|Photo credit: @N_524_Photo|
The Saitama Seibu Lions went a combined 4-1 against thee Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and Tohoku Rakuten Eagles. They still remain in first place for the Pacific League Pennant. Here's how we got there.
The first game was scheduled to take place in Kitakyushu with Ken Togame aganst Nao Higashihama, but it was rained out after a heavy douse of water in the afternoon.
Game 2 against the Hawks had both teams continue their rotation with Rick Van Den Hurk vs Fabio Castillo. Hotaka Yamakawa opened the scoring in the top of the third with a grand slam. Shuta Tonosaki followed that up with a two-run HR to make it 6-0. The Hawks got a run back when Yuichi Honda hit a sac fly.
The game was broken open in the top of the 6th, where Sosuke Genda had an RBI single with the bases loaded to get things started. Hideto Asamura then hit one off the wall to plate two more runs. Yamakawa hit his second HR of the night with a no-doubt three-run bomb into the Lions Oendan for a 12-1 lead.
Castillo struggled in the 6th with several walks, finishing the night with 5.1 IP, 4 R, 4 ER, 7 BB and 4 K. Shogo Noda cleaned up the mess when it was 12-4 after walking in a run. Daiki Enokida had two scoreless frames with Sho Ito allowed two runs to finish it off.
Lions 12, Hawks 6
-The Lions won their fifth straight game and also scored at least 9 runs during this span.
-Kazuo Matsui came in for Ernesto Mejia as a pinch runner. He scored and later recorded a hit.
-Fumikazu Kimura was hit by a pitch at the knee cap and taken out for precautionary reasons.
The second game had Ken Togame facing Shuta Ishikawa. Both pitchers didn't allow a hit until the third and fourth inning as this was looking like a solid pitcher's duel.
With two outs in the bottom of the 5th, Takuya Kai broke up the scoreless draw with an RBI triple down the RF line where Yuji Kaneko was just short. After Kaneko reached base on an infield single in the top of the 6th, Shogo Akiyama hit a big double down the RF line to create a chance. Sosuke Genda tied the game with a sacrifice fly, but the Lions failed to score more.
In the bottom of the 6th, Togame couldn't get a shutdown inning after some walks and with a high pitch count, Nobuhiro Matsuda hit a three-run HR to put the Hawks up again. The Lions couldn't score the rest of the night and the series was a split.
Hawks 4, Lions 1
The start of Golden Week started with a home series as Takahiro Norimoto took the mound for the Eagles against Yusei Kikuchi. This one started off with the Lions scoring first as Genda hit an RBI triple shortly after Akiyama doubled to begin the bottom of the 1st. Asamura plated Genda with a single of his own to make it 2-0.
Norimoto appeared to be getting rocked, but continued to strand runners later in the game and didn't allow any damage for the next five innings. Kikuchi performed his best game of the 2018 season with six scoreless frames, three hits and seven strikeouts all on 71 pitches. In the 6th, he stranded Eigoro Mogi on second base and his day was done.
Katsunori Hirai and Shota Takekuma combined for a scoreless 7th inning while Masataka Nashida kept Norimoto in the bottom of the frame. This backfired bigtime as Ginjiro Sumitani hit a double and Shogo Akiyama brought him home on an RBI triple. Asamura erased all doubt in this game with a three-run HR to end Norimoto's day with a high pitch count. Yamakawa added on with a solo HR to make it 7-0.
Hirotaka Koishi allowed HRs to Mogi and Carlos Peguero, but that was it. Neil Wagner took the final four outs without issue and the Lions took the first game of the series.
Lions 7, Eagles 3
-Asamura recorded his fourth modasho of the season when going 4-4.
The second game had Shoma Fujihira against Shinsaburo Tawata in a battle of former first round draft picks. Rakuten struck first on an RBI single by "Ginji" Akaminai in the top of the 1st. The Eagles added another run in the third as Kazuya Fujita plated one through a hit.
In the bottom of the third things turned on Fujihira with Ernesto Mejia plating Takumi Kuriyama to put the Lions on the board. The game was tied shortly after as Hotaka Yamakawa walked with the bases loaded, but the Lions couldn't do more damage and settle for a tie after three innings.
Scoring wouldn't come again until the bottom of the 5th, where a timely single by Akiyama plated Kaneko after the latter advanced to third on a bad throw. Yamakawa hit another HR to make it 5-2 after five innings.
The game was broken open in the bottom of the 6th, all with two outs. Asamura cleared the bases on an RBI double. Hits continue to pile it on as Tomoya Mori dropped a bloop double to plate two more runs and Shuta Tonosaki got an RBI single.
Tawata settled in after a slow start, going seven innings with six hits and four strikeouts. He did not walk a batter on the day.
Sosuke Genda was missing out on the party and had his first hit of the day with an RBI triple in the bottom of the 7th. It was the first request in Seibu Lions history when Hatshiko Tsuji requested a replay look, which showed Genda was safe going to third base. Yamakawa added a timely while Mori hit his second home run of the season.
Sho Ito took the final two innings, giving up a HR to Carlos Peguero and the Lions took the series.
Lions 16, Eagles 4
-It was the 11th time the Lions scored at least five runs in a single season this year.
-Kuriyama's double in the third inning was the 308th of his career, tying the franchise record held by Hiromichi Ishige.
While Golden Week already began, the series wrapped around into Monday with Daiki Enokida facing Takahide Ikeda. The Lions struck first when Asamura hit a sac fly, but the lead didn't last long. Zelous Wheeler hit a two-run HR in the top of the 2nd.
Akiyama tied the game with an RBI single in the bottom of the third to make it 2-2. There was better fortune in the bottom of the 4th, where Kuriyama doubled on a hit-and-run that scored Tonosaki from first base. Akiyama came up with a clutch hit to plate two more runners with two outs to make it 5-2.
Enokida put in a solid performance, going 6.2 innings and allowing only three hits. He struck out six batters and walked none. Katsunori Hirai retired one batter while Neil Wagner escaped with two runners on base in the 8th.
Tatsushi Masuda finished the game with a clean 9th inning and the Lions swept Rakuten.
Lions 5, Eagles 2
-The Lions finished April with an undefeated record at MetLife Dome, going 12-0. They won eight of their last nine games.
It's been a pretty solid week to say the least. Maybe it helped that the game in Kitakyushu was rained out as the bullpen is in good shape. The road trip to start May will be interesting as they go to Osaka and Sendai. No road game is a gimme even with the Eagles struggling.
Starting pitching? Check. Offense? Check. Bullpen needs to fix a few things, but it's encouraging that Wagner has looked better among the mop up pitchers.
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