The Saitama Seibu Lions reached second place in the Pacific League with a 3-2-1 week against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and Orix Buffaloes on the road. This is the first time in the 2017 season the Lions have been in front of the Eagles in the standings. Here's what happened for the week:
The opener from Sendai had Ken Togame return from his injury to face Takahiro Shiomi. Shogo Akiyama started the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the top of the 4th. The Eagles tied the game when Motohiro Shima slapped an RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the 5th.
Hideto Asamura would give the Lions a lead again in the top of the 6th, with an RBI single after Tomoya Mori would take advantage of a hit and run. Sosuke Genda provided insurance with a soft single past Eigoro Mogi to make it 3-1.
Togame would have a solid outing with 6.2 innings, four strikeouts and no walks while scattering six hits. Shota Takekuma retired Hiroaki Shimauchi with a lineout to end the 7th.
Brian Schlitter recorded two strikeouts in the 8th while Tatsushi Masuda took the 9th which had a double play to end the Lions' short losing streak.
Lions 3, Eagles 1
-To make room for Togame on the roster, Keisuke Honda was taken off.
-Genda would hit leadoff for the first time and Tomoya Mori would bat second in the lineup.
In Game 2, Yosuke Okamoto would face Minabu Mima. An early error from Nien Ting Wu would score a run for the Eagles in the bottom of the 1st. Carlos Peguero followed that up with a two-run HR. The Lions answered in the top of the 4th as Wu hit an RBI double.
An error by Shogo Akiyama would be costly as a ball landed and bounced for ground rule double instead of a routine flyout. Motohiro Shima would plate the runner home. Hideto Asamura would hit a two-run HR in the top of the 5th to make it a one-run game. Masatoshi Okada would then hit a timely two-run double down the line to give the Lions a 5-4 lead, ending Mima's day.
Hotaka Yamakawa hit a three-run HR in the top of the 6th to make it 8-4. However, this game was far from over. A failed chance in the top of the 8th left the door open for a comeback as the bases were stranded.
There would be a one-hour rain delay with massive showers in Sendai. Even worse, a second stoppage would happen as birds would take over the field, forcing the stadium to turn off its lights and use fireworks to move the animals away.
Brian Schlitter came on in the bottom of the 8th and allowed two 2-run RBI hits to Louis Okoye and Takero Okajima to tie the game, blowing the lead in the process at 8-8. Shogo Noda was forced to come in and retire Peguero with a comebacker to preserve a tie. Rain would poor in Sendai and the officials called the game with a draw.
Lions 8, Eagles 8
-Five Lions would have at least two hits in this game.
-Ernesto Mejia came in as a pinch hitter and walked. He was replaced by Daichi Mizuguchi as a pinch runner.
For the final game, Yusei Kikuchi would face Tomohiro Anraku. The Eagles scored first as Okoye hit a Rickey Henderson style home run for a 1-0 lead. Seibu answered back with a sacrifice fly from Ginjiro Sumitani in the top of the second. Tomoya Mori then cleared the bases for a double, giving the Lions a 4-1 lead.
A throwing error from Zelous Wheeler had Sosuke Genda safe on first, resulting in a run scoring from third base in the top of the 4th. Kikuchi had one scare in the bottom of the 5th with two runners on and no outs, but the Eagles only mustered one run through an RBI groundout by Japhet Amador.
An insurance run would come as Shogo Akiyama hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 7th. For Kikuchi, the rest of the game was on cruise control as he went the distance with all 9 innings pitched. He would only walk two batters, allow five hits and strike out 11 batters for his 13th win of the season.
Lions 6, Eagles 2
-Akiyama reached his 1,000th career hit with a modasho.
The week would go to Kansai with Ryoma Nogami facing Brandon Dickson in Kobe. It would be Orix to score first as Hiroyuki Nakajima sliced a single past the infield for the opening run in the bottom of the 2nd.
That lead wouldn't last long, as the Lions erupted in the top of the third. Timely hits from Yamakawa, Kuriyama, Wu, Tonosaki and Masatoshi Okada would make it 5-1 and end Dickson's night as he couldn't finish the frame. Orix got a run back when Takahiro Okada hit a sacrifice fly.
Nogami would have a solid seven innings with six strikeouts, four hits given up and no walks. Schlitter had a scare with the tying run at bat and runners on the corners, but some liners right to the infield prevented any runs. He would also get Masataka Yoshida to groundout.
Yamakawa put the game away with a two run home run in the top of the 9th for his 14th of the season. Shogo Noda took the bottom of the 9th and the Lions took the opener of the series.
Lions 7, Buffaloes 2
-Nien Ting Wu would start at 3B again, Yuji Kaneko started the game on the bench.
-Kuriyama would have a modasho and start in LF in his hometown of Kobe. The Lions finished with a 2-1 record in this ballpark for 2017.
The second game from Kyocera Dome would have Shinsaburo Tawata facing Taisuke Yamaoka. An error from Genda would allow a runner to reach base and a bloop hit from Stefen Romero would score a run for Orix in the bottom of the 1st.
There would be a fast answer from the Lions as Kuriyama's RBI single tied the game in the second. The tie wouldn't last long as Tawata got two quick outs in the bottom of the frame, but four consecutive singles led to two runs, including timely hits from Masahiro Nishino and Koji Oshiro to make it 3-1.
The Lions failed to score more off Yamaoka despite having plenty of walks and hits to create chances. Yamaoka would go six innings with seven strikeouts. Hikaru Ito would send a ball to the stands off Katsunori Hirai in the 6th to give Orix insurance. A sacrifice fly from Wu would bring the Lions within two runs once more, but that was it.
Orix's bullpen would hang on and take the second game of the series.
Buffaloes 4, Lions 2
-Wu would bat leadoff for this game and go 1-4.
The final game of the series and week would have Brian Wolfe, who was saved for this weekend, against Sachiya Yamasaki.
Two consecutive 2-out hits by Akiyama and Asamura lead to the Lions drawing first blood when the latter hit a gapper down the RF line. Orix answered back as a throwing error from Asamura led to one run and a RBI double play added another.
Ernesto Mejia tied the game with a solo HR and an RBI single form Genda gave the Lions a lead again. The Lions defense let them down in the bottom of the third, where two throwing errors by Wu and Ginjiro Sumitani led to two base runners. Masataka Yoshida would take a hanging pitch from Wolfe to the RF stands as Orix took a 5-3 lead.
The Lions couldn't score off the Orix bullpen after Yamasaki left in the 2nd and the Buffaloes made them pay. Chris Marrero cleared the bases with a double in the gap and the game was all but over. Ryo Sakata would hit a three-run pinch hit HR in the top of the 7th, but it was too late.
Ryoichi Adachi would have a bases clearing double in the bottom of the same frame to erase any chances of a come back.
Buffaloes 11, Lions 6
-To make room for Wolfe, the Lions would take Kentaro Fukukura off the roster.
-The 2017 Seibu Lions finished with a 3-6 record in Kyocera Dome. They had a 5-7 record in Kansai when playing the Buffaloes including the games in Kobe.
The Lions are thankfully in second place of the Pacific League with the Eagles being cold. Better yet, the Lions won't see Orix much for the rest of the season, as they're a continuous thorn in their side. Taking the series in Sendai was very satisfying and preventing a sweep in Osaka is what we'll take, fora team that has the Lions number.
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