Sunday, May 21, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions weekly Digest: Kuriyama's sayonara defeats the Hawks


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The Saitama Seibu Lions had another successful week going 5-1 against the Chiba Lotte Marines and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. As a result, they've won nine of their last 11 games and have a five game cushion over the Orix Buffaloes and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in the hunt for A-class. Here is how things went....

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Game 1 from Zozotown Marine Stadium saw Kuan-Yu Chen against Ryoma Nogami. Both sides were scoreless through four innings, but the Lions continued to knock on the door facing Chen with multiple chances.

The Lions would draw first blood in the top of the 5th as Hideto Asamura would sneak a ground ball past the infield and Jimmy Paredes' throw to home plate was off target, advancing runners to second and third. Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura would hit a clean single, plating both runners for a 3-0 lead.

Chiba would get a run back in the bottom of the 5th from an RBI hit by Ikuhiro Kiyota, but Nogami would do a good job of limiting the damage. Nogami would go six innings with only one earned run and four strikeouts, scattering five hits.

Kazuhisa Makita had a jam in the 7th inning allowing the first two base runners, but a bunt by Kiyota would have the pitcher make a play. Makita would throw to 3B to get Tadahito Iguchi out and retired both Kohei Shibata and Kazuya Fukuura quickly to end the threat.

Brian Schlitter took the 8th inning and allowed a run through an RBI single by Matt Duffy, but there were two outs and there was little drama. Iguchi would foul out shortly after the Marines took two outs to advance Takashi Ogino to third. Tatsushi Masuda had a clean 9th inning to secure the Lions 4th consecutive win.

Lions 3, Marines 2

Game notes:

-Naoto Watanabe would be the DH while Takumi Kuriyama would PH later in the game.

-Makita would reach 15 consecutive scoreless innings to begin 2017.

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Game 2 would have Jason Standridge against Kona Takahashi, where both pitchers are 19 years apart in age. It would be a slow start for Takahashi, as he would give up three runs in the first inning from timely hits by Tadahito Iguchi and Paredes.

The Lions responded in the third inning, where a fluke triple by Masatoshi Okada would get things going. Paredes would misplay a ball on what should have been a single and it would bounce to the wall. Akiyama would ground out and the Lions picked up a free run. They would eventually load the bases and give Takumi Kuriyama a chance to do some damage. With two outs, Kuriyama would hit a timely single to plate two more runs and tie the game.

Standridge's day was done after three innings as Yuta Omine came in for the 4th. The Lions nearly squandered another bases loaded opportunity, but Asamura's hustle brought in a run as he would head slide to first, beating out a double play and giving the team a 4-3 lead.

Takahashi would settle in and not allow a run after the first. He would go five innings in total with four strikeouts, including one to end the 5th.

Former Marines closer Naoya Masuda would take the 6th inning and gave up a double to Okada, as the latter secured a modasho. Shogo Akiyama would score him in with a base hit. Akiyama added a two-run home run in the top of the 7th to put the game away for good. Kuriyama also added an RBI hit in the 8th inning.

Shota Takekuma and Kazuhisa Makita had clean innings for the 6th and 7th while Frank Garces got to take the 8th. Ichiro Tamura gave up a solo home run to Jimmy Paredes in the 9th, but the Lions were comfortably ahead and secured their fifth straight win.

Lions 8, Marines 4

Game notes:

-Every starting Lions player had at least one hit.  Okada and Akiyama both had a modasho with the former being a home run short of the cycle.

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The third game in Chiba would have Ken Togame up against Chihaya Sasaki, where the latter was the Marines' first round pick last October. Seibu had first blood in the top of the third with a timely single from Mejia.

In the top of the 5th, Akiyama would walk and Sosuke Genda would put him on third with a single. Genda's smart base running would have him on second with a steal. Asamura, the team's captain would then single both of them home with Chiba's infield playing in to make it 3-0. Okawari-kun would get a "timely hit" thanks to a blooper by Ikuhiro Kiyota as it scored a running Genda from first to make it 4-0.

Togame would have his best start of the season, going eight innings and giving the bullpen complete rest heading into the next series. He would have six strikeouts and not allow a run on the day.

Ginjiro Sumitani and Paredes traded home runs in the 9th inning to end the game, preventing a Lions shutout.

Lions 5, Marines 1

Game notes:

-The Lions had only five hits, but eight walks as a team on the day. Akiyama walked three times.

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The week would shift back to MetLife Dome as Game 1 would have the Softbank Hawks bringing Rick van den Hurk against Yusei Kikuchi. An early defensive relay from Shuta Tonosaki and Sosuke Genda would save a run as Yuki Yanagita was tagged out at home plate in the first inning.

Nobuhiro Matsuda would hit a solo HR in the top of the 2nd for the first run of the game. The Lions responded as Shuta Tonosaki would have an infield single, scoring Ernesto Mejia from third base. This would be a classic pitcher's duel with minimal scoring chances throughout the game and this being scattered.

It would be Seiji Uebayashi who would break the tie with an RBI double in the top of the 7th. The Lions had a chance to respond in the bottom of the frame, but Genda would flyout.

There was one last gasp opportunity against Dennis Sarfate in the bottom of the 9th. The tying run was on second base, but Tonosaki would strikeout while Okada hit a comebacker to end the game and snap the winning streak.

Hawks 2, Lions 1

Game note:

-Kona Takahashi was deactivated for Makoto Aiuchi. With next week being a five-game week, the Lions chose to not have Takahashi be a starter. He will be ineligible to play the game in Gunma prefecture next week.

-Okawari-kun would DH while Naoto Watanabe started at 3B.

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Game 2 against the Hawks had Yasuo Sano up against Kenichi Nakata. The Hawks scored first from an RBI single by Alfredo Despagine in the first, but the Lions would answer quickly in the bottom of the second.

Fumikazu Kimura would hit two-run HR to give the Lions the lead while Asamura would hit a three-run shot for a five run inning. It would be Asamura's 100th career home run in NPB. The Lions added two more runs in the bottom of the third off Nakata with a timely single by Kimura and a bloop hit by Daichi Mizuguchi to make it 7-1.

Sano would allow the one run in the first to score, but allowed three more runs through the next four innings. Two would be unearned thanks to an error from Kimura. Sano finished the day with five innings and one strikeout, scattering six hits.

With the game within three runs, the Lions went to the bullpen in the 6th with Shota Takekuma having a scoreless frame. Kazuhisa Makita gave up his first earned run of the season with a solo HR by Yuki Yanagita. Brian Schlitter had a clean 8th while Tatsushi Masuda struck out the side in the 9th.

Lions 7, Hawks 5

Game notes:

-Mizuguchi would start at 2B as Mejia was the DH. Asamura played 1B for the day.

-Masatoshi Okada would be the catcher.

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Game 3 against the Hawks featured Brian Wolfe against Hayato Terahara in the rubber game of the series. The Lions would strike first in the bottom of the first thanks to an RBI-groundout for Okawari-kun after a walk, an infield hit and a sac bunt put Shogo Akiyama in scoring position.

Hideto Asamura would open up the Lions lead with a solo home run in the third that hit the top of the wall in left-center and bounce over the wall into the Lions Oendan. The Lions would continue the scoring in the 3rd with two on for Shuta Tonosaki who would line a two-run double off the wall and give the Lions a 4-0 lead. Things would get worse for the Hawks two batters later as Terahara would plunk Ginjiro Sumitani in the earhole of his batting helmet thus resulting in an automatic ejection for Softbank's starting pitcher after 2.2 IP.

With a 4-0 lead, Brian Wolfe would cruise to five shutout innings thanks to the help of three double plays. This would all change in the top of the 6th where the Hawks would bat around and put together a five-run inning and Wolfe would come out of the game due to an apparent torso injury. The first big hit would come from Kenta Imamiya who would hit a double passed Okawari-kun at third that would easily score two and cut the Lions lead in half. Then Seiichi Uchikawa would push a single to the opposite field which would score Imamiya to make it 4-3 and Wolfe would surrender the mound for Shota Takekuma. The Hawks would then take the lead thanks to a two-run single from Nobuhiro Matsuda giving the Hawks a 5-4 lead.

The lead would be shortlived with Sosuke Genda leading off the bottom of the 6th with a leadoff triple that would be converted into a run with a Hideto Asamura sacrifice fly that would draw the two teams level at 5-5 after 6. The seventh inning would go scoreless but then in the bottom of the 8th, the tie would be broken by an unlikely source in Ginjiro Sumitani who would hit a solo home run to give the Lions a 6-5 lead heading to the top of the 9th.

With the closer Tatsushi Masuda in the game, after a strikeout to start the inning things looked good, but then Nobuhiro Matsuda would hit a solo home run to left-center to draw the game level and give Masuda his first blown save of the season and the "ATSUO!" chant rang through the MetLife Dome. Just when the Lions thought they had lost the game, Takumi Kuriyama would send the Lions home happy as he hit a walk-off home run that just cleared the right-centerfield fence. The Lions had won the game 7-6 with the Lions taking their record in one-run ballgames to 5-7 this season.

Lions 7, Hawks 6

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The Lions finish with a 5-1 week and more impressively, they have won 9 of the last 11 to retain a solid position in A-class with a 5 game lead over the Fighters and Buffaloes for the third spot in the Pacific League.

The Lions have continued to score a lot of runs in their victories but more questions will now be asked about the rotation after Wolfe's apparent injury. If he's out for the considerable future, it's anyone's guess about whether the Lions can replace his starts with ni-gun players.

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