Sunday, May 29, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: First three-game sweep of the season

The Lions would go 4-1 against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and Orix Buffaloes.


In game one of the week, the rookie Isamu Sato would be on the mound for the Lions looking for his first ichi-gun win. For the Eagles, their ace, Takahiro Norimoto, would look to continue his success against the Lions.

The Lions would strike quickly against Norimoto, thanks to some sloppy defense from the Eagles. With runners on first and third, and one out with Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura at the plate, Okawari-kun hit a chopper to the third baseman, Toshiaki Imae who would have to rush his throw to second and the second baseman, Kazuya Fujita couldn't make the play. Shogo Akiyama would walk home, while Mejia would scamper over to third and even Okawari-kun would get on his horse and head to second. Hideto Asamura would then tack on another run with a sacrifice fly that would bring in Mejia, giving the Lions an early 2-0 lead after 1.

Sato would struggle with his control early on his start, with two of his three walks coming in the first two innings. And with the bases loaded and nobody out, Sato would show great poise with two strikeouts to finish a Houdini.

Sato would also face another jam in third with a runner on second and one out, but he'd strikeout Zelous Wheeler and get Imae to fly out to diffuse that jam.

Sato's only inning without a jam would come in the fourth, where he'd get three quick batted outs. In the 5th, he'd give up two singles, which brought up, Kazuo Matsui with runners on first and second and one out. Sato would get Matsui to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning and finish his outing.

Norimoto would settle in for the Eagles after his rocky first inning, it wasn't until the 6th inning where the Lions would start to get things going against him. At that point, Norimoto was well into his third time through the Lions order, and he'd give up hits to Mejia and Asamura, and a one out walk to Gin-chan to set up the bases loaded one out for the pinch hitting, Tatsuyuki Uemoto who'd pop out for the second out. Onizaki would follow, and he'd ground out to give Norimoto the Houdini.

The Eagles would finally get on the board in the top of the 7th, and it would come against the usually reliable, Kazuhisa Makita who'd be into his second inning of relief. He'd give up two quick singles, before the Eagles would lay down a sac bunt and then Takero Okajima would hit one up the middle to make it a 2-1 game. Makita would limit the damage with a strikeout and a foul out to end the inning.

The Lions would get run back thanks to an opposite field, solo home run from Takumi Kuriyama to push the lead back to 3-1. The home run looked to be a consequence of the Eagles trying to stretch Norimoto an inning too far, with their ace seeing Kuriyama for the fourth time and getting burned. It was Kuriyama's 3rd of the year.

Esmerling Vasquez would take over the 8th, and pitch a scoreless frame with a walk and a strikeout. In the 8th, the Lions would tack on one more insurance run thanks to  Asamura. He would tag a pitch from Eagles' reliever, Koji Aoyama into the Lions Ōendan and provide what would be the final score in the game at 4-1.

In the 9th, Tatsushi Masuda would lock down his 8th save of the season, working around one hit and providing a clean frame.

The win would give Isamu Sato his first career win, and provide Norimoto with a loss, which has been something that's been quite tough for the Lions in recent meetings.

Lions 4, Eagles 1


In game two, the Lions would send out Yusei Kikuchi to grab another victory against the struggling Eagles. The Eagles would counter with the long time veteran lefty, Takashi Kawai.

The Lions would strike quickly off Kawai in the first inning, with Akiyama and Nakamura on first and second, Hideto Asamura would provide the big hit with a 2-run double that would give the Lions an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st.

Kikuchi would have to fight out of a jam in the top of the 2nd after Japhet Amador hit a long fly ball to deep center that Akiyama never saw and likely lost in the ceiling. The result was a one out triple for Amador. Ginji Akaminai would ground out to first for the second out of the inning. And Toshiaki Imae would fly out to Onizaki to complete the Houdini for Kikuchi.

For the next few innings, Kikuchi would face little resistance from the Eagles and the Lions would provide more insurance in the 3rd with a single by Akiyama, followed by an error by Tetsuro Nishida that allowed Kuriyama to reach base would provide a great chance for the Lions to break it open.

Mejia would strikeout for the first out of the inning, then Okawari-kun would pop out to the first baseman, and Asamura would walk to load the bases. From there, it would be an unlikely hero as the light hitting, Ginjiro Sumitani hit one deep into the gap away from the on stretching, Kazuo Matsui and clear the bases for a 3-run, double and make it 5-0 Lions.

Kikuchi would face a test with runners on second and third with one out with the middle of the order coming up for the Eagles. He would get Kazuo Matsui to strikeout and he'd get Zelous Wheeler to ground out and provide Kikuchi with another Houdini.

Kikuchi would throw one more inning in the 7th, and was taken out after 88 pitches, which was another outstanding outing from the young, lefthander.

The final highlight would come after the Lucky 7, thanks to Okawari-kun. The large, middle of the order threat hit his 9th home run of the season off Eagles reliever, Takahiro Irino. It was a no doubter to straight away center and it extended the Lions lead to a commanding 7-0 lead.

Tatsuya Oishi and Hirotaka Koishi would throw scoreless innings in the 8th and 9th respectively to secure the shutout and give the Lions a series victory over the Eagles.

Lions 7, Eagles 0


For Game 3, it was Kona Takahashi facing Minabu Mima from Omiya. The Lions would score their first three runs in unconventional ways. With the bases loaded, a wild pitch would plate one in the first and two sacrifice fly balls would follow in the second and third innings.

The Lions did a decent job at getting on base, but they also had help from Eigoro Mogi, who had multiple errors from the night. Takahashi would have a few scary innings, but mostly drew double plays when necessary and had an efficient outing as a whole.

The unsung hero would be Yuji Onizaki, who had three hits and picked up his first Modasho (3+ hit game) in seven years. This included the only Lions run coming off a base hit in the 5th.

Takahashi was left in for the 8th and 9th innings with a low pitch count. He would finish the night with three hits and three walks to go with nine strikeouts in what would be his second career shutout. This was also the second straight game the team would shutout its opponent.

The bats were somewhat disappointing with a load of stranded runners, but the Lions were able to give Takahashi enough run support to take the first victory in Omiya for 2016. The Lions will play in Omiya for the final time of the season in August.

Lions 4, Eagles 0


In the first game against Orix at Kobe, rookie Shinsaburo Tawata took on a struggling Daiki Tomei. Okawari-kun began the scoring with a two-run home run. Akiyama and Asamura would add on and it would 4-1 in the third inning.

However, Tawata would give up multiple base hits and a two-run home run to Yoshio Itoi and the game was tied 4-4. The Lions answered in the top of the fourth with a 2-out rally ending with an RBI single from Ernesto Mejia. Kuriyama added another with some poor outfield defense of Orix helping. Tawata picked up two shutdown innings and would finish the day with four earned runs through five innings pitched.

Unfortunately that wasn't enough, as Shota Takekuma had a meltdown inning allowing four batters to turn into four runs. Itoi would get his second two-run HR of the day and Takahiro Okada hit a no-doubt HR to make it 8-6.  The Lions had chances with two on in the 7th, but Kaneko would groundout and the Orix's bullpen shut them down to bring their first loss since Sunday.

Takekuma is supposed to be the lefty specialist, so it made sense for Tanabe to choose him over Kazuhisa Makita for that frame as he saw Itoi and Okada. The worst case scenario obviously happened and it would cost them the game.

Buffaloes 8, Lions 6

Game note:

-Our old friend Hiroyuki Nakajima reached 1,500 career hits in NPB. The game was momentarily paused to celebrate this achievement.


In the second game against Orix, it was Ryoma Nogami vs. Brandon Dickson.  The Lions struck first blood in the 2nd off an RBI groundout by Sumitani and Onizaki added on with an RBI single. Orix had some poor defense and range which led to both runs.

It looked like a pitcher's duel until Nogami allowed runs in the bottom of the fourth. Brent Morel will hit a gapper and with two outs, Tony Blanco would get an RBI double to tie the game at 2-2.

The Lions had their chance getting to Dickson in the 5th with two on and 1 out for Sumitani, but he would ground into a 6-4-3 to end the threat. Okada would do damage again in the bottom of the 6th, with a solo home run off Kazuhisa Makita and Orix took a 3-2 lead.

A window of opportunity came in the top of the 8th with Tatsuya Sato pitching. He would walk Kuriyama and Mejia giving a big chance for Okawari-kun. The big man would make no mistake about it and hit his 11th HR of the year with a no-doubter to deep left field making it 5-3.

Esmerling Vasquez wouldn't make it easy in the 8th. He would load the bases with a double and two walks, but Shunta Goto would flyout to LF and the Lions would escape.  Tatsushi Masuda shut the door in the ninth with a 1-2-3 inning and the Lions would split in Kobe.

This game was ugly for the most part, but the bats finally woke up on one big blast by Okawari-kun. Orix gifted another win with some questionable defense.

Lions 5, Buffaloes 3


The Lions have their second straight winning week, which we'll take. The team is still questionable and nowhere near a playoff contender, but now they're not a last place team. Interleague play begins this week and it should be a good test coming ahead.

Bullpen needs to get better and the bats will need to show up against the tough pitchers ahead.  If anything, Rakuten had the Lions' number coming into the week, but the monkey is finally off their back.


Christian Gin also contributed to this report.


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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Felipe Paulino: A Brief Scouting Report

As we've detailed on twitter (@GraveyardBall), the Lions have signed MLB/MiLB veteran on Sunday. Paulino's recent Instagram post made this inevitable.  

Recent tape of Paulino is rather scarce since he hasn't appeared in the big leagues since 2014 with the Chicago White Sox. Paulino has appeared with the Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, and the Chicago White Sox and has bounced around several organizations in the minor leagues. He most recently appeared in Spring Training with the Cleveland Indians and pitched for their AAA affiliate, the Columbus Clippers.

The tape I've found comes from the inaugural WBSC Premier12 from this past November, where Paulino played for Venezuela. He is listed as a Dominican-Venezuelan, as he was born in the Dominican Republic but appears to have grown up in Venezuela. He'd make one start in this tournament and that so happened to be against the Dominican Republic.

It was in this start that Paulino would finish with a line of 3.1 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 2 BBs, 5 Ks. I took away a few observations from his start, for one, his fastball ranged from 148-154 km/h (91-95 mph) and early on had some good downward plane, but there seemed to be a good amount of pitches that ran out of the strike zone. And that's right in line with what has seemed to plague him through his career, with just a quick glance at his past numbers, walks have been a major problem for Paulino.

He saw much more success with his offspeed repertoire, and I noticed that with that early success of his breaking pitches, he started to pitch backwards, a trait found more common with Japanese pitchers. I think this strategy is what started leading up to Paulino's problems in this start, as he threw too many breaking balls out over the plate, mostly his slider.

He throws a slider, a changeup, and a curveball that has a grip that looks like a knucklecurve grip. Fangraphs has noted that he likes to throw his curve and changeup to lefties, and that changeup in particular, looked quite effective as Dominican hitters would chase it in the dirt, time and time again.
When his breaking stuff ended up in the dirt, Paulino saw success, when it hung up a little bit, Dominican hitters were right on it.

With all that said, the Indians organization used Paulino exclusively as a reliever this season. So we can speculate that the Lions see Paulino as a guy who can be more effective in short bursts. And provide the solution to relieving the heavy workload that Norio Tanabe has been forced to place on Kazuhisa Makita. 

I see a lot of flaws in Paulino's game, but he has proven he can strike guys out, and with the lack of effective bullpen arms after CC Lee's deactivation, Paulino seems like a necessary guy to bring in mid-season.

See the start for yourself here.


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Monday, May 23, 2016

Graveyard Baseball Podcast: Lions ŌenDEN Episode 8

This is the eighth episode of our Seibu Lions ŌenDEN podcast.  Wes Mills and Christian Gin discuss the problems with the team, the status of the rotation and bullpen as well as the few positives in what has been a dark month.

There is also discussion on two non-Lions NPB observations including one on Shohei Otani. Lastly, a few tidbits including how the Oakland A's made a transaction due to Japan playing a factor at 59:33.

We apologize for any sound errors and equipment troubles. We also apologize for any mispronunciations and other errors. Click here if the Embed doesn't work.  Click here to download.

Please be sure to give us feedback in the comments.


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Sunday, May 22, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Sayonara secures first winning week in more than a month

The Saitama Seibu Lions would go 3-2 combined against the Chiba Lotte Marines and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.


In Game 1 at QVC in Chiba, it was nemesis Ayumu Ishikawa against Isamu Sato as the latter started for the second time in his career.  After not scoring in the first three innings, the Lions would strike first off a home run from Hideto Asamura in the 4th.

Sato was cruising through four innings, but the fifth inning is where the damage would be done. With a low pitch count and facing the bottom of the Marines lineup for the second time, it became difficult. Yamaico Navarro would double to begin and Daichi Suzuki would walk. After a bunt from Yuta Yoshida to move the runners over, Shogo Nakamura would ground into a fielder's choice where Navarro was tagged out.

With one out away from escaping, runners were on second and third, but Kei Hosoya would slap a single to plate both runners and the Marines took the lead. Ryohei Fujiwara wouldn't fare better with a walk and then a single from Alfredo Despaigne to extend the lead at 4-1.

The Lions had a chance to respond in the top of the 6th with runners on second and third with one out, but Asamura and pinch hitter Naotaka Takehara would ground out to end the threat. Esmerling Vasquez gave up a run through a wild pitch in the bottom of the 6th, but it all remained academic as the Lions would score until much later.

Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura would get the Lions a consolation home run in the 8th inning off Tatsuya Uchi, but that would be it as Yuji Nishino shut the door.

Marines 5, Lions 2

Game note:

-Shuta Tonosaki and Ryohei Fujiwara were taken off the roster for OF Shogo Saito and Tatsuya Oishi.


In Game 2, it was Yusei Kikuchi against Kota Futaki. Last time the Lions saw Futaki, he only allowed one run over the course of six innings.

This time, it was the Lions who were on the board first in the third inning as Yuji Kaneko reached base on an error from Shogo Nakamura. He would then steal second and take advantage of Yuta Yoshida at catcher. Takumi Kuriyama would then double for the opening run of the game.

In the fourth with two outs, Shogo Kimura would walk and Ginjiro Sumitani would single to create a chance for Yuji Onizaki. Despite being the 8th hitter, the veteran infielder would strike a deep gapper and plate both runners in to make it 3-0.

Kikuchi would then have his own jam in the bottom of the 5th. After allowing two singles and one out, he would get Katsuya Kakunaka to fly out, but then he walked Navarro to load the bases. With Suzuki, their hottest hitter up to this point batting, he would groundout to first base and earn a shutdown inning the hard way.

From then on, he was in cruise control with a clean 6th inning. He would go six innings total with six strikeouts, two hits and two walks allowed. The bullpen proved to be reliable as Vasquez and Shota Takekuma each recorded a strikeout in an inning pitched.

Tatsushi Masuda would earn his first save since April 24 and the Lions took the second game of the series. After having left the starter in for too long last week, we give credit to Norio Tanabe to yank Kikuchi out after 89 pitches and six innings, but third time through the order.

Lions 3, Marines 0


In Game 3, ex-Lion Hideaki Wakui would see his former team with Kona Takahashi making his third start of 2016. After what was a slow start, Takahashi would force multiple double plays to keep the Marines off the board through three innings.

Chiba was open the scoring as Kakunaka opened the bottom of the 4th with a leadoff double. Navarro would get a clean single and bring Kakunaka home making it 1-0. The Lions responded in the top of the 5th with an improbably rally. Onizaki would get a double with two outs and then Kaneko singled slicing one past Taiga Hirasawa to tie the game.

Okawari-kun would then show off his power again, with a no-doubt home run crushed to left-center field, giving the Lions their first lead of the game. Takahashi had his scares, but had a clean shutdown 5th inning and delivered again in the 6th allowing only a hit to Kakunaka as he went 3-3 facing the 19-year old pitcher.

Kazuhisa Makita would then take the 7th and 8th inning where drama would come in the latter frame. Kakunaka would get his fourth hit of the game and there would be two on and two outs. Sumitani would call for Makita to pitch around Suzuki in order to face Yoshifumi Okada. It was a success, as Okada grounded into a fielder's choice and ended the threat.

Wakui would go the distance and allow only two runs with one walk and nine hits to go with eight strikeouts. It wasn't enough as Masuda shut the door again for the second consecutive night. With Chiba playing the bottom of the order (Hirasawa) and pinch hitting their catcher earlier, Tatsuhiro Tamura was forced to bat at the top of the order making it easier for the Lions closer to finish it off.

It was the first time the Lions won a series since April 8-9, which was also at QVC Marine Field against the Marines. This was also the first time the team had won consecutive games with the same dates.

Lions 2, Marines 1


In Game 1 against the Hawks, Shinsaburo Tawata made his second career start against Kodai Senga. The Hawks would strike first on a triple from Yuki Yanagita. Okawari-kun tied it with a two-out single off the wall and it was 1-1 after the first inning.

The Lions would take the lead off an error from Kenta Imamiya as Mejia would be safe from a fielder's choice. They were unable to pad their lead in the third despite numerous chances, which had base running blunders. Softbank tied the game in the 5th off a single by Yuichi Honda after Akira Nakamura doubled.

Tawata had a shaky start and drew multiple double plays, but only allowed two runs through his five innings and took a no decision. The Lions worked through Senga forcing him to leave in the bottom of the 6th with a chance. Kuriyama was up with the bases loaded, but was unable to bring home any runners with a groundout.

Makita would pitch two scoreless innings and Vasquez would take the eighth.  Yanagita would walk to leadoff the 8th and it would be a costly mistake. With two outs, Nobuhiro Matsuda would hit a double down the left field line and break the tie at 3-2.

The bottom of the 8th was different, as the Lions would get two runners on base thanks to a great at-bat from Tatsuyuki Uemoto to force a walk and a bunt single from Kaneko. With two outs, Kuriyama would get a key single and pinch runner Saito scored from second to tie it.

After Masuda worked a clean 9th inning which included a strikeout, the bottom of the 9th became interesting. The Hawks elected to pitch Hayato Terahara instead of the closer Dennis Sarfate. Asamura would reach base on a single with one out. Kimura would advance him to second on a groundout and Saito would walk to create another chance for the bottom of the order.

Onizaki would make contact and with the Hawks outfield playing in, it would be the Lions second sayonara of the season. Not only was it another win over the Hawks, but it also became a three-game win streak to keep the Lions out of the cellar.

We applaud Tanabe for being urgent with the managing again as he dialed it up perfectly. Kimiyasu Kudo did not put in his best relief option for the bottom of the 9th and it backfired.

Lions 4, Hawks 3


In Game 2 against the Hawks, Ryoma Nogami faced Shota Takeda, a longtime nemesis. Asamura opened the scoring with a solo home run in the bottom of the second, but the Lions couldn't capitalize on a bases loaded situation with two outs, as Kuriyama hit a weak grounder to shortstop.

The Hawks would tie the game after Ryuma Kidokoro doubled and would score on a sacrifice fly from Honda. Mejia would break the tie again in the 5th inning with a home run, but the Hawks would answer quickly. Honda would hit a triple to leadoff the 6th and Imamiya would plate him on a double. Seiichi Uchikawa would then get his own base hit to give the Hawks the lead at 3-2.

Hawks manager, Kimiyasu Kudo, would take a risk in stretching out Takeda even though he was closing in on 130 pitches and facing the Lions the fourth time through the order. Akiyama's caught stealing would loom large especially after Takumi Kuriyama would double with two outs and with Mejia up to bat, he'd advance to third on a wild pitch. Mejia would not be able to drive in Kuriyama as he'd tap out to the shortstop to end the inning, and that would be the last bit of offense the Lions would provide in this game.

Shota Takekuma would provide a perfect two innings in relief, but Esmerling Vasquez would give up a solo home run to the reigning Pacific League MVP, Yuki Yanagita. That would extend the Hawks lead to 4-2, but that was more than enough for the incredible back-end combo of Robert Suarez and Dennis Sarfate who would pitch perfect innings in the 8th and 9th to nail down the win for the Hawks.

The Lions had their chances against Takeda, but their failure to capitalize would mark the day and another tough loss would be charged to Ryoma Nogami who has pitched quite well in the early part of this season.

Hawks 4, Lions 2


The first winning week in a month, and it was a long time coming. The Lions looked a lot better as they continue to try and weather the storm before some of their key guys on the pitching staff return. Going up against the two best teams in the Pacific League and going 3-2 is a step in the right direction.


Wes Mills also contributed to this report.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Seibu Lions unveil emerald alternate uniforms for 2016

The Saitama Seibu Lions revealed alternate uniforms for the summer of the 2016 season. These Emerald designed uniforms represent the area of two lakes.

Lake Tama and Lake Sayama are on opposite sides of Seibu Dome. The jersey color resembles what is seen on both lakes.

Here is an up close look at Lake Tama with Seibu Dome behind it.

The Lions will be wearing these uniforms for more than an entire month for all games starting July 18 against the Chiba Lotte Marines. This run will end on August 21 against the Marines at home. They will wear this uniform both home and away.

There will be three days where this uniform will be a free giveaway for fans in attendance.

  • July 18 vs. Chiba Lotte Marines
  • August 14 vs. Orix Buffaloes
  • August 20 vs. Chiba Lotte Marines
The uniform has a similar color to how the sleeves looked for the Seibu Lions during the golden age of the 1980s and early 1990s. The only difference is how green takes the uniform with a red line on the sleeves instead.

Here is a video of the unveiling below:

While right now this uniform doesn't look bad, it could become redundant seeing they will have this uniform for 28 consecutive games. In addition, 12 ni-gun games at Seibu II will also feature these uniforms.


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Sunday, May 15, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Otani defeated again for the only win

The Saitama Seibu Lions went 1-4 for the week against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. They're officially in the cellar of the Pacific League.


Game 1 was cancelled rained out where Yusei Kikuchi was scheduled to see Takahiro Shiomi. Instead for Game 2 with a late first pitch, it would be Isamu Sato with his first career start against Manabu Mima.

The Lions were on the board first when Ginjiro Sumitani had an RBI single in the second, but disaster struck in the bottom of the frame. With two outs and two strikes, rookie Eigoro Mogi would hit a three-run home run that would barely stay fair, giving the Eagles a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

There were multiple threats from the Lions including a bases loaded situation in the first, but no runs would come in. The Lions would get another run in the fourth with another RBI single from Sumitani, but nothing more. There were runners on the corners with no outs and Yuji Kaneko was batting, but he would ground into a 6-2 double play which went to review at the plate. Shogo Kimura would be tagged before he would get his hand on the plate and the team would fail to score.

Sato wouldn't allow much until the 5th inning, where the damage would be costly. Sato would walk two batters with a lack of control and his day would be done after 4.1 innings. C.C. Lee would come in and allow a gapper from Toshiaki Imae to make it 4-1. Zelous Wheeler would break it open with w two-run single and the Eagles didn't need to look back.

Naotaka Takehara would get the Lions a consolation run in the 7th, but it was already 8-3 in what was a messy game overall. Pitching was off, but it would be the last potential straw for Lee.

Eagles 8, Lions 3

Game note:

-C.C. Lee and Ken Togame were deactivated after the game. Yuta Nakazaki and Kyohei Nagae would be activated.

-Yasuo Sano would make his 2016 ichi-gun debut while pitching the 7th and 8th innings. He would walk three batters and allow two hits, but no runs.


In the second game against Rakuten, it was Takahiro Norimoto against Yusei Kikuchi. This would be a pitcher's duel as both of them would not allow a run through 7 innings. Norimoto in particular was dominant with 10 strikeouts on the night.

Both teams had chances with the bases loaded and even runners on the corners, but could not bring home a run. Kikuchi was also solid through seven innings in what would be his best pitching performance of the season with 10 strikeouts.

The eighth inning would decide it all, as Masataka Nashida went with Kam Mickolio to pitch for Rakuten and he would pickup a clean 1-2-3 frame. Norio Tanabe elected to go with Kikuchi with just over 100 pitches in the game. It would backfire as Kikuchi walked two batters and the bases would be loaded when Kazuhisa Makita entered the game.

Imae opened the score with an RBI single and the game was broken open with a bases clearing triple by Ginji Akaminai to make it 4-0. Yuki Matsui would finish the game in a non-save situation and the Lions lost their second straight.

This game was the result of Tanabe not choosing to go to his bullpen until it was too late. It's either he liked what he saw from Kikuchi or just didn't trust his bullpen, but Tanabe had no business keeping him out there for the 8th inning. Hitting will be feast or famine and unfortunately. Norimoto was on for the day, but it was a winnable game that was a disaster.

Eagle 4, Lions 0


The week then shifted to Sapporo Dome, where Kona Takahashi faced Luis Mendoza in a rematch. Through the first four innings, it had the makings of  a great pitcher's duel as no runs were scored.

After two throwing errors, the Fighters broke the scoring open as Sumitani threw one to left field.  The Lions would answer back and tie the game from an RBI double by Mejia. Hideto Asamura would then single with two outs, giving the Lions their first lead.

Takahashi would get a shutdown inning and the Lions padded their lead in the top of the 7th. Shogo Akiyama and Naotaka Takehara had pinch hit singles to make it 4-1.

The bottom of the 7th is where the nightmare came as Takahashi was left in with more than 100 pitches thrown. He would allow two runs from an RBI single from Daiki Asama and a lack of control had them on base. Tanabe would finally take him out and Shota Takekuma would preserve the lead getting two flyouts, but it was 4-3 after seven innings.

Kazuhisa Makita had a quick 8th inning, but the bottom of the 9th would come with horror. Kaneko would have a throwing error to begin the frame to put Haruki Nishikawa on base and Takuya Nakashima's sacrifice bunt would be botched by Tatsushi Masuda when fielding it. With two on and no outs, Daikan Yoh sacrificed to move both runners into scoring position.

Asama would tie the game with an RBI single and Masuda would have his second blown save of the year. After intentionally walking Kensuke Tanaka and striking out Toshitake Yokoo, it was up to Kensuke Kondo with the bases loaded and two outs. He made no mistake about it and a walked off with a sayonara single to end the game.

Four errors in this game would equate to four runs, making this loss another disgusting one in the books. Tanabe fell asleep at the wheel again leaving in Takahashi too long and even the bats could have padded the scoring.

Fighters 5, Lions 4


In Game 2, Shinsaburo Tawata made his ichi-gun debut against Anthony Bass. His first career inning would be three up/three down with a strikeout against Yoh.  Asamura would open the scoring with a solo home run in the top of the second.

However, the bottom of the second was another nightmare. Tawata allowed three consecutive singles and then walked the next three batters, equating to three runs making it 3-1. He couldn't record an out and his day was done early. Hirotaka Koishi allowed one inherited runner to score making it 4-1 due to a throwing error from Mejia, but made the most of his situation with a 1-6 double play.

Mejia would hit his 15th home run of the season to bring the Lions within two runs. Koishi did his job in long relief, eating up three innings, but the bottom of the 5th is where it got ugly.

Yuta Nakazaki made his first ichi-gun appearance in nearly three years and couldn't record an out by walking Asama and allowing a hit to Tanaka. With Ryohei Fujiwara coming in, both inherited runners would score with singles from Sho Nakata and Kondo to make it 6-2. Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura would give the Lions a consolation home run in the 6th to cut the lead to three runs.

In the bottom of the 8th, Mejia added more insult with a throwing error leading to another Fighters run. It would've been the third out of the frame, but it became 7-3 after 8 innings.

Hirotoshi Masui would close the game with a quick ninth inning and the Lions lost their fourth straight. Tawata's control and nerves hit him hard in the second and the team couldn't recover. But even worse, the bats had no life to bring run support outside of solo home runs.

Fighters 7, Lions 3

Game note

-To make room for Tawata, the Lions deactivated Fumikazu Kimura.


In Game 3 against the Fighters, it was a rematch of last week where Shohei Otani faced Ryoma Nogami. Nakata opened the scoring with an RBI double off the wall. It was nearly a home run as the ball landed three-feet short of clearing the fence.

Nakata would add another with an RBI single in the third. Seibu would get a run back with Yuji Onizaki earning a walk with one out. Kaneko would bunt and force everything to be in the hands of Masatoshi Okada. Like last week, he would get an RBI single up the middle to cut the Fighters lead in half.

The Lions would later tie the game in the top of the 5th with Akiyama hitting a single, Kuriyama walking and Mejia crushing a 100 mph pitch to right field for a double. Nogami would last five innings with four strikeouts and two earned runs.

Kazuhisa Makita took over and delivered in the 6th inning with a Houdini. He loaded the bases with two hits and a walk, but Asama would get an infield fly and end the threat.

The top of the 7th had Otani stay in the game with a high pitch count and the fourth time through the order. Kuriyama would walk and Mejia would reach on an error, giving Okawari-kun a chance. He made no mistake with a no-doubt, three-run HR to center field. The Lions added another run to make it 6-2 in the 8th inning through a sacrifice fly from Mejia.

Despite a four run lead, the game was far from over. Makita had a clean 7th and 8th inning, but Masuda made the 9th inning interesting with the bases loaded with one out. Nakata would hit a deep sacrifice fly ball that looked like it was gone off the bat making it 6-3. Kondo would flyout and the Lions snapped a four game skid.

Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama gambled keeping in Otani for the 7th and it backfired. The Lions did a good job working up Otani's pitch count and were able to earn the win in a tough manner.

Lions 6, Fighters 3


This is looking bleak even with a win over Otani. Unfortunately, the managing was incompetent as well as the bullpen. Season looks all but over, but they're only four games behind the Fighters for third place. Winning can move someone up quickly, but it's the fifth consecutive losing week for the team.

Not sure when this bleeding will stop, the defense is just too poor besides the rotation being raw. It's all about developing the kids and nothing else.


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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Ernesto Mejia wins Pacific League MVP of the month

NPB announced their awards for the month of April for both the Pacific and Central League. In the Pacific, there was no doubt who would be the hitting MVP in Ernesto Mejia.

Coming off a down season in 2015, Mejia had an average of .316 and a slugging average of .640.  Having a combination of 10 home runs and 28 RBIs, which lead the league in both categories, it was an easy call for him to win the award.

The real improvement we saw in April was watching him at the plate. He had greater pitch recognition and even when he strikes out, we're seeing Mejia look smarter when batting. Norio Tanabe has moved him up to as high as 3rd in the batting order and the team has given him a chance to impress every time.

Previously, Shogo Akiyama won this award in April and June for 2016 while Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura was the Pacific League MVP in July. Kona Takahashi was the pitching MVP for August last year.

Here is a video reaction of Mejia winning his award. There is also merchandise available to commemorate this achievement.

Other April MVP awards:

Central League pitching: Tomoyuki Sugano (Yomiuri Giants)

Central League batting: Dayan Viciedo (Chunichi Dragons)

Pacific League pitching: Hideaki Wakui (Chiba Lotte Marines)


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Sunday, May 8, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Otani defeated, but Golden Week continues losing skid

The Saitama Seibu Lions went 2-4 combined against the Orix Buffaloes and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters for Golden Week on the homestand.


In Game 1 against Orix, it was Brandon Dickson against Ryoma Nogami. The start for Nogami couldn't have been worse, as he allowed a three-run home run to Takahiro Okada in the first inning.

Orix would add two more runs in the fourth inning and it would be 5-0 with Nogami's day done early. Isamu Sato would later come in as a long reliever and do well initially, where he wouldn't allow a run through the first two innings.

Shogo Akiyama put the Lions on the board with a home run, but the 7th inning would be the crucial point for the team. With Sato pitching, he would allow a base hit to Okada and then a two-run home run from Eiichi Koyano all with two outs. The Lions would score a run in the bottom of the 7th, but trailed 7-2 heading into the 9th.

Dickson was dominant with eight innings and only two runs allowed, followed by five strikeouts including some crucial ones against Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura with runners on base.

The 9th inning would bring some drama, where Hirokazu Shiranita would load the bases with no outs. Orix manager Junichi Fukura would be forced to bring in Yoshihisa Hirano with inherited runners. Akiyama had a two-run single and Takumi Kuriyama would get a two-run double to bring the Lions within one having only one out. Unfortunately this game ended swiftly as Okawari-kun and Ernesto Mejia struck out to end the game.

There were numerous chances earlier where the Lions bats couldn't capitalize. The two-run home run allowed by Sato was the difference, but this game was all but over when it started as Nogami could not get outs in the beginning.

Buffaloes 7, Lions 6


In Game 2, it was Yusei Kikuchi against Daiki Tomei. Early on, Kikuchi's location was off and it led to two runs from Orix in the first two innings.

The Lions would answer back with a run in the bottom of the 2nd, with Tomei lacking control and walking batters. Shogo Kimura would get the RBI single to put them on the board.

In the bottom of the 4th, the Lions would get runners on base for Yuji Kaneko with a bunt.  Asamura would score as a ground ball would be hit to Orix SS Takuya Shimada, but he couldn't field it cleanly.

Kikuchi worked a shutdown 5th inning and setup a big frame in the bottom half. With two runners on and no outs, Mejia would golf swing the first pitch to dead CF and it would clear the fences with no doubt as the Lions went up 5-2 on 3-run HR. It would be his 12th of the year.

With some error help from Torai Fushimi, the Lions had runners on the corners and Ginjiro Sumitani reached base. Akiyama padded the lead with an RBI single making it 6-2.

In the bottom of the 6th, Seibu would put the exclamation point on the game with back-to-back home runs from Okawari-kun and Mejia, making it 8-2. Mejia had a no-doubt HR that went behind the Lions Oendan for a moonshot.

Kikuchi wouldn't need to look back as he went seven innings and didn't allow a run in his last five. He drew weak contact and didn't get his first strikeout until the 7th. He would earn his second win of the season after having his defense let him down in the past.

Lions 8, Buffaloes 2


In Game 3, Ken Togame faced Kazuki Kondo for the rubber match. Brent Morel would open the scoring with a solo HR off Togame to make it 1-0. It was Togame's first HR allowed of the 2016 season.

The Lions evened it up with an RBI single in the bottom of the 2nd to make it 1-1, but the damage would come in the next frame. For the top of the 3rd, Orix would score four runs off Togame as his command would struggle. Walks and hits from Yoshio Itoi and Okada as well as a wild pitch would make it 5-1.

Togame's day would end in the 5th inning, where he would be credited with another run and Hirotaka Koishi wouldn't solve the problem, allowing a gapper to Okada, making it 7-1.

Kaneko and Naotaka Takehara would hit two-run HRs for their firsts of the season to make it 7-5, but it wasn't enough. The Lions would fail to score in the last three innings as Orix's bullpen shut the door.

Buffaloes 7, Lions 5


In the first game against the Fighters, it was Kona Takahashi facing Luis Mendoza. The Lions were able to strike first with RBIs from Mejia on a sacrifice fly and Asamura on a single.

Unfortunately, Takahashi couldn't get a shutdown inning as Shota Ono got an RBI single. Seibu would get a run back from a sacrifice fly by Akiyama. After the Fighters got another run back in the 3rd off a Sho Nakata single, things would get ugly in the 6th.

Takahashi would load the bases thanks to an error from Okawari-kun. A ground ball was hit to third base by Brandon Laird, but Okawari-kun couldn't field it cleanly. Takahashi also had a lack of command, walking multiple batters. He would strikeout Ono with the bases loaded and the game would be tied.

Even worse, a wild pitch on the following batter would score two runs and the Fighters had the lead for good. Takahashi was called for obstruction for blocking the plate on the second run, which was a controversial call.

To add insult, Takahashi wouldn't get outs and couldn't get through the 6th inning allowing two more base runners. Hirotaka Koishi would allow one base hit to make it 7-3 to put the game away.

The call was bad, but it wasn't the ultimate reason the Lions lost this game. Takahashi's command was off and it is partially Norio Tanabe's responsibility to know when to pull the starter. It's possible that Tanabe wanted Takahashi to go through growing pains at the ichi-gun level in the worst way possible, but the game was all but over after leaving him in too long.

Fighters 8, Lions 4

Game note:

-Esmerling Vasquez and Fumikazu Kimura were activated after the game. Ryo Sakata and Tadasuke Minamikawa were deactivated as corresponding moves.


In Game 2, Chun-Lin Kuo faced Anthony Bass. This was a no-contest from the beginning, where Kuo could not get an out and the Fighters would get a long two-out rally in the first. Kensuke Kondo would open the scoring with a single and then Brandon Laird would get a three-run no doubt HR to make it 4-0 after the first inning.

The top of the second would be no better, where Kuo would leave after two outs, but allowed four more runs with Koishi entering with inherited runners. The hits would keep piling up and the Fighters batted through the order in the inning, making it 8-0.

Despite the big gap, the Lions would claw their way back with home runs from Kuriyama and Asamura and they had a big chance in the bottom of the 6th inning with the bases loaded. However, Shogo Kimura would strike out to end the threat.  Tatsuyuki Uemoto would make it even closer with a two-RBI gapper making it 8-6, but Akiyama would strike out with the tying run on base.

S. Kimura would get a double, but make a foolish mistake trying to extend it to a triple. It was costly, because Okawari-kun had a double later in the inning, but no runs would score in the 8th. Chris Martin would shut the door in the 9th and the Lions would fail to win their 8th consecutive series.

This game was just bad from the start despite a close finish at the end. Bass was a pitcher who was beatable, but Kuo's awful beginning never gave the team a chance. Little mistakes like the base runner blunder from Kimura to Kuo's location just added up.

Fighters 8, Lions 6

Game note:

-Chun-Lin Kuo was deactivated after the game. The Lions brought up Yasuo Sano to the ichi-gun roster.


In Game 3, the Lions faced Shohei Otani for the first time this season with Ryoma Nogami on the mound. It was a low scoring affair at the start with no runs through three innings. Otani picked up a houdini drawing a 1-6-3 double play from Kaneko.

The scoring would come in the 4th, where Daikan Yoh would get a two out single and score two runs. He would advance to third and Haruki Nishikawa would score from first, thanks to an error by F. Kimura in right field. Kimura would misplay the ball on a bounce and it would go over his head.

Mejia would bring the Lions back with an opposite field solo home run off Otani to make it 2-1. In the 5th inning, the Lions would get runners on the corners with hits from Kaneko and Akiyama. Mejia had a chance with two outs and he capitalized on it with a bloop single to tie the game.

In the bottom of the 6th, the Lions worked up Otani and found some success. Kuriyama was on base with a single and the team chose to bunt him over to second for two outs, having it all come down to Kaneko. With the outfield playing in, Kaneko made contact and hit the ball deep enough to get a triple as the Lions took their first lead of the game. Masatoshi Okada would add on with a single of his own that would extend the Lions lead to 4-2.

The Lions bullpen proved to be reliable after Nogami went five innings on short rest. Ryohei Fujiwara, Shota Takekuma and Kazuhisa Makita retired the Fighters in order for the 6th, 7th and 8th innings to preserve the lead and the 3 of them combined for 5 strikeouts. Akiyama padded the lead with a two-out, two-run HR to make it 6-2 for insurance.

Tatsushi Masuda allowed two bloop singles in his first game since eight days ago, but shut the door and the Lions pulled an improbable victory.

The hitting worked up Otani and he wasn't having his best game. It might have been a benefit not seeing him until May and the pitching was respectable. The bullpen was the big story, as they went for a combined 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K's.

Lions 6, Fighters 2


This was another losing week, but we hope it can get better as the season goes along. The bats were inconsistent, while the errors have hurt the team. Pitching and command is also an issue, but we're happy they've kept Makita in the bullpen.

Rotation pitching needs to get better if they want to compete, but it's a miracle they're only 1.5 games behind the Fighters for third place and not in the cellar. They played like a last place team and still pulled out two wins. Can momentum be built from this victory against Otani?


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Friday, May 6, 2016

Found On Ebay: Orestes Destrade's 1990 Japan Series Watch

We usually just talk baseball here on Graveyard Baseball, but with the Lions playing so poorly and I don't have the time to do an analysis post for another 2 weeks, I figured I'd chime in with this gem.

I simply just googled "Orestes Destrade Seibu Lions," and this is what came up in an Ebay listing. It turns out, the link is more of just simple click bait and it's actually Destrade's wife's watch that's for sale but still, this is quite notable and subtly spectacular.

Think about it, the Lions gave Orestes' wife a brand new, commemorative watch to celebrate her husband's accomplishments in a year where Destrade won the Japan Series MVP and took home the NPB Home Run Crown.

It's possible that this watch was owned by a player or became a special novelty item for fans. For all I know, this is something that's done throughout NPB but until I get that confirmation, all credit to Yoshiaki Tsutsumi for this treasure.

Currently, the watch is going for $2,999.99 and comes with a special certificate that declares its authenticity. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those that has the coin to be buying this but for those Seibu Lions merchandise collectors out there, this is all you! I doubt this is something you'd wear, this is something that should probably be showcased in the living room as a conversation starter.

Here's the link! It will stay up for sale for another 16 days.


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Report: Seibu Lions promote Shinji Mori to ichi-gun pitching coach, add Chikara Onodera to ni-gun staff

Chikara Onodera at his introductory press conference.
The Saitama Seibu Lions announced on Friday afternoon that they promoted ni-gun pitching coach Shinji Mori to the ichi-gun level with the identical coaching job. They also announced that they hired a new coach in Chikara Onodera to take his old position.

Mori, 41, was the ni-gun pitching and training coach for the Lions since the end of 2014. He also played for the Lions as a pitcher from 1997-2005, where he was a second-round draft pick in 1996. Mori was a member of the 2004 Japan Series champion Lions team as well as the 2002 team who won the Pacific League pennant in mostly a bullpen role.

An interesting tidbit about his professional career includes being posted for $750,000 to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2005, but didn't play a game at the MLB level due to a torn labrum. It was a year before Daisuke Matsuzaka was posted to the Boston Red Sox.

Mori would later manage the Ishikawa Million Stars out of the baseball challenge league where he played for them in 2009 and was the skipper from 2010-2014. He was a player-manager from 2013-2014. Today, the Million Stars manager position is held by former MLB player Julio Franco.

Yoshihiro Doi, who was the previous pitching coach, has now become the bullpen coach. Doi, 39, was a former Lions pitcher who was drafted in the fourth round of the 1997 draft. He would play for the Lions from 1998-2003 and 2009-2010 with a stint for the Yakult Swallows from 2004-2008.

Onodera, 35, played for the Lions from 2003-2011 as a pitcher. He was a fourth round draft pick of the team in the 2002 NPB Draft. Onodera was a reliever for the 2004 and 2008 Japan Series Championship teams and now has his first coaching role. He will also coach any ikusei players.

The Lions pitching has been struggling as they're a bottom tier staff among Pacific League teams. As of May 5, they have second fewest number of strikeouts and are 4th in team ERA. They're also ranked 5th in WHIP.

In all, this is a desperate move for a situation that isn't looking good. The rotation has not been good, while the bullpen has remained unreliable for most of the this young season through one month. Management is trying to find lightning in a bottle for a coach by promoting from within.


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Sunday, May 1, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Rookies make their ichi-gun debuts in team losses

Photo credit: Seibu Lions
The Saitama Seibu Lions would go 1-3-1 in a five-game week against the Chiba Lotte Marines and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. It was the second straight week with only one win.


In Game 1 against the Marines, it was Ryoma Nogami taking on Ayumu Ishikawa. The Lions got off to a good start with the first run with a hit from Hideto Asamura, but that was the only glory they'd find.

The top of the 4th proved to be too much for Nogami as he allowed a two-run home run to Alfredo Despaigne. Chiba would keep getting hits including a gapper by new pickup Yamaico Navorro (who served a one-month suspension) and Katsuya Kakunaka would score from first. After a sacrifice fly from Tatsuhiro Tamura, it would be 4-1 and Chiba wouldn't need to look back.

Ishikawa would settle in after the 2nd and go seven innings on the night with four strikeouts. For Nogami, he was able to eat up seven innings and allowed an extra run in the 7th from a single by Takashi Ogino.

The Lions bats were no threat for majority of the night minus the second inning when runners were on the corners. Ishikawa did his job spreading out the base runners and making sure there was no life on offense. He has been the Lions nemesis and the team has not figured him out.

Norio Tanabe got rather greedy keeping Nogami in for the 7th and it cost him a run, but the game was already decided with the four-run fourth inning. In many ways, Nogami did what the coaching staff wanted in eating up innings for the night.

Game Notes: 

-Tadasuke Minamikawa made his debut. He's the first 2015 Lions draft pick to appear with the ichi-gun. He drew two flyouts and a groundout in a scoreless 8th inning.

-Isamu Sato also made his ichi-gun debut in the 9th inning. He gave up a single and a walk, but also fielded a ball for a 1-6-3 double play.

Marines 5, Lions 2


In Game 2, Yusei Kikuchi was once again on short rest (five days) taking on Kota Futaki. Early on, this game had the makings of a pitcher's duel through five innings and there were only runners on second, but no major threats.

It wouldn't until the 6th inning where the wheels fell off. Kikuchi could not get an out as it all started with an infield single from Shogo Nakamura. Ikuhiro Kiyota would get a single and Alfredo Despaigne hit a deep gapper for the Marines first run. The bases would later be loaded with no outs and Kakunaka added on with a two-run single.  After walking Tadahito Iguchi to load the bases again, Daichi Suzuki broke the game open with a two-run single of his own.

Asamura gave the Lions a consolation home run, but it was already late. Chiba would tag Hirotaka Koishi with two more runs to put the game out of reach for good.

This game was a classic third-time through the order penalty, where Kikuchi's pitch count wasn't high, but batters solved him by the time the 6th inning came in. He cruised early on, but it all became tough later.

Marines 7, Lions 2


Game 1 against the Hawks featured Ken Togame against Kenichi Nakata with the latter making his first appearance for the 2016 season. Togame allowed a run to begin after he committed a throwing error as it was 1-0 thanks to a double by Seiichi Uchikawa.

Mejia hit his 9th home run going opposite field to tie the game. It wasn't until the top of the 4th where things started to break. Ryo Sakata would get an RBI single to take the lead and with the bases loaded, a chance came for the bottom of the order. Yuji Kaneko would pull a triple down the right field line and clear the bases, making it a 5-1 ballgame. Shogo Akiyama made important contact to make it 6-1 with a sacrifice fly.

Takumi Kuriyama added on with a solo home run in the 7th inning to make it 7-1. The Hawks would add two runs off Shota Takekuma in the 8th, but that was as close as they would get. Tatsushi Masuda shut the door in a non-save situation striking out two batters in the process.

Togame would go seven innings with no earned runs thanks to his own error in the first. He only had three strikeouts and had to keep the ball in the park for outs. There were multiple "loud outs" with hard contact, but he was saved with players like Naoto Watanabe and Mejia standing in the right spot to prevent a hit. Given his recent outings, he has been better than his ERA is, but nothing flashy like the boxscore may show.  We'll take it.

Lions 7, Hawks 3

Game note:

-The Seibu Lions would deactivate OF Yutaro Osaki and activate Ryohei Fujiwara after the game.


In Game 2, it was Kona Takahashi's 2016 ichi-gun debut against new nemesis Kodai Senga. The Hawks were on the board first with three consecutive hits from Yanagita, Uchikawa and Yuya Hasegawa to make it 1-0 in the first.

The Lions would answer back with back-to-back home runs by Mejia and Sakata. Both of them would fall in the "porch" or terrace of private seats to give the Lions the lead.

Takahashi would continue to be in trouble the entire day, with only the third inning being a 1-2-3 frame. He had a bases loaded, no out situation but only one run would score on a sacrifice fly from Shuhei Fukuda.

Trouble would continue in the 5th, where the bases were loaded again with one out.  Takahashi would walk Hiroaki Takaya on a full count pitch to give the Hawks the lead.  Kenta Imamiya would then hit a sacrifice fly to double the lead at 4-2.

It wasn't until the top of the 7th where there was drama. Hayato Terahara would come in and allow multiple hits to Watanabe and then Shogo Kimura, who was pinch hitting. Kimura would get a key triple and bring the Lions within one. Then Tatsuyuki Uemoto came in as a pinch hitter and doubled home Kimura to tie the game at 4-4. Despite having runners on the corners, the Lions could not take the lead.

Koishi pitched a scoreless 6th inning and Kasuhisa Makita would enter in the 7th having a tie game. He did a tremendous job as a long reliever, taking four scoreless innings. It didn't come without pressure though, as the Hawks had two runners on and a Sayonara chance in the 10th. However, they intentionally walked Fukuda and Yuichi Honda would flyout to end the threat.

Masuda would take the 11th inning where another threat would come with a runner on base and Nobuhiro Matsuda up. However, Masuda would ring him up on the inside corner with a strike three and we went to the 12th.

Shinya Tsuruoka would get a double for the Hawks with one out off Masuda and the drama began. Despite a runner in scoring position, Tomoaki Egawa hit an infield fly and Fukuda would also flyout to centerfield and the Lions had their second tie of the season.

Takahashi should have allowed more runs, but the Hawks would strand the baserunners and keep the Lions within striking distance. This was a game where he was getting hit hard, but fortunate that the ball would bounce his way a few times. The bullpen, however, was tremendous.

Tanabe managed this game as best as you can, having Makita in the smart role of being the team's long reliever. The pinch hit decisions were timely combined with the urgency to play Masuda for the last two innings. It's one of those times where a draw is like a win due it being against the Hawks.

Lions 4, Hawks 4


In Game 3 against the Hawks, Chun-Lin Kuo was given his first start of the season against Shota Takeda. Things started well for the Lions as they were on the board in the first after Uchikawa couldn't catch Matsuda's throw on a hop to make it 1-0.

Kuo was cruising through the first three innings, but the damage came in the fourth. After giving up his first hit to Honda, he would get two outs, but Hasegawa would get a bloop single to fall and tie the game. After Matsuda singled, the backbreaker would come from Akira Nakamura where he would hit a three-run home run as Kuo hung up a pitch making it 4-1.

Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura would get the Lions within two by hitting a no-doubt solo home run in the 6th, but that's as close as they got. Takeda would cruise for majority of the game and the Lions had minimal life with weak contact throughout the day.

There was a chance in the 8th where Kimiyasu Kudo stuck with Takeda for the inning as Kaneko and Kuriyama reached base, but Roberto Suarez would strikeout Okawari-kun on three pitches to end any threat.

C.C. Lee would come in the bottom of the 8th inning and allow a two-run home run to Hasegawa to rule out any chance of a comeback. Mejia hit his 11th home run of the season in the 9th, but it was too late.

Takeda was owning the Lions like he usually does. It was a standard outing for him even though he had minimal strikeouts on the day. Seibu would hit into too many double plays for the game and it would bail out any mistakes from the Hawks pitcher.

Hawks 6, Lions 3


Right now, we're in a bad state with Takayuki Kishi suffering a right adductor muscle in the previous week. He could be out for up to two months and the Lions will have to play two consecutive weeks six-games a piece.

More questions rather than answers have come. Does Andy Van Hekken come back after a decent outing in ni-gun? Is Kuo going to remain in the rotation? Can the bats show up against quality opponents?

This team isn't far from a playoff spot due to the rest of the competition being poor, but we shouldn't be at the point where scoreboard watching benefits the Lions. It's not looking good to say the least, with limited bullpen options and a rotation that's half empty.


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