Sunday, June 11, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Sweeping of the Giants sets opposing franchise record


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The Saitama Seibu Lions had another successful week, going 5-1 against the Yomiuri Giants and Yokohama DeNA Baystars for a six-game homestand in MetLife Dome. June 11 was the last game for Lions fans to see their team in Tokorozawa until June 30th, as they go on a road trip, followed by the makeup week for interleague games and ending with more road games, with a home series in Okinawa.

As of June 11, the Lions have a 6.5 game lead on the Orix Buffaloes as they hope to remain in A-class. Quietly, the Lions are only three games behind the Softbank Hawks and 4.5 behind the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. Here's how they got there:

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In the opener against the Kyojin, Ryoma Nogami was on the bump against ace Tomoyuki Sugano. The Giants struck first with a two-RBI base hit from Daikan Yoh in the top of the 3rd, who was making his debut as a Yomiuri Giants player. Shinnosuke Abe would drop an RBI single in the top of the 4th to make it 3-0.

The Lions responded in the bottom of the frame with a two out rally. Ernesto Mejia and Shuta Tonosaki would get timely RBI singles to bring the team within one run. Yomiuri looked like they were going to break it open with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the 6th, but Nogami struck out Shingo Ishikawa and Luis Cruz would hit a sac fly to reduce the damage. Seiji Kobayashi added an RBI single to make it a 5-2 lead and Nogami's day was done. Nogami had seven strikeouts going 5.2 innings with only one walk, but the third time through the order penalty struck him late.

This lead wouldn't last for long as it would be the third time through the order for Sugano in the bottom of the 6th. Takumi Kuriyama hit a solo HR while Mejia doubled to begin the inning. Ginjiro Sumitani would get a two-out hit and it was followed up by an RBI groundout by Yuji Kaneko to tie the game at 5-5.

Kazuhisa Makita would have a jam with runners on first and second and it looked like the bases would be loaded as Abe got an infield single, but Itaru Hashimoto was tagged out at the plate trying to score from second.

Momentum would stay on the Lions side in the bottom of the 7th. With Toshiki Sakurai pitching, he would load the bases with three walks. Kentaro Nishimura would come in and walk Mejia to give the team a lead. Tonosaki would add a sacrifice fly to make it 7-5. After Schlitter had minimal issues in the 8th, Hideto Asamura sent one to the stands to give the Lions a 3-run lead, which would be insurmountable.

As a result of this Lions win, the Giants would tie a franchise record 11-straight losses.

Lions 8, Giants 5

Game notes:

-Ernesto Mejia had a modasho and reached base in all plate appearances with the walk. His son Alonso would make an appearance during the hero interview.

-The top of the order would go 0-12, but a key walk to Shogo Akiyama would help a rally.

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Game 2 against the Giants would have Yosuke Okamoto making his first start for the ichi-gun since the final game of 2015 against an old foe, Mitsuo Yoshikawa, who was traded to the Kyojin from the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Okamoto escaped an early jam in the top of the 4th with two runners on, but some good defense by Asamura kept the Giants off the board with two ground balls. Mejia would keep momentum on the Lions side with a two-run HR with two outs in the bottom of the frame. It would be his 8th HR of the year.

The top of the 5th had a clean shutdown inning for Okamoto, but he ran into trouble in the 6th. With Yoh on third, he got Hayato Sakamoto to groundout and no runner advancing, but walked Casey McGehee to end his night. Manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji would bring in Shota Takekuma to face Shinnosuke Abe with two outs and runners on the corners and it worked to perfection. On the first pitch, Abe would flyout to LF.

Nishimura would pitch in the bottom of the 6th for the Kyojin and it would be Okawari-kun to do some damage. He hit a solo HR to left-center field on what looked like a line drive, giving the Lions a 3-0 lead. Takekuma would have Yoshiyuki Kamei flyout with a lefty vs lefty matchup, then Makita gave up two hits to Ishikawa and Cruz. However, Makita forced a ground ball on Hisayoshi Chono and the Lions picked up a double play to keep the Kyojin with a goose egg through seven.

Schlitter gave up a hit in the 8th, but allowed nothing else. Masuda would have a clean 9th inning to secure the series and a second straight Lions win.

Lions 3, Giants 0

Game notes:

-With this loss, the Giants secured a franchise record 12 consecutive losses, beating their previous record of 11 from 1975. It was also the longest recent losing streak in NPB since the Lions lost 13 in 2015.

-Okawari-kun once again became the team leader in HRs with 13.

-To make room for Okamoto on the ichi-gun, Ichiro Tamura would be deactivated as the corresponding move.

-Kuriyama would sit out for this one as Naoto Watanabe filled in at DH. Watanabe had a double with a sacrifice hit.

-This was Okamoto's first win since 2015, where he barely hung on against Rakuten in allowing multiple HRs last time around.

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Game 3 between the Lions and the old enemy would feature Ken Togame making the start for the Lions and industrial league rookie, Shun Ikeda for the Giants.

The Lions would strike first early in the bottom of the 1st, thanks to three consecutive singles from Akiyama, Asamura and Kuriyama to give the Lions an early 1-0 lead.

In the third, the Lions would declare this game a blowout with a six-run inning capped off by some poor command from Ikeda, bad defense, and even a fortunate infield hit for the Lions. With that said, the bases were loaded and an likely source provided the big hit to break it open. Shuta Tonosaki hit a grand slam to make it 7-0 Lions which was his 4th on the year. Ikeda would be lifted from the game after giving up the grand slam.

The Lions would continue the theme of unlikely sources of power in the fourth with Sosuke Genda hitting his first career NPB home run into the Giants Ōendan for a two-run home run that extended the lead to 9-0. In the fifth, the theme would continue, with the Lions igniting a two-out rally behind singles from Masatoshi Okada and Shogo Kimura that would set up another unlikely power source in the form of Yuji Kaneko who hit a three-run home run that curled inside the right field foul pole and just like that the Lions were up 12-0 in the fifth after Kaneko's first home run of the season.

The Giants would pull two runs back off Togame in the top of the sixth thanks to the middle of the order bats of Hayato Sakamoto, Casey McGehee, and Shinnosuke Abe. Up to that point, Togame had been in cruise control against the Giants the first two times through the order. He'd finish with six innings of two runs given up with seven scattered hits and two strikeouts.

The Lions would get one of those runs right back and complete the scoring in the sixth, after singles from Akiyama and Asamura would set up a sacrifice fly from Ernesto Mejia thus making a 13-2 Lions lead.

Frank Garces would toss two innings of relief for the Lions with Tadasuke Minamikawa finishing the game and completing the Lions sweep of Kyojin.

Lions 13, Giants 2

Game notes:

-The victory for the Lions gives them a seven game unbeaten streak dating back to last Wednesday's victory over the Carp.

-The loss for the Giants extends their losing streak to 13 games and the 2015 Lions know all about losing 13 in a row. The Giants fell to 3.5 games back of the Baystars for A-Class and was in 5th place after this game.

-Shogo Kimura was added to the 70-man roster as well was being promoted to the ichi-gun as he started at third base with Okawari-kun's back injury that is apparently day to day. Shotaro Tashiro was taken off the roster to make room for Kimura.

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The homestand would bring in the most southern team in Kanto with the Baystars bringing Shoichi Ino against Yusei Kikuchi. Yokohama struck first on a two-run HR by Hiroyasu Tanaka in the top of the second.

Ino looked like he was in control through six innings as he didn't allow a run. Things would change in the bottom of the 7th where Kaneko would hit one over Takayuki Kajitani's head and tied the game as pinch-hitter Daichi Miguguchi scored. Relief pitcher Yoshiki Sunada would be called for a balk when trying to pick off Kaneko, moving the runner to third base. Genda would plate Kaneko on an RBI groundout to give the Lions a lead.

Kikuchi settled in, going eight innings with eight strikeouts and a combined six hits. With the top of the 9th, Tatsushi Masuda would walk Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and face Toshiro Miyazaki. Miyazaki would pull one into the Lions Oendan and give the Baystars the lead again. Yasuaki Yamasaki would close the game with no drama and the Lions three-game win streak ended in ugly fashion.

Baystars 4, Lions 3

Game notes:

-Shogo Kimura started at 3B again in place of an injured Okawari-kun.

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Game 2 would have Yasuo Sano up against Kentaro Taira, the pitcher the Baystars acquired as compensation for the loss of Shun Yamaguchi. Shogo Akiyama opened the scoring with a two-run HR in the bottom of the 1st. The Lions benefited from an error by Tanaka on what should have been a double play. The ball would go to left field and a run would score to make it 3-0. Kaneko would hit a sacrifice fly and Akiyama slapped a timely single to bring two more runs and end Taira's day after two innings.

Sano would cruise through two innings, but allowed timely hits to Tanaka and Jose Lopez which made it 5-2. He would run into a jam for the top of the 4th and reached the 80-pitch count. Hatsuhiko Tsuji would take Sano out and have Frank Garces enter getting Kajitani to flyout and end the frame.

Garces ran into another two out jam in the top of the 5th with two runners in scoring position, However, he would get Audy Ciraco to strikeout to end the threat. Garces had a much cleaner 6th inning and was in line for a victory after not allowing a run.

Makita and Schlitter both gave up a hit in the 7th and 8th, but no damage was done with the latter getting a double play. Tonosaki would hit a solo HR in the bottom of the 8th and Shota Takekuma closed it out with a four run lead to even up the series.

Lions 6, Baystars 2

Game notes:

-Naoto Watanabe would play at 3B and bat 8th in the lineup. He would pickup two walks.

-The Lions Oendan paid tribute to legendary Nishitetsu Lion P Kazuhisa Inao, as 6/10 would be his 80th birthday.

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The rubber match for Sunday had Brian Wolfe taking the mound against Shota Imanaga, who came off a solid 2016 rookie season. Both sides wouldn't have much chance as this game lived up to the hype as being a pitcher's duel.

Yuji Kaneko would leadoff the 4th inning with a double. Genda would bunt Kaneko over to third with Shogo Akiyama up having less than two outs. He would hit a chopper to 2B Elian Herrera, but the fielder attacked home plate and Kaneko beat out the throw to score. The play would go to review, but there was no dispute that Kaneko's hand touched home plate before any tag by Yasutaka Tobashira.

Imanaga would have a dominant outing, going eight innings with six strikeouts scattering five hits and two walks. The best chance for the Lions came with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th, but Imanaga struck out Akiyama as the latter was caught looking to end the threat.

Wolfe would dominate with the ground ball, allowing only two hits through seven innings and his pitch count was well-below 100. Tsuji would have Schlitter take the 8th where he allowed several base runners, but a double play prevented any damage.

Tsuji would stick to the plan in the 9th as Masuda would take over. He had two quick outs on Kajitani and Jose Lopez, but Tsutsugo forced a walk and like Friday's game, Miyazaki was up again. Tsuji ran out to the mound to discuss a plan for Masuda and it worked. Miyazaki would foul out and the Lions took the series.

Lions 1, Baystars 0

Game notes:

-Watanabe started at 3B and went 2 for 3.

-This would be the 5th consecutive winning week for the Lions dating back to their sweeping of Orix on May 14.

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The Lions successfully went 5-1, but it's easy to feel greedy with how Masuda blew a save in the 9th. Based on the last month of play, an argument can be made that Masuda is the worst closing option among the Pacific League closers. He was able to fight off the last game which is a good sign, but he still isn't striking anyone out.

An 8-3-1 interleague record is always good, but it's crazy to think they should be 10-2 if it weren't for Masuda blowing two 9th inning leads. The bats have been up and down depending on the opposing pitcher, which is understandable. Last year, the Lions were 8-4 through 12 interleague games. Hopefully there won't be any major letdown, but we're expected a winning record at minimum. It will be interesting to see what happens with Okawari-kun's injury and how the 3B position is utilized. It's likely with no DH, Okawari-kun is just a pinch hitter.

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4 comments:

  1. Great recap, guys. Always enjoy reading it... especially since I went to a couple of those games. One minor correction... Okawari has 13 HRs. Let's hope he comes back soon.

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