Monday, April 30, 2018

2018 NPB Power Rankings: May edition


With the month of April over, we here at Graveyard Baseball wanted to add a new Power Rankings segment on who are the best and worst teams in NPB by the month.  Keep in mind, there are several ground rules to this:

1. Standings do not always reflect the rankings. 

Even though one team may have more wins than another, some team could be listed higher based on other factors. Power Rankings based purely off standings and W-L record would be a terrible fallacy.

2. Being hot in the final week of a month could give a boost.

Power Rankings should be based on "What have you done for me lately?" While the work as a whole will be looked at, sometimes a surge could come and bump a team up/

3. Team stats definitely matter. 

Is a team hitting or poorly pitching? There will be factors to these rankings beyond just the usual wins and losses.

4. Rankings are based on the month that was. 

This ranking will only show what happened in March/April, not May.  Anything from May would be put in for the June Power Rankings edition.


Without further introduction, here is how we rank the NPB teams after one month of baseball:


1. Saitama Seibu Lions (19-5)

With no question, the Lions take the top spot to begin the season after doing all things right offensively. There are still plenty of flaws in the bullpen to look at, but the hitting and speed are looking effective through one month.

2. Hiroshima Carp (17-10) 

After a slow start to the year, the Carp bats have been on fire while the starting pitching has been decent, but like the Lions, their bullpen is still flawed. They're also going through some injuries, but this is a soft ranking given how inconsistent they are.

3. Yomiuri Giants (14-11) 

The Giants had a nasty stretch earlier this month, but they've rebounded well with an eight game winning streak and the offense is starting to click as Alex Guerrero is turning it up. It was very tempting to put them at the #2 spot, but the early Carp series loss keeps them just below.

They're getting quality starts from Shun Yamaguchi, who came off a forgettable 2017 season. While it's unsure what direction this team could be in, it's clear they're not going away anytime soon.

4. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (14-11)

An early surprise to the season, the Fighters starting pitching has been absolutely solid with Nick Martinez being a difference maker. Some of the younger pitchers like Naoyuki Uwasawa have stepped it up with the loss of Shohei Ohtani. If the rotation continues to be strong, they could easily finish in A-class.

5. Softbank Hawks (12-11)

The defending champions have dealt with some injuries, but they've weathered to the storm to remain competitive. This team isn't hungover, but they're finding out who can be the relievers for the long run as Dennis Sarfate and Sho Iwasaki are out for some time.

The good news is that Kodai Senga is back for May and the team's pitching will still be a work in progress with who is out. Don't expect them to fade given the talent in Fukuoka.

6. Yokohama DeNA Baystars (13-11)

What team is this? The Baystars dealt with pitching injuries to start the year and later went on an eight game win streak. They're pulling some wins with late magic, but they're very home run dependent for their offense, which remains inconsistent. Even with the injuries, the pitching has been solid, but it's unclear how to determine what this team is besides being consistently inconsistent.

7. Chiba Lotte Marines (12-12)

The Marines are not dead like last year, showing they can compete. Pitching is developing, while the hitting has improved from last year. Shakaijin  Yudai Fujioka has improved the team on defense while Shogo Nakamura is continuing his form from last year. With Ayumu Ishikawa off to a good start, there's a lot to like about this team competing in 2018 even though they lack some pop.

8. Orix Buffaloes (10-15-1) 

Controversial ranking? Yes. Both teams in Kansai have been hard to watch, but Orix has an edge when it comes to team rotation on being interesting with Daiki Tajima, Taisuke Yamaoka and more. They also have some offense behind the young Masataka Yoshida when he's healthy./They've been unlucky to start, but the talent is there.

9. Hanshin Tigers (11-12) 

Lack of speed and a lack of home runs at the ichi-gun have made this Tigers team hard to watch. Tomoaki Kanemoto makes head scratching moves, Yusuke Oyama has been a liability, which is why they're getting docked in this ranking. On paper, the pitching is there, but the dullness of the offense has become tiresome. Also, Shintaro Fujinami has been farmed indefinitely after still showing no control.

Crazy enough in their final game of the month, Willin Rosario hit a go-ahead home run and a stolen base made the difference to tie it. If the offense is clicking, maybe Kansai's main team will take a leap in next month's rankings.

10. Yakult Swallows (9-15)

Junji Ogawa has improved the team already, but it won't show in wins and losses. They're fighting tooth and nail while no longer being a cupcake. However, the pitching is still flawed as they miss Yasuhiro "Ryan" Ogawa. If anything, the offense has shown it can hit when healthy, something this team lacked in 2017.

11. Chunichi Dragons (10-15)

The Dragons continue to rebuild and all we're seeing is learning moments. Zolio Almonte looks like a good piece while Onelki Garcia is solid in the rotation, but the kids are still having their moments. Shinnosuke Ogasawara has been left in too long, Yuya Yanagi is still growing while the bullpen is a disaster.

Daisuke Matsuzaka's first NPB win in 12 years had to feel good, maybe he's not 100% washed up just yet despite the three year layover in Fukuoka. Even with that win, they have all the elements of a last place team, but one is still worse. Like the Swallows, at least they're competitive.

12. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (6-19-1)

The Eagles are an offensive disaster. At the bottom in on base percentage and runs scored (per game).  Rotation is still solid behind Takayuki Kishi and Takahiro Norimoto, but the bullpen is also a wreck. Home runs are lacking and the gaijin core of Japhet Amador, Carlos Peguero and Zelous Wheeler are all hitting under .240 to start.

They're the only team to not win a series of any kind with their closest being a 1-1-1 split against Orix from April 10-12. They also finished April with a seven game losing streak. It's not over, but this month was a dumpster fire to say the least.


Any disagreements or agreements? Let us know!


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Sunday, April 29, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Still undefeated at home

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

Game notes:

-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

Game note:

-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

Game notes:

-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

Game note:

-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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Sunday, April 22, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Comebacks completed


The Saitama Seibu Lions went a combined 4-1 against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and Chiba Lotte Marines with one outing in Tokyo Dome. They remain in first place of the Pacific League riding a hot streak with some ridiculous outings.

Here's how it all went down:


The first game from Tokyo Dome had Ken Togame against Naoyuki Uwasawa. This game proved to be a disaster on the field, as the Lions allowed at least one run. Togame struggled with walking batters, allowing hits and timely moments, where home runs came from Sho Nakata, Oswaldo Arcia and Yushi Shimizu.

In a game filled with nostalgic songs and Ouenkas, the Lions stranded more runners than night with several threats. Uwasawa was even ejected for a dangerous pitch on Sosuke Genda, but the Fighters bullpen stood firm with Tashio Tamai and Toru Murata keeping the Lions on base and not to home plate.

It was all over when Togame was left in for the 6th inning and allowed a two-run HR to Shimizu with two outs, making it 5-1. This was the second consecutive loss for Togame.

Fighters 7, Lions 2

Game notes:

-Tatsuya Oishi was called up as Brian Wolfe was taken off due to an elbow injury. He appeared in the 8th inning and gave up a run with three walks.


The second and last game of the series had Fabio Castillo facing Hirotoshi Takanashi. This game had the makings of a solid pitcher's duel with the only run allowed between both pitchers being in the 5th inning, where Haruki Nishikawa delievered a two-out RBI triple in the 5th inning.

Castillo went 6 innings, while Takanashi had 7 scoreless frames. For the Lions bats, it was a left on base party with several chances being blown up to that point.

Shota Takekuma took the 7th inning and didn't fare better, with Nishikawa recording another RBI triple for a 2-0 lead. Katsunori Hirai couldn't clean up the mess, where he allowed a three-run HR to Sho Nakata, making it 5-0.

Shunta Nakatsuka took the top of the 8th and allowed a bases clearing double by Kensuke Kondo, putting hopes of a comeback to very slim at 8-0.

With Kenta Uehara pitching, the Lions had two base runners on with only one out before another change was made with Toyoki Tanaka in. Three consecutive walks made the bases loaded and two runs came in. Timely hits by Shuta Tonosaki, Takumi Kuriyama and Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura kept the inning moving as it was 8-6. Yuji Kaneko grounded out and another run scored from 3rd to bring the team within one inning.

Neil Wagner struggled in the top of the 9th with two runners on, but he escaped with two strikeouts to keep it a game. The bases were loaded when Naoya Ishikawa came in and allowed two hits and a walk. Tomoya Mori ended up hitting a sayonara double with the outfield playing in and the Lions had their first walkoff of the season.

Lions 9, Fighters 8

Game notes:

-This was Mori's first sayonara hit since 2016.

Tape of the comeback can be seen here:


The homestand continued against the Marines with Mike Bolsinger against Yusei Kikuchi. Shogo Nakamura started the scoring in the first with a solo HR. Kikchi gave up another HR in the 4th to Seiya "Aja" Inoue, but continued to pitch efficiently without taking too many throws per inning.

A third run by Chiba came in the 5th with two outs, as Ryo Miki hit a gapper out of nowhere and scored another runner to make it 3-0. The Lions continued to strand runners against Bolsinger, but found life in the 6th.

As Bolsinger fielded a ball that went off his foot, he threw it to right field and a runner scored from 3rd as the first Lions run of the game. Shuta Tonosaki then tied the game with a two-run HR off Tomohisa Otani to knot it all even at 3-3.

Kikuchi appeared to have settled in with a 1-2-3 7th inning, but ran into trouble in the 8th. With his pitch count nearing at 100, his control faded and several walks were drawn. With the bases loaded, Aja ended up getting a single to plate two runners and make it 5-3. Tonosaki made a diving catch soon after and saved multiple runs to keep the game within striking distance.

Kikuchi's night included 8 IP, 5 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 1 HBP and 7 K. Tanner Scheppers came in for the Marines in the bottom of the 8th and allowed multiple runners, forcing Tadahito Iguchi to bring in lefty Takahiro Matsunaga to face Mori. An improbably infield single was legged out by Mori and he earned a modasho to load the bases.

Naoya Masuda came in after Matsunaga left for one batter and Tonosaki grounded into a potential double-play ball, but Shogo Nakamura threw it away, scoring two runners and tying it up at 5-5. Takumi Kuriyama came in to pinch hit for Ginjiro Sumitani and made no mistake, hitting an RBI single to give the Lions their first lead of the night.

Yuji Kaneko reached on an error from Yudai Fujioka to score another run and Shogo Akiyama hit a gapper two score two more runners and pad the lead even more at 9-5.

This game was far from over, as Tatsushi Masuda gave up three runs from a gapper by Takashi Ogino and a clutch single by Taiga Hirasawa. With runners on the corners, Daichi Suzuki ended up grounding out 5-3 in what was a scary finish, but the Lions won their second straight.

Lions 9, Marines 8


The second game had Shinsaburo Tawata against Tomohito Sakai. After no score through three innings, Hirasawa struck with a bases-clearing triple in the top of the 4th inning to give Chiba a 3-0 lead.

This lead didn't last for long, as the Lions loaded the bases in the bottom of the 4th after drawing some walks. Tonosaki hit a sacrifice fly, then Kuriyama followed it up with a three-run HR to give the Lions the lead.

After Tawata earned a shutdown inning the hard way when stranding runners on the corners, the Lions padded the lead even more in the 5th. On a 3-0 pitch with two outs, Hideto Asamura took  green light and hit it just left of the batter's eye for a two-run HR. Hotaka Yamakawa followed that up with a solo HR of his own.

Tawata's day was finished through six innings of only one bad inning and a Houdini. He also had four strikeouts, one walk and six hits allowed.

After Katsunori Hirai pitched a scoreless 7th, a timely RBI double from Asamura to secure a modasho and gave the Lions an extra insurance run. Yamakawa added on with an RBI single as well.

Neil Wagner cleaned up the 8th, while the 9th inning was finished by Hirotka Koishi to secure the third straight win.

Lions 9, Marines 3


The final game of the week had Hayato Takagi making his first start in a Lions uniform against Kota Futaki. Scoring came early when a grounder misfielded by Aja had Akiyama score from second base. Asamura then hit a two-run HR to make it 3-0.

Genda picked up two more runs when a bloop single dropped over Takashi Ogino's head, allowing two more runners to score in the bottom of the 2nd.

Hotaka Yamakwa broke the game open with a three-run HR in the bottom of the 4th inning. After the Marines got a run back on a sac fly from Ogino, the Lions padded it on even more in the bottom of the 5th. Three runs were added on a sac fly from Kaneko as well as timely hits from Genda and Asamura for an 11-1 lead.

Takagi had a solid outing, allowing only two runs, four walks, three hits and three strikeouts through six innings. While he had walks, he didn't allow a hit until the 5th inning.

Sho Ito came in to make his home debut as he gave up several hits and walks, cutting the lead to 11-5. He recorded his first career strikeout, but Shogo Noda had to come in and clean up the mess. Kaneko gunned down Shogo Nakamura at the plate to prevent further damage.

Noda completed the 8th on his own while Shota Takekuma closed it out as the Lions swept Chiba.

Lions 11, Marines 5

Game notes:

-Okawari-kun (shoulder) and Shunta Nakatsuka were taken off the roster to make room for Ito and Kyohei Nagae.

-The Lions have not lost a home game at MetLife Dome to start the year, currently 9-0. It will stay this way until April 28 at the earliest with that being their next home game.


The Lions climbed the mountain this week with an improbable win on Wednesday, combined with an offensive outburst against the Marines, who looked competitive. Didn't think we'd see a 4-1 week with some crazy comebacks inbetween, but we have.

Like anything, be thankful for every win at this point, because the real test comes in Fukuoka as the defending champions will be angry. This bullpen is still very flawed, but the offense has shown how powerful they are. There's no question this lineup is dangerous at any time. 

Lots of work to do, but so far, so good. Seeing Takagi progress as a starter is a good sign going forward, where his relief appearances should be taken with a grain of salt.


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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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Sunday, April 8, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Perfection matches longest opening win streak in 27 years

The Saitama Seibu Lions went 5-0 combined against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and Orix Buffaloes in the opening five-game home stand. They remain undefeated at 8-0 and have a 3+ game lead on the second place team, whether it's the Fighters or Marines. Here's how they got there:


The home opener against the Hawks had Nao Higashihama, their wins leader from 2017 up against Ken Togame. It was a slow start from the beginning, where Togame hit Kenta Imamiya to start the game. The Hawks manufactured a run from a sacrifice fly by Yuki Yanagita.

Things looked even more grim when Togame gave up a solo HR to Nobuhiro Matsuda, causing another "Atsuo" from the crowd. Higashihama was perfect through four innings, retiring all 12 battesr he faced.

Hotaka Yamakawa broke it up with the Lions first hit in the bottom of the 5th, where a triple was off Seiji Uebayashi's glove in right field. Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura had a timely hit with the infield playing in for the Lions first run.

After Togame picked up a hard earned shutdown inning, the third time through the order penalty struck hard on Higashihama in the 6th inning. Shogo Akiyama reached base on a single and was moved to second on a groundout by Sosuke Genda. Hideto Asamura tied the game with an RBI double. Yamakawa gave the Lions their first lead of the game with a two-run HR shortly after.

Kimiyasu Kudo left Higashihama out there to dry and the Lions made him pay for it as the inning continued. Shuta Tonosaki went yard for a two-run HR of his own.

Togame responded with a shutdown inning, where he struck out the side. Despite the early start, he finished with seven innings pitched, four hits, two walks and five strikeouts on the night in what proved to be a solid rebound outing.

Shogo Noda struggled out of the gate in the top of the 8th and forced Katsunori Hirai to clean up the mess with the bases loaded, stranding all the runners. The Lions added insurance in the bottom of the 8th when a wild pitch had pinch-runner Fumikazu Kimura score from second base.

Hayato Takago made his debut in a Lions uniform in the 9th, but struggled with location and gave up two runs. Tatsushi Masuda finished it off and recorded the final out for the Lions 4th straight win.

Lions 7, Hawks 4

Game note:

-Hirai played all four games up to this point.


The second game of the short series had Rick van den Hurk up against Fabio Castillo, where the latter made his NPB debut. Scoring came early for the Lions when Tomoya Mori had a timely single in the bottom of the first inning. Mori later hit a solo HR in the 4th to make it 2-0.

Castillo flirted with perfection through 5.1 innings until Uebayashi hit an infield single in the 6th inning. He stranded the bases loaded after a 6-4-3 double play was successfully converted in a jam.

More hard contact was allowed by Castillo in the top of the 7th and Yuki Yanagita hit a sacrifice fly to cut the lead in half. Hatsuhiko Tsuji pulled the hook with two outs and Shogo Noda got pich hitter Tomoaki Egawa whiffing on a slider down low to limit the damage.

Shota Takekuma took the 8th and successfully picked off Kenta Imamiya. He gave up two singles, but Seiichi Uchikawa flew out to centerfield for no runs.  Tatsushi Masuda had a clean 9th inning thanks to Yuji Kaneko runing down a ball and the Lions swept the short series, starting the season with a five game winning streak.

Lions 2, Hawks 1

Game notes:

-This winning streak matched the 5-game win streak from 2015 to start the year.

-To make room for Castillo, Nien Ting Wu was taken off the roster as a corresponding move.

-Tonosaki's four-game hit streak was snapped as he went 0-3.

-Mori secured a modasho with an infield single in the 6th inning.


The homestand continued against the Buffaloes with Yusei Kikuchi up against Yuki Nishi in a battle of Opening Day starters. After no score through three innings, Hideto Asamura hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 4th to open the scoring.

While Kikuchi didn't allow a hit after four innings, Orix responded immediately in the 5th after Chris Marrero created a chance with a double, putting two on and nobody out. Takahiro Okada grounded out and the Lions conceded the run to tie it up. However, Kikuchi worked out of the jam to keep the game tied.

A two-out rally came out of nowhere in the bottom of the 5th. Shogo Akiyama worked a single after a long at-bat. Sosuke Genda tripled as the ball slipped past Okada as Akiyama scored from first where the Lions retook the lead. Shuta Tonosaki made a miracle catch in the top of the 7th and saved a run, while he also contributed in the bottom of the inning with a leadoff triple. Ginjiro Sumitani plated Tonosaki shortly after to make it 3-1.

Kikuchi's night stayed strong, with 8 IP with six strikeouts, three walks and two hits allowed. Yamakawa erased any doubt with a two-run HR in the bottom of the 8th. Tatsushi Masuda closed it out and the Lions won their 6th straight.

Lions 5, Buffaloes 1


Game 2 against the Buffaloes had Daiki Tajima against Shinsaburo Tawata. The Lions scored early on a timely single from Yamakawa in the bottom of the first.

A crooked inning brewed in the bottom of the fourth, where Tonosaki dropped a timely bloop single into no man's land to double the lead at 2-0. Yuji Kaneko slapped a timely the other way for another RBI single, but Genda broke it open with a bases-clearing RBI triple to make it 6-0.

Tajima's day was done, but that's all the run support Tawata needed. Tawata floated with a no-hitter through 5.1 innings until Torai Fushimi broke it up as a pinch hitter. Our old friend Hiroyuki Nakajima broke the shutout with an RBI single in that same inning.

Otherwise, Tawata only gave up a solo HR to Chris Marrero in the top of the 7th. He finished the day with 7 IP, 5 H, 1 HBP, 4 K and 2 ER. Shogo Noda pitched a clean 8th while Neil Wagner took the 9th.

A short blooper made it all funny when Wagner was pitching, leading it off as an infield double. However, two groundouts equaled a run and there was no drama in the 9th, as the Lions won their 7th straight.

Lions 6, Buffaloes 3

Game note:

-Masatoshi Okada came in as a 9th inning substitute for Mori. Masato Kumashiro made an appearance as a pinch runner after Ernesto Mejia walked in the 8th.


The final game of the series had Brian Wolfe facing Taisuke Yamaoka. Wolfe walked Yuma Mune on four pitches in the first, which led to a sacrifice bringing him to second. Masataka Yoshida opened the scoring with an RBI single for first blood. Orix added another run in the top of the 5th with a double steal, as Sumitani fell for the trap by throwing to second.

Yamaoka had a perfect game through four innings, but it was broken up by Yamakawa with a leadoff double in the 5th. After Tomoya Mori moved him to third on a single, Okawari-kun grounded into a double play to score Yamakawa and get the run back.

The Lions best chance came in the 6th inning, where there were two runners on with two outs. Yamaoka ended up getting Asamura to whiff on a full-count shuuto to end the threat.

Despite the stranding, Orix stranded a runner on third in the top of the 7th when Shota Takekuma relieved Hayato Takagi. The Lions responded with a six-run bottom of the 7th inning, where a bases loaded RBI single by Tonosaki to give them their first lead of the game at 3-2.

Sumitani attempted a sacrifice bunt and Kohei Suzuki threw the ball away to right field, scoring another run. Takumi Kuriyama hit a sacrifice fly and timely hits from Akiyama and Genda padded the lead to 7-2.

Noda walked the tight rope in the 8th with two base runners, but struck out the next two. Hirai struck out Marrero to end any threat and earn a shutdown inning. Neil Wagner struggled in the 9th, where he allowed two runners and recorded an out after a ball hit him in the leg. He left the game and Masuda allowed both inherited runners to score, but nothing more as the Lions won their 8th straight.

Lions 7, Buffaloes 4

Game notes: 

-Fumikazu Kimura received his first at bat when he came in as a pinch runner, scoring from second on the error by Orix. 

-With this win, it matched the longest win streak to start the year since 1991.


An absolutely perfect week in wins, but crazy enough, they can get even better. The rotation has done its job, going at least six innings and allowing only two runs or less, but the bullpen is still shaky in middle relief. Wagner failed in mop up duty and Noda has been scary.

Offensively, it's hard to find fault as someone has stepped it up each game. Castillo's debut is the most encouraging part, as he can ignore the past history against the Hawks and he got it done. The win streak likely ends in Sendai or Chiba this week ahead, but it's been a strong start for sure.

Ganbare Raionzu!


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Thursday, April 5, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions: How the roster was built

The Saitama Seibu Lions roster was already set for 2018. It's already available in English, but the information is minimal. When scouring the Japanese site, you can see extra material, including where the player was drafted and / or where he played for previously.

Here is the entire Seibu Lions 70-man roster in English, where we've included when the player was taken, which round, what level he was drafted out of and the salary. We've also included the last team each player was part of, whether it was high school, university, the industrial league or another MLB organization/NPB team. 

Starting Pitchers: 

Yusei Kikuchi (16) [1st round draft pick, 2009] HS; {Hanamaki Higashi} ¥240 million
Ken Togame (21) [1st round draft pick, 2011] I; {JR East} ¥60 million
Brian Wolfe (54) [Free agent, 2016]* {Fukuoka Softbank Hawks} ¥50 million
Chun-Lin Kuo (69) [Free agent, 2014]* {Taiwanese National Team U23} ¥20 million
Kona Takahashi (17) [1st round draft pick, 2014] HS; {Maebashi Ikuei} ¥21.5 million
Shinsaburo Tawata (18) [1st round draft pick, 2015] U; {Fuji} ¥26 million
Keisuke Honda (45) [6th round draft pick, 2015] U; {Tohoku Gakuin} ¥7 million
Makoto Aiuchi (41) [2nd round draft pick, 2012] HS; {Chiba Kokusai} ¥5.5 million
Fabio Castillo (47) [Free agent, 2017]* {Los Angeles Dodgers} ¥102.6 million
Hayato Takagi (20) [Compensation for loss of Ryoma Nogami]& {Yomiuri Giants} ¥37 million
Yasuo Sano (34) [2nd round draft pick, 2014] U; {Heisei} ¥15 million
Tatsuya Imai (11) [1st round draft pick, 2016] HS; {Sakushin Gakuin} ¥13 million
Daiki Enokida (30) [Acquired in trade for Yosuke Okamoto]# ¥27 million

Relief Pitchers:  

Tatsushi Masuda (14) [1st round draft pick, 2012] I; {NTT West} ¥115 million
Shota Takekuma (48) [4th round high school draft pick, 2007] ^; {Asahikawa Kogyo} ¥70 million
Tomomi Takahashi (43) [4th round draft pick, 2012] I; {Seino Unyu} ¥38 million
Yosuke Okamoto (30) [6th round draft pick, 2009] I; {Yamaha} ¥23 million
Tatsuya Oishi (15) [1st round draft pick, 2010] U; {Waseda} ¥14 million
Hirotaka Koishi (29) [2nd round draft pick, 2011] I; {NTT East} ¥12.3 million
Shogo Noda (23) [3rd round draft pick ,2015] I; {Seino Unyu} ¥17 million
Seiji Kawagoe (26) [2nd round draft pick, 2015] U; {Hokkai Gakuen} ¥9.6 million
Tadasuke Minamikawa (59) [5th round draft pick, 2015] I; {JR Shikoku} ¥8.6 million
Takuya Toyoda (49) [3rd round draft pick, 2013] I; {TDK} ¥7.7 million
Ryohei Fujiwara (28) [3rd round university draft pick, 2007] ^; {Daichi Kogyo} ¥8.5 million
Kentaro Fukukura (50) [7th round draft pick, 2013] U; {Daichi Kogyo} ¥6.9 million
Tsubasa Kokuba (57) [8th round draft pick, 2015] U; {Daichi Kogyo} ¥5.5 million
Yusuke Tamamura (38) [4th round drafft pick, 2014] HS {Tsuruga Kehi} ¥5.1 million
Koki Fujita (67) [9th round draft pick, 2015] HS; {Hirosaki Kogyo} ¥5 million
Naoaki Matsumoto (66) [10th round draft pick, 2015] In; {Kagawa Olive Guyners} ¥5 million
Shunta Nakatsuka (22) [2nd round draft pick, 2016] U; {Hakuoh} ¥12 million
Katsunori Hirai (25) [5th round draft pick, 2016] I; {Honda Suzuka} ¥16 million
Ichiro Tamura (40) [6th round draft pick, 2016] U; {Rikkyo} ¥7.5 million
Neil Wagner (12) [Free agent]* {Tampa Bay Rays/New York Mets AAA} ¥91.2 million
Deunte Heath (68) [Free agent]* {Toyama Thunderbirds} ¥17.5 million

Rookie Pitchers: 

Hiromasa Saito (19) [1st round draft pick, 2017] U; {Meiji} ¥15 million
Sho Ito (36) [3rd round draft pick, 2017] In; {Tokushima Indigo Socks} ¥6.5 million
Kaima Taira (61) [4th round draft pick, 2017] HS; {Yaeyama Shoko} ¥6 million
Kaito Yoza (31) [5th round draft pick, 2017]U; {Gifu Keizai} ¥7 million



Ginjiro Sumitani (27) [1st round high school pick, 2005] ^; {Heian} ¥110 million
Tomoya Mori (10) [1st round draft pick, 2013] HS; {Osaka Toin} ¥40 million
Masatoshi Okada (37) [6th round draft pick, 2013] I; {Osaka Gas} ¥23.5 million
Shota Nakata (64) [6th round high school draft pick, 2007] ^; {Naruto} ¥5.8 million
Hitoto Komazuki (62) [3rd round draft pick, 2011] HS; {Kyoto Shiritsu Tonan} ¥5.1 million
Komei Fujisawa (78) [Ikusei pick, 2011] iU; {Matsumoto} ¥5 million



Ernesto Mejia (99) [Free agent, May 2014]* {Atlanta Braves AAA} ¥500 million
Takeya "Okawari-Kun" Nakamura (60) [2nd round draft pick, 2001] HS; {Osaka Toin} ¥280 million
Hideto Asamura (3) [3rd round draft pick, 2008] HS; {Osaka Toin} ¥210 million
Sosuke Genda (6) [3rd round draft pick, 2016] I; {Toyota Motors} ¥41 million
Hotaka Yamakawa (33) [2nd round draft pick, 2013] U; {Fuji} ¥32.4 million
Shuta Tonosaki (5) [3rd round draft pick, 2014] U {Fuji} ¥27 million
Kyohei Nagae (32) [4th round draft pick, 2011] HS {Nagasaki Kaisei} ¥12 million
Nien Ting Wu (39) [7th round draft pick, 2015] U; {Daichi Kogyo} ¥7.5 million
Haruka Yamada (52) [5th round draft pick, 2014] HS; {Saga Kogyo} ¥5.5 million
Kazuki Kaneko (56) [4th round draft pick, 2013] HS; {Fujisawa} ¥5.5 million
Daichi Mizuguchi (0) [Ikusei draft pick, 2012] iIn; {Kagawa Olive Guyners} ¥8.5 million

Rookie Infielder:

Ryusei Tsunashima (63) [6th round draft pick, 2017] HS; {Itoigawa Hakurei} ¥5 million



Shogo Akiyama (55) [3rd round draft pick, 2010] U; {Hachinohe} ¥220 million
Takumi Kuriyama (1) [4th round draft pick, 2001] HS; {Ikuei} ¥130 million
Ryo Sakata (88) [4th round draft pick, 2008] U; {Hakodate} ¥12 million
Shogo Saito (65) [7th round high school draft pick, 2007] ^; {Kasukabe Kyoei} ¥12 million
Fumikazu Kimura (9) [1st round high school draft pick, 2006]^; {Saitama Sakae} ¥18.6 million
Masato Kumashiro (58) [6th round draft pick, 2010] I; {Oji Paper} ¥10 million
Aito Takeda (53) [4th round draft pick, 2015] HS; {Hanasaki Tokuharu} ¥6.5 million
Daisuke Togawa (71) [Ikusei pick, 2014] iHS; {Hokkai} ¥5 milllion
Yuji Kaneko (8) [3rd round draft pick, 2012] U; {Ritsumeikan} ¥50 million
Shohei Suzuki (46) [4th round draft pick, 2016] HS {Shizuoka} ¥6 million

Rookie Outfielder: 

Manaya Nishikawa (51) [2nd round pick, 2017] HS {Hanasaki Tokuharu} ¥7 million


OF Wataru Takagi (121) [1st round ikusei pick, 2017] HS {Shiritsu Shinsokan} ¥3 million
C Masato Saito (122) [2nd round ikusei pick, 2017] U {Hokkaido Kyoiku Iwamizawa} ¥4 million



U - Drafted out of University/College

I - Drafted out of Industrial League (Shakaijin)

In - Drafted out of Independent League

HS - Drafted out of High School

^ - Drafted in a year where High School and University drafts were separate. From 2005-2007, those taken in high school were separated from those taken out Universities or Industrial/Independent League teams.
* - Foreign import signing  

& - Free Agent compensation selection

# - Acquired by trade

i - Ikusei draft pick. It's similar to how an NFL practice squad works, except they're drafted in an ikusei round after the initial NPB Draft.  For more information, you can click here. The Lions currently have no one on their ikusei roster and have three former picks promoted to the 70-man roster.


Lastly, here is the coaching staff of the Lions both at the ichi-gun and ni-gun level. This is listed on the Lions website.  

Head Manager (Supervisor) 
85 Hatsuhiko Tsuji (田辺 徳雄)

Ichi-gun Coaches
73 Hideki Hashigami (橋上 秀樹) - Head Coach
80 Shigenobu Shima (嶋 重宣) – Batting
76 Masahiro Abe (阿部 真宏) - Batting
84 Kosaku Akimoto (秋元 宏作) – Battery
72 Yoshihiro Doi (土肥 義弘) – Pitching
74 Fumiya Nishiguchi (西口 文也) – Farm Pitching^
83 Toshifumi Baba (馬場 敏史) – Infield defense and Base-running (3B coach)
70 Tomoaki Sato (佐藤 友亮) – Outfield defense and Base-running (1B coach)
92 Shinobu Sakamoto (坂本 忍) – Trainer
98 Takafumi Sato (里 隆文) – Trainer

Ni-gun Coaches 
86 Tetsuya Shiozaki (潮崎 哲也) - Farm Manager
75 Hiroyuki Takagi (高木 浩之) – Farm Hitting and Head Coach
90 Kento Sugiyama (杉山 賢人) – Farm Pitching
91 Ming-Chieh Hsu (许铭杰) – Farm Pitching*
82 Kosuke Noda (野田 浩輔) – Farm Battery*
87 Satoshi Kuroda (黒田 哲史) – Farm infield defense and base-running
77 Shogo Akada (赤田 将吾) – Farm outfield defense and base-running
81 Takanori Hoshi (星 孝典) – Ikusei and development
95 Haruki Kurokawa (黒川 春樹) – Farm Trainer
96 Kenta Kudo (工藤 建太) – Farm Trainer

* New coach
^ Promoted to ichi-gun


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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Translation: Interview with Shota Takekuma

Pacific League TV uploaded an interview with Shota Takekuma right before the Saitama Seibu Lions traveled to Sapporo for Opening Day. Takekuma, 28, has been a mainstay in the Lions bullpen for several years, but the reporters noticed he received a few starts in the preseason.

Here is what he had to say:

Reporter: We're finally through spring training and preseason games as 2018 season is about to begin. How are you preparing for the season? 

Takekuma: I pitched only a few games so am kind of concerned.


R: In past seasons you were in the bullpen and pitched for a lot of games, but this year you're in the starting rotation? 

T: I think I am a spot starter.


R: Who told you to start and when? 

T: Maybe in the 2nd series during the preseason I heard it. I don't know how I feel only after having experienced a few starting games. When I was in the bullpen and a starter was taken out early in the 5th inning, I used to complain about pitching longer in relief for the starter. However, once I experienced starting and found pitching for even 5 innings to be so tough and great.


R: It feels like it takes fewer days to prepare to pitch in full throttle in the training. 

T: In the training, usually I feel tired in the 3rd or 4th series when we start some intrasquad games. I start my personal training before the spring training in full throttle and in the 1st series. I feel tired and I put myself in good condition in the 3rd or 4th series after recovering.


R: So you usually prepare early?

T: Yes.


R: Is there any habits or types of training you follow? 

T: I can do it naturally. When I hurt my elbow in the past, I spent a spring training in a slow pace manner. I had no idea how to spend the training. After that, I do it the way I'm used to. 


Special thanks to @Yoshi_Tanaka for the translation help. 

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Opening series sweep in Sapporo

The Saitama Seibu Lions started the season with a bang as they swept the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in the opening series. They sit alone at the top of the Pacific League with a 3-0 record.  Here's how they got here:


Game 1 featured Yusei Kikuchi against new Fighters import Bryan Rodriguez. Shuta Tonosaki had the Lions first run of the season with a timely single with two outs in the second inning after Tomoya Mori hit a triple.

This game got out of hand quickly in the third, where Rodriguez gave up base hit after base as the Lions batted around the order. Timely hits from almost the whole lineup had this one lopsided and turned it into a no contest with seven runs in the frame.

Kikuchi went seven innings with eight strikeouts and gave up only four hits. His only blemish was a two-run HR by Brandon Laird in the 6th inning.

Shogo Akiyama hit a gapper in the 8th to pad the stats and pile it on for good in a complete win.

Lions 11, Fighters 2

Game notes: 

-Tonosaki had the first modasho of the season with four hits and a walk.

-Neil Wagner made his debut in the 9th, giving up only one walk.


Game 2 had Shinsaburo Tawata go up against Nick Martinez. Early on, both pitchers were flexing their muscles, but the Lions broke through with a manufactured run as Akiyama hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning for the first blood.

The top of the 6th looked like it would be a breakout inning when the Lions had the bases loaded, but no runs came along. It only had one run through Hideto Asamura's solo homer.

Tawata earned two shutdown innings the hard way, where the bases were loaded in the 5th and two were on base in the 6th. He got Kensuke Tanaka to flyout and Taishi Ota to ground out to get through his outing unscathed. Through six innings, he had five strikeouts, four walks one hit batter and three hits allowed.

The Lions added another run in the 7th when Sosuke Genda had a timely single, securing a modasho to make it 3-0. After Shota Takekuma had a clean bottom frame, Tomomi Takahashi struggled in the 8th, giving up a four pitch walk and a long RBI double to Kensuke Kondo. \

Hatushiko Tsuji switched to Katsunori Hirai to take out Sho Nakata and Laird. Oswaldo Arcia plated Kondo to make it a one run game with an RBI single. Hirai then struck out Ota and ended the frame.

Akiyama added some insurance with a gapper after Yuji Kaneko walked. Yamakawa put no doubt on this game with a three-run bomb to secure the victory, Tatsushi Masuda closed it out and the Lions won two straight to open the year.

Lions 7, Fighters 2

Game notes:

-Tawata has won at least one game in Sapporo Dome in each of his first three seasons.

-With the home run, Yamakawa also secured a modasho.


The final game had Brian Wolfe against Takayuki Kato going for the sweep. Seibu squandered an early chance when Ginjiro Sumitani doubled and was moved to third. He tagged up on a short flyball from Akiyama, but Go Matsumoto gunned him down at the plate in the third inning.

With no score through four innings, the Lions broke through with a two-out rally in the 5th. Timely hits from Yuji Kaneko, Sosuke Genda and Hideto Asamura made it 3-0, all being singles.

Wolfe put in a quality start with six innings, eight hits, one strikeout, but no runs given up. Takekuma allowed nothing in the 7th while Hirai allowed a solo HR from Sho Nakata in the 8th. Genda bounced a timely hit in the top of the 9th for an RBI single with two outs and got the run back for the Lions.

Masuda closed the game once again and the Lions started the season with a three game sweep for the first time since 2015.

Lions 4, Fighters 1

Game notes: 

-Asamura had a modasho.

-Tomomi Takahashi was taken off the roster due to a shoulder injury while Wolfe was activated for the game.


What a great start to the season where it reminded me (Christian) of the time they swept Orix to start 2015. The Softbank Hawks shall bring a huge test, but sweeping up in Sapporo Dome is still impressive no matter what the Fighters are. It's encouraging that the defense is solid for the pitching staff that remains uncertain.

The bullpen and everyone else will be tested this week, but obviously a 3-0 start is as perfect as it gets. Keep it going!


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