Sunday, April 15, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Tawata goes the distance

Photo credit: @n_524_photo
The Saitama Seibu Lions split a 3-3 road trip against the Chiba Lotte Marines and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. They still sit on top of the Pacific League, but couldn't get a winning week. Here is how it all went down:


Game 1 against the Marines had Ken Togame facing Ayumu Ishikawa. After a blown chance early, the Lions struck first on an RBI double from Ernesto Mejia where Shuta Tonosaki scored from first.

Togame retired the first 12 batters he faced, but struggled in the 5th when allowing multiple base runners. Despite all of this, Ikuhiro Kiyota hit a comebacker that should have ended the inning, but Togame threw the ball to right field and the game was tied 1-1.

The bottom of the 6th fared no differently with Togame's location being off and hitting Takashi Ogino, who stole second right away. Chiba manufactured a run with a sacrifice fly from Seiya "Aja" Inoue to take the lead. The damage was limited, but the Lions couldn't bring Tonosaki home when he was on second base in the top of the 7th. With two outs, Takahiro Matsunaga came in and struck out Shogo Akiyama on three pitches.

Hatsuhiko Tsuji didn't trust his bullpen and Togame took another inning, allowing another run on a sacrifice fly. The Marines added more runs in the bottom of the 8th after an error by Tonosaki to put the game away for good. It was the first loss of the season for the Lions.

Marines 5, Lions 2

Game note:

-Hideto Asamura left the game early with a foul ball going off his leg. Tonosaki switched to 2B while Fumikazu Kimura was in right field.


The second game had Fabio Castillo up against Kota Futaki. Timely doubles from Hideto Asaumra and Hotaka Yamakawa gave the Lions an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first, but that was as good as it got for the night.

Castillo loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame, but nearly got out of the jam. With two outs, Tsuyoshi Sugano cleared the bases on a triple off the RF wall as Tonosaki couldn't time his jump to catch it. The bottom of the third was similar, where Sugano doubled and Kazuya Fukuura followed it up with a double of his own off the wall.

The Lions bats failed to muster a rally despite having multiple stolen bases and runners in scoring position. Hirotaka Koishi made his first appearance in 2018 when cleaning up an ugly 5th inning which ended Castillo's night, but there was no hope for the offense.

Hayato Takagi came in for the 6th and allowed multiple hits, giving up two runs to all but end it. The Lions ended up losing their second straight game. In this case, it was the strong wind (27 mph) that affected the Lions, where they couldn't take advantage of it while the Marines did.

Marines 6, Lions 3

Game note:

-Sho Ito made his debut in the bottom of the 8th. He gave up two hits, but no runs.


The final game from Chiba had Daiki Enokida making his ichi-gun debut with the Lions facing Hideaki Wakui. Chiba struck first in the bottom of the 1st when Aja hit a ball to the outfield and Tonosaki couldn't come down with it to make it 2-0. The Lions responded immediately with an RBI single by Akiyama.

In the top of the 4th, Tonosaki was gunned down trying to go to second on a base hit, but the Lions created a rally anyways. With Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura and Ginjiro Sumitani on base, the veteran Kazuo Matsui got his first hit since returning to the Lions and tied things up. Asamura later walked with the bases loaded to give them a 3-2 lead.

Sumitani delivered with a timely single of his own in the top of the 5th, where he secured a modasho. Asamura hit a two-run HR in the top of the 6th to make it a 6-2 lead. Enokida was not flashy, but continued to strand runners throughout the night as he went six innings allowing five hits, two runs, one walk and two strikeouts. He even had a key pickoff move early in the game.

Katsunori Hirai had a clean 7th, Shota Takekuma converted a double play in the 8th while Tatsushi Masuda finished the 9th allowing a run. Regardless, the Lions salvaged the final game from Zozotown with a win.

Lions 6, Marines 3

Game note:

-Sho Ito was taken off the roster to make room for Enokida.


The road trip continued into Sendai with Takahiro Norimoto up against Yusei Kikuchi. This had an ugly start for Kikuchi, where he allowed an RBI double to our old friend Naoto Watanabe and Carlos Peguero followed that up with a two-run HR in the bottom of the first.

This 3-0 Eagles lead didn't last for long, as Yamakawa went yard for his 4th HR of the year to put the Lions on the board. Sumitani hit a two-RBI double to tie the game. Sosuke Genda gave the Lions the lead with a gapper of his own, scoring two more runs.

Kikuchi threw a ball to right field, but managed to escape the next frame with two strikeouts and a groundout. The Lions added a 6th run off a passed ball Motohiro Shima, which proved to be huge later in the game. In the 6th inning, Toshiaki Imae plated two runs with a single off Kikuchi to make it a one run game.

Despite being the ace, Kikuchi's night involved seven hits, seven strikeouts and two walks besides his throwing error. Katsunori Hirai retired two batters in the 7th while Shogo Noda got Peguero to flyout for the last out.

Shota Takekuma had a scoreless 8th while Tomoya Mori provided insurance in the top of the 9th with an RBI single to secure a modasho. Masuda came in the bottom of the frame and allowed two base runners, but got pinch hitter Japhet Amador to strikeout at the end to secure the victory.

Lions 7, Eagles 5

Game notes:

-Shunta Nakatsuka was called up as Enokida was deactivated due to a five-game week coming up.

-Tonosaki also ended up with a modasho in this game.


The second game had Shinsaburo Tawata facing Manabu Mima, where it was a day after the former's 25th birthday. Akiyama started the game with a Rickey Henderson style HR with a solo home run as the first batter. Mori hit a two-run RBI single in the top of the 3rd to make it 3-0.

Genda added an RBI triple in the top of the 7th to make it 4-0. Tawata spent most of the day on cruise control, facing the minimum amount of batters through seven innings. He was able to get two double plays, which included a lineout and groundout during the afternoon.

Tawata faced a threat in the bottom of the 8th and allowed a run to score after two groundouts advanced the runner. With two on base and two outs, he struck out Watanabe to end the chance. The Lions got the run back through a sacrifice fly by Yuji Kaneko after Fumikazu Kimura tripled. Tawata ended up going the distance for nine innings, five strikeouts, four hits and one walk for the complete game.

Lions 5, Eagles 1

Game note:

-This was Tawata's 5th career complete game, having two each in the last two seasons.


The final game of the series featured Brian Wolfe against Takahide Ikeda. Wolfe had a nightmare outing from the beginning as every Eagle reached base in the first inning alone. After he retired Hiroaki Shimauchi at the start, he failed to get another out. Whether it was an error, hit, gapper or walk, Wolfe couldn't do anything right and Takero Okajima put the exclamation point on the game with a three-run home run.

Hirotaka Koishi came in and let an inherited runner score, capping off an eight-run 1st inning for the Eagles. The Lions had two home runs come from Yamakawa and Akiyama as a consolation, but this game was well-over when it started.

Eagles 12, Lions 6


It was a neutral week overall, but splitting a road trip isn't harmful at least thanks to no sweep. Unfortunate we saw no bullpen stepping it up to find some depth and Takagi has been an early disappointment. Wolfe just had a bad game that we can hope is forgiving later on. If anything, going 11-3 the first time through the order of the Pacific League is still a great success in the young season.

Like anything, we're hoping for better bullpen, but the rotation has been spot on thus far. Enokida taking the spot start victory was a huge bonus.


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