single past a diving Shuta Tonosaki. Masahiro Nishino followed that up with an RBI triple down the RF line. Ryoichi Adachi added a fourth run with an RBI single with the Lions infield playing in.

The Lions responded in the top of the 6th as Genda had an RBI triple and Asamura plated him with an RBI groundout, but it wasn't enough. Kaneko would go the distance for a complete game, scattering four hits with two walks. The Lions final chance came in the top of the 9th with Asamura on base, but Okawari-kun would hit into a double play and end the game.

Buffaloes 4, Lions 3

Game notes:

-Okawari-kun returned to the lineup as a DH with Tonosaki playing 3B.


For the final game of the series, Ken Togame would make his first start of 2017 against Takahiro Matsuba. Hiroyuki Nakajima would plate the first run of the game in the 1st inning as he would walk with the bases loaded.

Orix picked up a second run on an RBI double by Shunta Goto in the bottom of the 4th. Togame didn't have a brilliant outing, but it was good enough to give the Lions a chance with 6.2 innings and only two runs allowed on six hits.

The Lions tied the game in the top of the 6th with a two-run RBI double by Okawari-kun. Orix loaded the bases in the top of the 7th adn Shota Takekuma was brought in for the jam. Adachi would end up flying out to LF and end the threat.

In the top of the 9th, Takumi Kuriyama would get a walk as a pinch hitter and Kyohei Nagae would be on second as a pinch runner. Unfortunately, Fumikazu Kimura and Tonosaki would strikeout to squander a chance.

The bottom of the 9th featured Goto securing a modasho with a double down the RF line. With two outs, Koyano would pinch hit and hit a chopper to the infield. Okawari-kun forced an ill-advised throw to 1B and threw it away, having Goto score from second base and ending the game in Sayonara fashion. It was the first walkoff loss of the season.

Buffaloes 3, Lions 2

Game note:

-Yamakawa would go 0-3 as the DH, lowering his average to .115.

-To make room for Togame, Shogo Saito was deactivated as the corresponding move.

-This is the first time the Lions have gone 0-5 against Orix since 1980 (Blue Wave).


The opening game against Chiba from MetLife Dome featured Hideaki Wakui against Yusei Kikuchi. It would be a classic pitcher's duel, with both players going seven innings. Asamura grounded into a double play for the first run of the game, but the Marines would answer with two runs in the top of the 6th.

Takashi Ogino would get a timely hit down the RF line to plate one and an error from Ernesto Mejia made it 2-1 Marines. The Lions would answer quickly with a chance, but Shuta Tonosaki made the least of it with a fielder's choice, beating out a double play and scoring a runner from third.

Both teams would be in a dead lock as both bullpens entered in the 8th. The Lions bullpen only gave up one hit in five innings, while the Marines scattered several. Naoya Masuda left the door open for a walkoff, but Asamura hit into a 5-3 double play.

In the bottom of the 12th, the Lions had two runners on with one out. However, Hotaka Yamakawa would strikeout and Takumi Kuriyama flied out to end the game as pinch hitters. It would be the first tie in the Pacific League for the 2017 season and the Lions ended a three game losing streak.

Lions 2, Marines 2

Game note:

-Kikuchi had 10 strikeouts and Genda would have a modasho.

-Naoto Watanabe was the starting DH and went 2-3 before leaving the game and Kyohei Nagae entering as a pinch runner.


For the second game against the Marines, it would be Kota Futaki against Ryoma Nogami. It would be an awful start from the beginning for Nogami as Seiya Inoue would clear the bases on a gapper in the bottom of the first to make it 3-0. Daichi Suzuki hit a solo home run in the top of the 3rd to make it 4-0.

Kota Futaki shut down the Lions for the most part, but a chance came in the bottom of the 8th as our old friend Tsutomu Ito left him in. Asamura would get an RBI single, forcing Tatsuya Uchi to come in. Mejia would get a base hit with the bases loaded and plate two more runs, but as he tried to get in a rundown, the Marines saw Okawari-kun trying to score and tagged him out at the plate.

With the game within one run, Shota Takekuma would ruin any chance of a comeback as Ryo Miki hit a two run blast, securing another Lions defeat.

Marines 6, Lions 3

Game notes:

-Daichi Mizuguchi was called up and started at 2B with Asamura playing 1B. Ernesto Mejia would be the DH. Mizuguchi would go 1-4 with a stolen base.

-Shinsaburo Tawata was the corresponding deactivation move to make room for Mizuguchi.


For the final game of the week, month and series, Brian Wolfe would hope to salvage something against Yuki Karakawa. Shogo Akiyama would start the scoring with a solo HR in the bottom of the third into the Marines Oendan. Okawari-kun would also get a timely hit to centerfield to plate Sosuke Genda, making it 2-0.

Wolfe would be efficient and stay on cruise control throughout the day. It would only take 69 pitches to get through seven scoreless innings as he allowed two hits and had two strikeouts. Karakawa had better results against the Lions compared to his last outing, but allowed 10 hits as Seibu couldn't capitalize on all the chances available.

Brian Schlitter had a clean 8th inning while Tatsushi Masuda gave up a solo HR to Kei Hosoya in the top of the 9th. That run would be the only blemish in what was a solid pitching outing by the Lions staff. It would snap a streak of five games without a win.

Lions 2, Marines 1

Game notes:

-The Lions are 9-0 in games when Brian Wolfe starts dating back to last season.

-Naoto Watanabe would start at 3B as Okawari-kun was the DH. He would go 0-4.


This was a brutal week where the Lions were coming up short by one run in three of the four losses with the other being decided late in the 9th inning. The starting pitching hasn't been bad and we can only hope it was an exception in the bats being cold.

It will be the first series in Fukuoka for 2017 coming up for the Lions and it won't be easy. The Hawks look to get into A-class, while the Buffaloes and Eagles are both on top for now.

Tawata is also taking a break from ichi-gun baseball for at least a week. We can only hope he can regain his form from the second half of 2016/ There's plenty of work to be done.


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