Sunday, June 17, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Imai wins debut


The Saitama Seibu Lions went a combined 3-3 this week against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and Chunichi Dragons. They currently have a 2 game lead over the Fighters and are still in first place of the Pacific League.

With the result of some losing, the Swallows clinched the Interleague title while the Lions will finish in the top half.


The first game from Omiya had Fabio Castillo against Masanori Ishikawa. Castillo struggled with control having early walks and the Swallows made him pay, as Wladimir Balentien had a timely single with the bases loaded in the third to give them a 2-0 lead.

Castillo's day ended early when he hit Yuhei Nakamura on the batting helmet which a dangerous pitch was called, forcing him to leave the game. Tetsuto Yamada added a third run through a double to give the Swallows a 3-0 lead.

Ishikawa held the Lions to only 3 hits through six innings and Sosuke Genda had the lone RBI for the team in the 6th inning. Both bullpens did not allow a run, making this a dominant performance by the Swallows pitching staff, continuing their hot form in interleague play.

Swallows 3, Lions 1

Game notes:

-Tadasuke Minamikawa and Deunte Heath were called up. To make room for them, Shota Takekuma and Katsunori Hirai were taken off the roster. Brian Wolfe was also farmed to make room for Heath and the next starting pitcher.


The second game had the long awaited ichi-gun debut of Tatsuya Imai against David Buchanan. Yakult struck first after an error by Hideto Asamura had the ball thrown away to plate a runner. However, Shuta Tonosaki and Ernesto Mejia went back-to-back with HRs to give the team a lead. The Lions broke the game open in the bottom of the 6th, where the bases were loaded. Three runs were walked in and Buchanan's day was done early.

The bullpen allowed some runs near the end, which set the tone for the next game, but Imai won his debut going six innings with only one unearned run to go with six strikeouts. It was the first time a Japanese pitcher wins his first game with the Lions since Daisuke Matsuzaka did it in 1999.

Lions 7, Swallows 4


The rubber matchup had Ken Togame facing David Huff. Nori Aoki began the game with an inside the park HR, where Shogo Akiyama botched the ball and took it to the wrong part of the park.

Both teams continued to trade runs to make it 2-2 after the third, where Asamura had two timely hits. Shogo Akiyama had a timely in the 4th while Tonosaki hit a HR in the 6th. Togame appeared to be cruising, but was left in too long to start the eighth and gave up several base runners. With inherited runners, Neil Wagner conceded both of them as Balentien and Shingo Kawabata plated them in.

With the game tied in the top of the 9th, Tatsushi Masuda blew it again as Yuhei Takai and Kawabata smashed two runs home, making it another blown game by the bullpen.

Swallows 6, Lions 4


The home stand continued as Yusei Kikuchi was up against Shotaro Kasahara. Both pitchers were dominant on the night, but Kikuchi blinked first when giving up a timely hit to Ryosuke Hirata with runners on second and third and no outs. Damage was limited for most of the game, but the Lions bats were lacking. They squandered a bases loaded chance in the first when Ernesto Mejia flied out.

Kasahara didn't allow a hit until the 6th inning, where Shogo Akiyama led it off with a single up the middle. Takuya added a solo HR in the top of the 8th and the game appeared to be out of reach. However, the Lions mustered up some offense when Asamura hit a two-RBI double down the LF line as Sosuke Genda scored from first just in time to tie it up off the Dragons bullpen.

Deunte Heath took the 9th with no trouble while the Lions couldn't create offense in the bottom half. Tatsuya Oishi allowed a base runner to steal second base in the 10th, but got out of a mini-jam.

Shogo Akiyama's leadoff double set the tone in the bottom of the 10th and the Dragons were forced to walk a batter. Hotaka Yamakawa hit the second Sayonara of the season with a gapper to win the game, taking the first game of the series.

Lions 3, Dragons 2 (10 innings)

Game note:

-With the extended break ahead, Ken Togame was taken off the roster. Haruka Yamada was called up in his place.


Fabio Castillo started the second game due to his short outing from Tuesday. He faced Onelki Garcia in this one. The Lions had some early hits, but couldn't capitalize until the 3rd inning, where Tomoya Mori had an RBI single with the bases loaded to plate one run. Kazuo Matsui added another with a bases-loaded walk.

The Dragons tied the game in the 5th with a bad fielder's choice decision from Asamura as he tried going home. Asamura had to concede the tying run in order to get the out. The tie didn't last long as Shuta Tonosaki hit a solo HR in the bottom of the 5th to give them the lead again.

Garcia's day ended after walking a batter in the 6th inning and Katsuki Matayoshi failed to relieve him well. After several walks and hits, Matayoshi allowed a grand slam by Mori to put it away for good.

Castillo went seven innings and allowed mostly weak contact, but kept the ball in the park for the fielders to make plays. A wild pitch added an 8th run while Yamakawa padded another for the final score.

Lions 9, Dragons 2

Game notes:

-Haruka Yamada made his ichi-gun debut with an at-bat in the 8th inning, but fouled out to the catcher. He also caught a ball in foul territory for the 9th.

-With Castillo winning, he became the first foreign-born Lions pitcher to record three wins in Interleague play.


The final matchup had Daisuke Matsuzaka scheduled to faced his former team and return to MetLife Dome against Daiki Enokida. However, Matsuzaka was scratched after not feeling well in his back and Kento Fujishima took his spot instead.

Chunichi struck first with an early hit and error from Yamakawa, leading to two runs right away. The Lions squandered an early chance while the Dragons scored more off Enokida in the third. He walked in a run while the bases were loaded and another came off a sac fly. Nobumasa Fukuda had a timely hit to make it 5-0.

A three-run HR by Dayan Viciedo put this one away for good. Mori hit a HR late as a consolation.

Dragons 11, Lions 3

Game note:

-Neil Wagner was taken off to make room for Enokida.


A .500 week isn't bad, but obviously not good with one more makeup game remaining in Interleague play. Bullpen still an issue, bats are inconsistent, but that's baseball. Just hope this weekend in Chiba will be different.


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