Sunday, June 4, 2017
2017 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Masuda blows a four-run lead in tie game vs Swallows
The Saitama Seibu Lions went 3-2-1 against the Hiroshima Toyo Carp and Tokyo Yakult Swallows in what was an awkward way to secure a winning week for their fourth in a row. With the Orix Buffaloes on a red hot streak, they are only 4.5 games behind the Lions in the race for A-class. Here is how the team got there:
The Interleague opener against the Carp would feature Kazuki Yabuta against Ryoma Nogami. Hiroshima scored first in the top of the 4th as Yoshihiro Maru would get a timely single. For the night, Yabuta, a relief pitcher, would get six scoreless innings with four strikeouts and one walk.
The best chance for the Lions came in the bottom of the 6th where Takumi Kuriyama and Ernesto Mejia were in scoring position. However, Fumikazu Kimura flew out and ended the chance. Ryosuke Kikuchi would pick up some late RBIs and the Carp pulled away in the top of the 8th wtih Nogami staying in. Shota Takekuma also struggled in the 9th, giving up several runs and the Lions were out of reach. Nogami went 7.2 innings with four strikeouts, five hits and two earned runs before he was pulled.
Carp 5, Lions 0
-The Lions deactivated Makoto Aiuchi on Sunday and called up Tadasuke Minamikawa. Minamikawa was a 5th round pick of the Lions in 2015.
-Yuji Kaneko returned to the ichi-gun for the first time since the end of 2016 and pinch-hit for Kuriyama in the 9th inning. The Lions deactivated Kyohei Nagae as the corresponding move.
Game 2 against the Carp would have Frank Garces making his first career start in NPB against Daichi Osera. Kaneko made his first start of 2017 in LF and reached base with an infield single in the bottom of the third. He would later score on a throwing error from Kosuke Tanaka.
The wheels fell off for the Lions once it would be the top of the 4th, as Tsubasa Aizawa would hit a two-run HR off Garces. Momentum turned for worse in the 5th when Garces looked like he picked off Tnaaka, but a throwing error by Ernesto Mejia put the runner on third base. Ichiro Tamura couldn't clean up the mess and gave up a timely hit to Takahiro Arai and allowed more base runners. It would be Shota Dobayashi who cleaned up the inning with a three-run home run off Hirotaka Koishi to put the game away, giving the Carp an 8-1 lead.
The Lions would score three runs in the 9th inning, including a HR from Shogo Akiyama, but it was too late as the team lost their fourth straight game.
Carp 9, Lions 4
-Minamikawa made his 2017 debut in the 7th inning and gave up a solo HR to Seiya Suzuki.
Going for a salvage in the series, the Lions had Ken Togame up against Akitake Okada. Togame allowed a two run home run to Ryuhei Matsuyama in the top of the third, making the Lions trail for all three games at one point.
Okada's control would have issues in the 4th inning as both Akiyama and Sosuke Genda would get on base with walks to begin the frame. Asamura would be hit by a pitch and the bases were loaded. Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura would ground into a double play to score the first run for the home side. With Asamura on third, Takumi Kuriyama would tie the game with a timely single at 2-2.
Masatoshi Okada would lead off the 5th with a single. After Yuji Kaneko bunted him to second, Akiyama advanced him to third on a ground ball. With two outs, Genda hit a single up the middle of A. Okada to give the Lions a lead. After Genda stole second without a throw, Asamura's softly hit liner would score him and double the team's lead.
Togame would recover from the third and have only one scare in the top of the 6th inning. Runners would be on the corners with one out, but Togame struck out Tomohiro Abe and Brad Eldred to escape.
Brian Schlitter had a small jam of his own in the top of the 8th after Kazuhisa Makita steam rolled through the 7th. With runners on 1st and second and two outs, Eldred was up with a chance to do damage. It would take a diving Asamura to stop the ground ball and not only save a run, but get the out. Tatsushi Masuda would shut the door much easier than in the past, ending the four-game skid.
Lions 4, Carp 2
-Fumikazu Kimura was benched in favor of Yuji Kaneko in LF and Shuta Tonosaki in RF.
The week would shift to Jingu Stadium as the Lions remained in Kanto with Yusei Kikuchi facing Juri Hara, another 2015 first round draft pick after they saw A. Okada the night before. Akiyama would steal second base and score on a gapper by Asamura in the first inning to draw first blood.
Tetsuto Yamada would get a hit of Kikuchi and score on a base hit by Tomotaka Sakaguchi in the bottom of the third. Keiji Obiki would later take on deep for a solo HR in the bottom of the 4th.
The best chance came for the Lions in the top of the 7th, where Kuriyama and Mejia singled to get on base. After Ginjiro Sumitani would bunt both runners over, Fumikazu Kimura and Daichi Mizuguchi would pinch run for both players. Shuta Tonosaki was up and a passed ball tied the game in improbable fashion. Tonosaki would later be hit by a pitch and he stole second shortly after to eliminate a double play. An RBI groundout by Yuji Kaneko would give the Lions a lead as Mizuguchi would score as the ball took a bounce forcing only one play.
Makita had a jam with two on and one out, but Yamada would hit an infield fly while Sakaguchi fouled out. Masuda would wakl a batter in the 9th, but pinch hitter Atsushi Ugumori flew out and ended the game. Kikuchi's six innings were just enough to give the Lions a chance to come back and eventually take the lead.
Lions 3, Swallows 2
-Kaneko would be the leadoff hitter while Akiyama was third in the lineup. Takeui Kuriyama would be in LF with no DH in the lineup. Yusei Kikuchi also recorded a base hit.
Game 2 from Jingu had Yasuo Sano against veteran Shohei Tateyama, who was coming off an injury and playing his second game of the season. The Lions jumped out to a 1-0 lead with a solo HR by Okawari-kun in the top of the 2nd. Akiyama would hit a two-run HR in the top of the 3rd and Asamura followed up with a solo HR of his own for back-to-back homers.
The long ball would end Tateyama's day at three innings pitched, with all four runs coming from three HRs. Yakult would get two runs back from a two-run HR by Tetsuto Yamada in the bottom of the third. Preston Guilmet came in for the 4th and couldn't get a shutdown inning as Genda delievered a two-RBI single up the middle to make it 6-2.
This would be a laugher beginning in the 5th as Sano would get a two-out single and extend a chance, which loaded the bases. Guilmet walked Yuji Kaneko with the bases loaded to add insult and make it 7-2. Sano would go six innings with the home run by Yamada as his only blemish scattering eight hits and one walk to go with two strikeouts.
Shuta Tonosaki would add three more runs coming off the bench and the Lions padded three runs in the 8th inning alone to break it all open. Katsunori Hirai, Tadasuke Minamikawa and Ichiro Tamura would get one inning each to close the game as the Lions won their third straight.
Lions 11, Swallows 2
-Akiyama and Okawari-kun would hit their 11th HRs of the season, tying for the team lead up to this point.
-Genda would be hit by a pitch, but he remained in the game.
For the final game of the series, Brian Wolfe would return as he faced rookie pitcher Tomoya Hoshi. The Lions scored first on a base hit by Akiyama in the top of the third. Mejia appeared to have broken the game open with a grand slam later in the inning to make it 5-0.
In Wolfe's first start in two weeks, he would go five innings with one earned run through a HR by Wladimir Balentien and another through an error. With the score 6-2, the game looked like it would be out of reach when Okawari-kun hit a two-run HR in the top of the 6th. Shota Takekuma and Hirai took an inning a piece, but the wheels would fall off in the bottom of the 8th with Minamikawa in.
Dean Green would hit a two-run gapper making it 8-4. Taking no chances, Hatsuhiko Tsuji put in Masuda with a four run lead in the 9th inning, eliminating any chance of a save. He would give up a two-run HR to Yamada and Green would strike again with a base hit to make it a one-run game. With Obiki up, Genda would rush a throw to first base and the game would be tied at 8-8.
With the Lions putting in a bunch of defensive subs thinking the game was already won, the bats would be dead in extra innings. Makita took the 10th and 11th innings with no damage while Schlitter battled a jam with two runners on base. He would get a grounder from Takahiro Araki and the Lions escaped with a draw after blowing what was initially a six run lead.
Lions 8, Swallows 8
-Koishi would be the corresponding deactivation move in order to make room for Wolfe.
It was an interesting week to say the least. Unlike how last year where the Lions went a combined 1-5 against the Carp and Swallows, they pulled out just enough plays to have a winning week. If anything, the draw hopefully cancels out how demoralizing it was to blow a 6-run lead.
Wolfe is back earlier than we expected and that's a good sign for the rotation to have stability, but how do guys like Sano hold up? The bats were mostly dead until the back end of the week against some questionable Swallows pitching. Despite the Giants being cold as they enter MetLife Dome, it won't be easy as Tomoyuki Sugano will be playing in one of the games.
There are still plenty of questions to be answered, but in perspective, we'll take a winning week rather than a losing one.
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Posted by Christian Gin at 11:24 AM