Sunday, June 18, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Tsuji loses series in return to Nagoya


The Sataima Seibu Lions went 2-4 against the Hanshin Tigers and Chunichi Dragons to end interleague play with a road trip in the central part of the country. It was their first losing week since May 7. Despite all of this, they would keep a solid eight game cushion on the Orix Buffaloes and 9.5 on the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in the race for A-class. Here is how they got there:


The opener from Koshien Stadium had Ryoma Nogami against Takumi Akiyama. "Shunsuke" Fujikawa opened the scoring from a two-run gapper off Nogami in the bottom of the 2nd. The Lions responded with solo HRs from Sosuke Genda and Ernesto Mejia in the 3rd and 4th innings, but the Tigers got the lead back with a solo HR from Shunsuke in the bottom of the 4th.

There was a chance on with a runner on third for the Lions against Akiyama, but there would be no damage with three consecutive outs from the top of the order. Nogami would only allow those three runs and go six innings, but couldn't earn a win. The best chance came in the 7th inning with the bases loaded as the Tigers used two relievers in the frame, but Kentaro Kuwahara would escape by getting Hideto Asamura to flyout.
Hanshin would pull away in bottom of the 7th with a two-run gapper by Kento Itohara off Shota Takekuma and added two more runs with a hit by Masahiro Nakatani in the 8th off Frank Garces to put the game away.

While the Lions had their chances, it would be T. Akiyama who would have his day with 6.1 innings and five strikeouts.

Tigers 7, Lions 2

Game notes:

-Takeya "Okawari-kun" returned to the lineup for hte first time since June 7. He would go 0-4.

-With the interleague makeup break coming up, the Lions took Nogami off the roster after the game, calling up P Shoga Noda in his place.


Game 2 had Yosuke Okamoto up against Atsushi Nomi.  The Lions scored first in the top of the 1st after two 2-out walks to Shogo Akiyama and Asamura. Okawari-kun made Nomi pay with a base hit to draw first blood.

In the top of the third, Akyama and Asamura reached base again with two-out singles. Okawari-kun did damage once again, this time with a three-run opposite field blast for his 14th HR of the year to make it 4-0.

An early chance came for the Tigers in the bottom of the 4th with two runners on, but Kosuke Fukudome grounded into a 3-6-3 double play. Okamoto ran into another jam for the 5th inning with second and third with nobody out, but both runners would score on an RBI groundout and sacrifice fly to clear the bases. The inning was still going as two more runners would reach base, but Yamato Maeda grounded out to end the threat.

Okamoto had to ask his defense to do the job, with only two strikeouts on the night. He left the game after getting one out in the 6th and Takekuma took over with inherited runners. Takashi Toritani would hit an infield fly while this time around, Shunsuke would groundout.

Kazuhisa Makita pitched a clean 7th, while Brian Schlitter gave up one hit in the 8th, but no runs allowed. Tatsushi Masuda, a Hyogo prefecture native, came in for the 9th and initially allowed a leadoff hit to Toritani, Shunsuke hit a loud flyout to RF caught by Fumikazu Kimura, Hiroki Uemoto would strikeout, pinch hitting for the catcher while Yoshio Itoi, an old Pacific League foe, came in to pinch hit the pitcher's spot. Itoi would be caught looking and Masuda earned the save as the Lions evened up the series.

Lions 4, Tigers 2

Game note:

-With Okawari-kun's HR, he officially hit a home run in all 12 main NPB stadiums for his career.

-Like Nogami, Okamoto was taken off the roster after the game. The Lions would call up Aito Takeda (formerly Otaki) to the ichi-gun.


The rubber match would have Randy Messenger facing Ken Togame. Hanshin struck first in the bottom of the 1st inning thanks to a timely single from Fukudome. Seibu responded with a two-run HR by Ernesto Mejia in the top of the 4th, but the game would be tied in the bottom of the 6th with an unlikely RBI single by pinch-hitter Hayata Ito.

Messenger's control wasn't the greatest on the night, but Togame would also Houdini his way through six innings. It would be a battle of bullpens starting in the 7th inning and both sides looked even until the 9th inning. Kazuhisa Makita pitched the 7th and 8th with no problem, but the Tigers pen shut the Lions bats down with plenty of strikeouts from Marcos Mateo and Rafael Dolis.

Brian Schlitter took the 9th inning and escaped with a runner on second, but the breaks wouldn't come in the 10th. Ginjiro Sumitani walked to leadoff the top of the frame, but the Lions couldn't get him home as Shogo Akiyama struck out as the runner was in scoring position. The Tigers loaded the bases in the bottom of the 10th and Fumihito Haraguchi would get a sayonara hit, giving the Tigers the series.

Tigers 3, Lions 2 (10 innings)

Game notes:

-The Lions couldn't figure out Nakatani in this one, as he went 5-5 having all singles.

-Shuta Tonosaki started in LF in place of Takumi Kuriyama and went 0-4.


The week shifted West to Nagoya Dome as the Lions faced 2015 Koshien champions Shinnosuke Ogasawara with Yusei Kikuchi. Chunichi scored first with a solo HR by Naomichi Donoue in the bottom of the third.

The lead wouldn't last long as Okawari-kun would hit a deep sacrifice fly to score one run and Ernesto Mejia followed it up with a solo HR in the top of the 5th. Akiyama added on with a two-run opposite field HR in the top of the 5th. Mejia would golf a solo HR in the top of the 6th for a multiple home run game.

Kikuchi didn't need to be dominant, but he still went eight innings with the one HR given up and had 10 strikeouts with one walk. Akiyama put the icing on the cake with a three-run blast in the top of the 9th to make it 9-1. Katsunori Hirai pitched a scoreless 9th inning to put the Lions back in the win column.

Lions 9, Dragons 1

Game notes:

-Akiyama and Ginjiro Sumitani had modashos.

-Dayan Viciedo missed the entire series for the weekend as he went to the USA to file paperwork for U.S. Citizenship.

-Takeda would make his first career plate appearance as a pinch hitter in the top of the 9th. He would be hit by a pitch from Taisuke Maruyama and scored on Akiyama's HR.

-The Lions can say they've beaten every team in NPB with this win, something that couldn't happen last year after being swept in Hiroshima by the Carp.


Game 2 from Nagoya Dome had Yasuo Sano up against veteran Raul Valdes. Sano would leave the game in the bottom of the first after feeling pain in his left knee and Frank Garces had to step in as an emergency starter. The Dragons scored first in the bottom of the second on a sacrifice fly by Takuya Kinoshita. Garces looked like he would limit the damage by striking out Raul Valdes, but it was a wild pitch which would score a second runner.

Chunichi picked up another run in the bottom of the 4th as Kinoshita picked up a base hit through the ball striking first base for a strange bounce past the infield. The Lions best chance came in the top of the 5th with two runners in scoring position. Sumitani looked like he would have a gapper, but Yohei Oshima ran it down and it resulted in a sacrifice fly. Valdes would dominate the Lions with seven strong innings and only two hits allowed with two walks.

Shingo Takeyama would hit a bloop RBI single off Tadasuke Minamikawa in the bottom of the 8th for insurance, but the Lions bats would remain cold on the day and not create any threat. Shinji Tajima closed the game out with no problem and evened up the series.

Dragons 4, Lions 1

Game notes:

-Hirai, Minamikawa and Shogo Noda would all play in this game as low leverage relievers.

-Sano would be deactivated after the game as his condition is unknown.


The final game of interleague play would have Brian Wolfe against first round rookie Yuya Yanagi. Seibu scored first with an RBI double by Asamura in the top of the 1st inning. Chunichi took the lead in the bottom of the frame with an error by Sosuke Genda and Masahiko Morino hitting the wall for a double making it 2-1.

It would be 3-1 in the bottom of the third thanks to an RBI double from Atsushi Fujii. The Lions would fight back and tie the game in the top of the 6th as Okawari-kun hit an RBI double and scored on a wild pitch from Yanagi.

Yanagi would go seven innings with a walk and three strikeouts depending on weak contact as his best weapon. Wolfe would go only five innings, but keep the Lions in the hunt.

Shota Takekuma pitched a scoreless 6th while Kazuhisa Makita took the 7th giving up a leadoff hit to pinch hitter Takahito Kudo. The Dragons would bunt him over and it would be Kyohei Kamezawa who delievered with a timely hit to give Chunichi the lead for good. Offense for the Lions was minimal against the Dragons' bullpen and they would lose the series.

Dragons 4, Lions 3


With interleague play finally over, the Lions for the most part were successful going 10-7-1, unlike the disaster last season of finishing 1-5 and a 9-9 record overall. They were able to gain ground on the Fighters and Buffaloes without having a brutal stretch. Things can always be better though, with the hitting having its ups and downs and the rotation depth in question.

They'll be in Fukuoka for the weekend after what will be a fun test. Can Masuda shake off the recent woes? Will Kaneko's addition make a difference as Pacific League play resumes? How does the pitching depth hold up and what can Stephen Fife do? We'll find out. In the meantime, enjoy the break as the Lions regroup and continue their quest for A-class.


Stay tuned for a June podcast episode coming soon by the end of the month!

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