Sunday, July 1, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly digest: Sayonara prevents disaster


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The Saitama Seibu Lions went a combined 2-3-1 against the Orix Buffaloes and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on a six game homestand for the week. They still have a one game lead over the Fighters for the Pacific League pennant, but it's hanging by a thread.

Here is how we got to where we are today:

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The first game had Andrew Albers against Ken Togame. Stefen Romero struck first blood with a two-run HR in the top of the 4th. Orix added a third run with a timely hit from Masataka Yoshida in the 5th. The Lions responded with one run back through an RBI groundout and took a second run via a timely hit by Tomoya Mori, but it wasn't enough.

The rest of the game featured the Lions stranding runners in scoring position off the Orix bullpen while Togame had seven strong innings. Naoaki Matsumoto gave up a timely hit to Koji Oshiro in the 9th to solidify the Lions loss.

Buffaloes 4, Lions 2

Game note:

-Ichiro Tamura was the corresponding move to make room for Togame.

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Game 2 had Chihiro Kaneko against Brian Wolfe. Stefen Romero hit a two-run HR like the previous night, but this time Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura responded with a solo HR to cut the lead in half. Takahiro Okada went yard in the 5th to make it 3-1, but Okawari-kun tied it again in hte bottom of hte 7th with a two-run HR.

The rest of this night was a LOB party as the Lions failed to punch in a run with scoring position for several innings. Surprisingly, the bullpen held the Buffaloes off the board too, resulting in the first tie of 2018.

Lions 3, Buffaloes 3

Game note:

-Neil Wagner was called up after the game with Wolfe taken off.

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The final game had Taisuke Yamaoka against Shinsaburo Tawata in a battle of former first round picks. This was a high scoring affair where the Lions had eight runs in the first three innings alone. Tawata also gave up five runs through six innings, but plenty of offense from Tomoya Mori, Shuta Tonosaki and Hotaka Yamakawa made it easy, as they all had a modasho.

The team combined for four home runs. Despite all of this, Neil Wagner gave up five runs in the 9th inning with a big lead and Orix made the score closer in the end.

Lions 14, Buffaloes 11

Game note:

-Wagner was taken off the roster with Tadasuke Minamikawa called up.

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The home stand continued against the Eagles with Yusei Kikuchi facing Takahiro Shiomi. Kikuchi struggled early and continued to have a high pitch count through two innings The Eagles broke through in the fourth inning with five runs, all coming with two outs as Motohiro Shima hit a timely double and Kazuki Tanaka hit a two-run HR.

Shiomi had a no-hitter through five innings, but his former teammate Shogo Akiyama broke it up in the 6th inning. Rakuten took a feast off the Lions bullpen to make the score look silly while Tonosaki had a consolation home run.

Eagles 15. Lions 1 

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The second game featured a matchup of the past and future of the Lions with Takayuki Kishi facing Tatsuya Imai. This one was over early when Carlos Peguero hit a three-run HR in the second inning. Imai eventually allowed three more runs through 5.1 innings in total, while Kishi pitched seven scoreless frames. A late timely hit from Hideto Asamura denied a team shutout as the consolation.

Eagles 9, Lions 1

-Game note:

Hirotaka Koishi was taken off while Shogo Noda was called back up once more along with Yasuo Sano.

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Daiki Enokida took the mound for the Lions hoping to salvage the final matchup against Manabu Mima. Rakuiten jumped out to a quick lead when Japhet Amador hit a two-run HR in the fourth, but the Lions responded with a three-run bottom frame after a double play was beat out by Shuta Tonosaki.

Hideto Asamura hit a solo HR in the 5th while Hotaka Yamakawa and Takumi Kuriyama added HRs in the 7th where the Lions appeared to be cruising. Enokida went six innings with that HR being the only runs he allowed.

Deunte Heath gave up a HR to Shintaro Masuda and made it a one-run game in the 8th. Fabio Castillo took the 9th and loaded the bases with two walks and a dropped ball error by Shogo Saito. He walked in a run and the game was tied. In the bottom of the 9th, the defensive replacement Fumikazu Kimura was up with two outs and had two strikes, but hit one into the batter's eye for a walkoff HR, taking the last game.

Lions 8, Eagles 7

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This was once again a negative week, but it could've been worse. The bullpen is still unreliable and the options are thin if everyone will give up hits and home runs. Offensively, the rest of the league is adjusting to the bats and it's a light concern. Yamakawa also likes padding his numbers in low leverage, lately struggling after his monster April.

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