Sunday, April 1, 2018
2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Opening series sweep in Sapporo
The Saitama Seibu Lions started the season with a bang as they swept the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in the opening series. They sit alone at the top of the Pacific League with a 3-0 record. Here's how they got here:
Game 1 featured Yusei Kikuchi against new Fighters import Bryan Rodriguez. Shuta Tonosaki had the Lions first run of the season with a timely single with two outs in the second inning after Tomoya Mori hit a triple.
This game got out of hand quickly in the third, where Rodriguez gave up base hit after base as the Lions batted around the order. Timely hits from almost the whole lineup had this one lopsided and turned it into a no contest with seven runs in the frame.
Kikuchi went seven innings with eight strikeouts and gave up only four hits. His only blemish was a two-run HR by Brandon Laird in the 6th inning.
Shogo Akiyama hit a gapper in the 8th to pad the stats and pile it on for good in a complete win.
Lions 11, Fighters 2
-Tonosaki had the first modasho of the season with four hits and a walk.
-Neil Wagner made his debut in the 9th, giving up only one walk.
Game 2 had Shinsaburo Tawata go up against Nick Martinez. Early on, both pitchers were flexing their muscles, but the Lions broke through with a manufactured run as Akiyama hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning for the first blood.
The top of the 6th looked like it would be a breakout inning when the Lions had the bases loaded, but no runs came along. It only had one run through Hideto Asamura's solo homer.
Tawata earned two shutdown innings the hard way, where the bases were loaded in the 5th and two were on base in the 6th. He got Kensuke Tanaka to flyout and Taishi Ota to ground out to get through his outing unscathed. Through six innings, he had five strikeouts, four walks one hit batter and three hits allowed.
The Lions added another run in the 7th when Sosuke Genda had a timely single, securing a modasho to make it 3-0. After Shota Takekuma had a clean bottom frame, Tomomi Takahashi struggled in the 8th, giving up a four pitch walk and a long RBI double to Kensuke Kondo. \
Hatushiko Tsuji switched to Katsunori Hirai to take out Sho Nakata and Laird. Oswaldo Arcia plated Kondo to make it a one run game with an RBI single. Hirai then struck out Ota and ended the frame.
Akiyama added some insurance with a gapper after Yuji Kaneko walked. Yamakawa put no doubt on this game with a three-run bomb to secure the victory, Tatsushi Masuda closed it out and the Lions won two straight to open the year.
Lions 7, Fighters 2
-Tawata has won at least one game in Sapporo Dome in each of his first three seasons.
-With the home run, Yamakawa also secured a modasho.
The final game had Brian Wolfe against Takayuki Kato going for the sweep. Seibu squandered an early chance when Ginjiro Sumitani doubled and was moved to third. He tagged up on a short flyball from Akiyama, but Go Matsumoto gunned him down at the plate in the third inning.
With no score through four innings, the Lions broke through with a two-out rally in the 5th. Timely hits from Yuji Kaneko, Sosuke Genda and Hideto Asamura made it 3-0, all being singles.
Wolfe put in a quality start with six innings, eight hits, one strikeout, but no runs given up. Takekuma allowed nothing in the 7th while Hirai allowed a solo HR from Sho Nakata in the 8th. Genda bounced a timely hit in the top of the 9th for an RBI single with two outs and got the run back for the Lions.
Masuda closed the game once again and the Lions started the season with a three game sweep for the first time since 2015.
Lions 4, Fighters 1
-Asamura had a modasho.
-Tomomi Takahashi was taken off the roster due to a shoulder injury while Wolfe was activated for the game.
What a great start to the season where it reminded me (Christian) of the time they swept Orix to start 2015. The Softbank Hawks shall bring a huge test, but sweeping up in Sapporo Dome is still impressive no matter what the Fighters are. It's encouraging that the defense is solid for the pitching staff that remains uncertain.
The bullpen and everyone else will be tested this week, but obviously a 3-0 start is as perfect as it gets. Keep it going!
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Posted by Christian Gin at 1:31 AM