Tuesday, July 31, 2018

2018 NPB Power Rankings: August Edition

With interleague play long gone, we're back to seeing some normal looking rankings after slamming the Central League last month.

Given how many teams currently have a losing record, this one was really hard to place. We've had some ups and downs, but here is how the power rankings stand after four months:


1. [^] (5) Saitama Seibu Lions: 53-35-1; 13-5 in July

The Lions take a surprise leap to first after we projected a freefall due to their bullpen woes. They've countered this with leaving the starting pitcher in longer and being dependent on offense. It's not the most orthodox path, but they're winning games with recent sayonara hits and the team being on a six game win-streak to end the month.

There's lots of potential here, but it still needs to get better. They're hoping Deunte Heath can take reins of the closer role and it's possible recent signing Kyle Martin will get a shot. Rotation depth isn't great, but it's adequate to survive. They've also become home run dependent in recent weeks, which can't be the only offense.


2. [^] (7) Hiroshima Carp: 52-35-1; 12-5 in July

The Carp are back after seeing the Central League again. At this point, you can all but have the magic number ready.  It's currently 37 at the time of this writing. Pitching still has its vulnerability, but Kris Johnson and Daichi Osera are both killing it. Having their catcher Tsubasa Aizawa with an unreal hitting slashline is icing on the cake to an embarrassment of riches offensively.


3. [v] (1) Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters: 51-39-1; 9-8-1 in July

Fighters take a slight fall after barely having a winning record for July. Everything looks decent on paper as Sho Nakata is rebounding well from a terrible 2017. Starting pitching is a slight concern as Nick Martinez has fallen a bit, but the bullpen looks stronger than the Lions unit. Of course it's also key that Kensuke Kondo is healthy in 2018.


4. [^] (8) Yomiuri Giants: 45-49-1; 12-11 in July

The Giants looked like a contender as the answer to the Carp, then they get swept in Hiroshima for three games. They're getting good contributions from imports who made their starts in July in Cristopher Crisostomo Mercedes and Taylor Jungmann with the latter suffering an injury. Those two carried the rotation when everything else remains up and down.

Bullpen is vulnerable as Scott Mathieson is hurt and depending on an old Koji Uehara won't get it done. Still, they're in A-class and should be in the hunt until season's end.


5. [v] (2) Tokyo Yakult Swallows: 43-45-1; 9-10 in July

The Swallows started the month going 0-7, but rebounded nicely in the middle after it looked like they would fall off Cloud 9. They also had a seven-game win streak where they swept the Giants away from Kanto. If anything, Junji Ogawa has this team competing, which is a huge step from last year's disaster and will pass their 2017 win total next month. Tetsuto Yamada is also back and it's only a matter of if he has enough stolen bases for the Triple 3.


6. [v] (4) Chiba Lotte Marines: 43-44-3; 7-10-3 in July

This was a strange month for the Marines with several ties, nearly going .500 initially. The rotation had some recent losses, but Mike Bolsinger continues to carry the team. Seiya "Aja" Inoue will finally get to the 20 HR club, something the team didn't have in 2017.

Unfortunately, Takashi Ogino's injury coming from a freak accident has hurt them a bit. They still have speed, but Ogino leading off was huge for the Marines.

7. [^] (10) Yokohama DeNA Baystars; 41-47-2; 9-11 in July

The Baystars continue to underachieve on the mound. Joe Wieland, Haruhiro Hamaguchi and Shota Imanaga have all been down and rookie Katsuki Azuma still leads the team in innings. It doesn't help that Jose Lopez is hurt, but this team still remains home run dependent with no balance in their offense. They remain inconsistent.


8. [^] (12) Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles: 39-51-1; 12-7 in July

The Eagles escape the cellar with their best baseball of the season under interim manager Yosuke Hiraishi. It's possible this month has all but secured his job for 2019. Their bullpen hasn't been great, but the hitting is showing better life with Kazuki Tanaka in their lineup. Don't look now, but the Eagles are suddenly 5.5 games out of A-class. There's a chance they can climb this uphill battle with August starting.


9. [^] (11) Chunichi Dragons: 42-51-1; 10-11 in July

The Dragons should be a last place team by far, but they're only in the Central League cellar by one game. Amazingly enough, by avoiding a disaster month, they could move up in the standings by not necessarily winning. Shinnosuke Ogasawara picked up a shutout despite the team being no-hit this month. Starting pitching is average, but the bullpen should further drop this team sooner than later. Hiroshi Suzuki is still very raw in this rebuilding season, but he has more upside than Koji Fukutani.


10. [v] (6) Fukuoka Softbank Hawks: 43-44-1; 6-11-1 in July

The Hawks have had their worst month of the season and are mired in mediocrity. They're still the Hawks and can't be written off, but the bullpen has continuing to rebuild all year. Hitting is the larger issue outside of Yuki Yanagita, where the offense has been limited. This is the latest in a season the Hawks have had a losing record since their last B-class season in 2013. They haven't struggled in the Kimiyasu Kudo era until now.


11. [v] (8) Hanshin Tigers: 39-46-1; 6-10 in July

The Tigers have no idea what hitting is and it remains disappointing like the Baystars. Yusuke Oyama is unclutch, while some pitchers have been up and down in the bullpen. They can say Randy Messenger is an ace and the starters are respectable., but can the bats wake up? It also doesn't help when Fujinami gets destroyed for five runs and can't make it out of the first inning in his ichi-gun return. Good thing for them is they still have two months to make a run, barely outside A-class.


12. [v] (3) Orix Buffaloes: 42-47-4; 6-13-1 in July

Both Kansai teams fall to the Power Rankings cellar as Orix is being Orix. A team with so much talent, but things are going backwards and taking a wrong turn. The Buffaloes suffered an eight-game losing streak in the month and have lost nine of their last ten. Offense is too dependent on Masataka Yoshida while it doesn't help when Takahiro Okada is hurt. Everything just doesn't come together with this team despite having a decent bullpen and a rotation that can hang tough. Could this stretch be the reason Junichi Fukura leaves?


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2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Sayonaras spark win streak

Photo credit: @n_524_photo


The Saitama Seibu Lions had an undefeated week against the Orix Buffaloes and Chiba Lotte Marines combining for 4-0. They have a three-game lead on the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters while still in front for the Pacific League pennant.


The first game against Orix involved Shinsaburo Tawata facing Chihiro Kaneko. Ernesto Mejia started the scoring with a two-run HR in the third.

Tawata looked like he woudl struggle most of the night, but continued to strand runners thanks to good defense behind him. His only run allowed was a HR to Stefen Romero in the 6th inning.

Tomoya Mori and Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura erased any doubt on this game with home runs as the Lions pulled away late. Tawata went the distance for all nine innings, pitching his seventh career complete game and 10th win of the season.

Lions 7, Buffaloes 1


Game two had Ken Togame facing Brandon Dickson. This had the makings of a disaster from the start, where Togame allowed three runs early on through HRs by Romero and Masataka Yoshida for a 3-0 Orix lead in the first. The Lions got a run back with a timely from Hotaka Yamakawa and the bats showed life for most of the time against Dickson.

Togame couldn't learn from before, as Romero recorded as second HR of the night off him. The Lions tied it up at 4-4 off a timely double from Mori and single from Takumi Kuriyama to make it a new ballgame. However, Togame struggled again in the 4th and a run scored off a sacrifice fly to put Orix ahead again.

Hatsuhiko Tsuji didn't mess around afterwards, putting Hiromasa Saito in to take 2.1 innings in relief. The Lions bullpen didn't allow a run for the rest of the night behind Katsunori Hirai, Shogo Noda, Neil Wagner and Deunte Heath. Despite showing life, the Lions bats failed to score, but a last gasp chance came in the 9th off Hirotoshi Masui. Mori hit a sac fly to tie it at 5-5 in the bottom of the 9th, sending it to extras.

Heath struggled with two base runners, but Mori's defense was able to pickoff a runner and prevent anything from happening. The bottom of the 10th belonged to the Lions, where Okawari-kun reached base and secured a modasho. After a bunt sent him to second, it was up to Hideto Asamura with two outs. He hit a gapper on the first pitch for a sayonara victory, giving the Lions their 50th win of the season.

Lions 6, Buffaloes 5 (10 innings) 

Game note:

-Ken Togame was taken off the roster after the game for infielder Haruka Yamada.


The last game had Andrew Albers facing Yusei Kikuchi, where the latter was bumped up in the rotation. This was a classic pitcher's duel as both Kikuchi and Albers continued to strand runners all night long. Orix in particular had a runner on third base many times, but only scored once in the seventh inning on a timely hit from Koji Oshiro. Shuta Tonosaki hit a solo HR in the 5th inning as the Lions only run in nine innings.

This one went to extra innings where Deunte Heath allowed a runner to reach third base, but he stranded it as Stefen Romero popped out to centerfield. Okawari-kun started a rally again with a single and Fumikazu Kimura bunted him to second base. Tomoya Mori came in as a pinch hitter for Ginjiro Sumitani and delievered with a sayonara hit off the wall, giving the Lions their fourth win in a row.

Lions 2, Buffaloes 1 (10 innings) 


The week remained in Kanto as they traveled to Chiba to take on the Marines. Brian Wolfe faced Mike Bolsinger. This game was rained out due to a typhoon hitting the area and they postponed it in the early morning.


Chiba stuck with Bolsinger to start while Daiki Enokida pitched on Sunday. This had the makings of a high scoring affair, but it was a key "base hit" that dropped into the outfield off a ball from Shuta Tonosaki. Taiga Hirasawa and Shogo Nakamura miscommunicated and it was a four-run third inning for the Lions.

Despite all of this, Enokida loaded the bases and left in the fourth inning. Hiromasa Saito was called on to clean it up and allowed nothing on his own in that frame with a key strikeout. He loaded the bases again and gave up a run in the 5th, but limited the damage to keep it a 6-3 game.

Takumi Kuriyama, Hideto Asamura and Shogo Saito had timely hits throughout the night with the latter piling it on the 9th inning as the Lions took the stand alone game. As a result, H. Saito earned his first career win.

Lions 9, Marines 3


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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Report: Seibu Lions sign Kyle Martin

The Saitama Seibu Lions called for more reinforcements on Thursday when they announced they signed RHP Kyle Martin.

"I am very excited," Martin said in a statement. "I am proud to be able to play in Japan where there are wonderful fans who can share their affection for baseball. I am very much looking forward to having connection with all of our fans.".
Martin, 27, has spent his entire career with the Boston Red Sox organization. It was earlier reported on Wednesday in Eastern Time that the Red Sox released him in order to pursue an opportunity in Japan.

Last year, Martin made his MLB debut and appeared in two games at the top level. He gave up one home run and has a career total of 2.1 innings of work. In 2018 at the AAA in Pawtucket, Martin registered a 3.33 ERA in 51.1 innings of work while in relief. He had a strikeout clip of 10 per nine innings. He was originally a 9th round draft pick by the Red Sox in 2013 out of Texas A&M.

An interesting side note is how large Martin is as a player, being 6-7 (200 cm) and 104 kg, he is nearly the same size as Ernesto Mejia and Fabio Castillo. 

The Lions bullpen struggles have been a large elephant in the room since the start of the 2018 season. With several players being shuffled and deactivated, Martin is the third mid-season acquisition behind Deunte Heath and Ryuya Ogawa. The Lions are hoping Martin can be a help for the team's struggling bullpen unit. 

With Martin signed, the Lions will have 71 players under contract in the organization with 69 on their 70-man roster. Wataru Takagi and Masato Saito are both ikusei that could be promoted at any time, but there is technically one more spot open if necessary.


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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

2018 NPB Trade Deadline: Seibu Lions candidates to send away or release

The 2018 NPB Trade deadline is on July 31, but it remains an afterthought among fans and media. While trades can in Japan, it usually occurs when it involves an expendable player.

In MLB, we see teams make trades to get better, or sell for the long term. Blockbuster trades are rare in Japan, with the last significant deal being in 2013 involving Yoshio Itoi. If there is a trade, it happens in the offseason majority of the time.

The Saitama Seibu Lions already made their move by acquiring Ryuya Ogawa from the Chunichi Dragons for cash considerations earlier this month. There are currently 68 players on the 70-man roster, but both open spots are likely reserved for any potential promotions for ikusei players C Masato Saito or OF Wataru Takagi.

Last March, the Lions surprised everyone when trading Yosuke Okamoto to the Hanshin Tigers for Daiki Enokida. Okamoto had a decent stretch in 2017 as the 6th starter where the Lions were able to showcase him and use it as a selling point. He ate up quite a few innings and was useful enough for a team to bite.

The Lions can always use pitching depth, but assuming they don't want more than 70 players under contract, they will need to make a 1 for 1 swap. This is always the time to look back at the 2018 season and find out which players are expendable or not needed for 2019 plans and beyond.

Based on playing time, here are some candidates the Lions could dump to another team either at deadline or after the season:

Note: First-year foreigners will not count towards this list. 

P Ryohei Fujiwara: Fujiwara has not played an ichi-gun game in 2018 and only appeared in low leverage for eight outings last season. At age 32, there's no upside here. At ni-gun, he has a 7.20 ERA in 20 innings of work. 

P Kentaro Fukukura: He initially made the Opening Day roster in 2017, but hasn't played an ichi-gun game in 2018. Fukukura was the initial mop up pitcher to start last year and fell out of favor by the time it was June. He was originally a 7th round pick in 2013 and had a productive 2015 in ni-gun. 

P Seiji Kawagoe: Kawagoe was a second round pick in 2015 from the 10-man class, but has failed to impress coaches in ni-gun. He has an 8.79 ERA in 14.1 innings of work down in ni-gun. He was injured in 2016 and maybe it hampered his pitching career. His best option moving forward should be similar to Fumikazu Kimura and Rick Ankiel, where he could be a position player in the OF, something he did in college and high school. Kawagoe is not cutting it as a pitcher. 

P Tsubasa Kokuba: Kokuba received some ichi-gun time in 2016 with the Lions out of contention, but was nothing special. An 8th round pick in 2015, he hasn't earned any ichi-gun time on his own and has a 9.99 ERA in 24.1 ni-gun innings. 

P Chun-Lin Kuo: Kuo has been roster filler since 2017, where he gambled on himself in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and failed in his only outing against Israel. By not attending camp and training with Taiwan's national team before the 2017 season, majority of the Lions pitchers passed him on the depth chart. He spent last year injured and has only appeared in seven ni-gun games. He has a 5.93 ERA in 13.2 innings out of the bullpen. A once promising amateur prospect no longer has upside at age 26.  

P Tomomi Takahashi: Once viewed as one of the more dominant closers, his career in NPB has been a flash in the pan. A strong 2014 season on a bad team while having a good first half of 2015, but the wheels fell off when he blew his first save that year. Takahashi has never been the same and still is nowhere impressive since coming off Tommy John surgery. Now he's 30 and it's likely that he's peaked already.  

P Yusuke Tamamura: Tamamura has yet to appear in an ichi-gun game despite being in his fourth season with the Lions. Drafted one year removed from high school in 2014, he mostly started ni-gun games. He has only appeared in eight ni-gun games for 2018 and it's possible he's fallen out of favor. Tamamura is only 23, but remember it wasn't long ago when Isamu Sato was also on the senryokugai list at this age. 

P Takuya Toyoda: Toyoda is currently with the ichi-gun team at the time of this writing, but this former shakaijin is nothing special or impressive. He didn't play an ichi-gun game at all in 2017 and has only been put in for low leverage in 2018. Toyoda is also 31 years old, but has been decent in ni-gun for the few games he's appeared in.  

C Komei Fujisawa: Fujisawa was a former ikusei pick promoted to the 70-man roster years ago. He will turn 29 this fall and is the oldest catcher among those in ni-gun. 

C Shota Nakata: Nakata is a year younger than Fujisawa, but like the latter, he doesn't hit well and serves more as a mentor to the Lions ni-gun pitchers. Maybe a future coach if Masato Saito is promoted? 

IF Kyohei Nagae: Nagae is mostly a defensive replacement who has a weak bat. He has stellar defense, but it's possible he has fallen out of favor for others who can hit. Even in ni-gun, Nagae is only hitting .178, which won't cut it. With only four ichi-gun games in 2018, this would be a career low for him. Only time will tell if the Lions will get rid of him or not. 

OF Ryo Sakata: A once promising outfielder had his career hampered by an injury and never recovered after 2013. He hit well in ni-gun last year to stay up, but at age 32, there is no upside. Could be a decent pinch hitter, but not worth an everyday starter like he was given like the beginning of 2016. He only played 11 ichi-gun games in 2017 and hasn't played in 2018, showing that Hatsuhiko Tsuji sees him as an inherited player not needed. 

OF Masato Kumashiro: Kumashiro made the opening day roster for his versatility to play on the outfield and infield, but it appears Shogo Saito has beaten him out. He's not a bad depth option, but Kumashiro isn't young at 29 years old. If the Lions want to get younger, he's likely gone. 

OF Kazuo Matsui: Matsui's time as a player should be dwindling down assuming this is a retirement year. On the field, he's only appeared in 14 ichi-gun games with only a few decent at-bats. If he wants to stay around, it should be as a coach. He should get a great retirement ceremony for his long career in baseball. Assuming he's played a role in developing players and bats, Matsui should stick with the Lions organization.  

IF Ernesto Mejia: Probably the most controversial one listed here, but Mejia is expendable. The Lions are stuck with him through 2019 as he signed a three-year extension in the middle of the 2016 season. It's looking like a huge mistake given the rise of Hotaka Yamakawa as Mejia fell off in 2017. Mejia has only played in about half of the ichi-gun games in 2018 and appears mostly against left-handed pitchers as a DH. He has not appeared in the field as Yamakawa has remained the starting 1B. 

Mejia will not get traded during the season, but the Lions probably wish to find a taker for his contract as they'll be paying him ¥500 million in 2019. He's the highest paid player and will likely have that distinction next year too. If the Hanshin Tigers give up on Willin Rosario and Efren Navarro, the Lions should try to call them and make an offer after the 2018 season. 


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Sunday, July 22, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Bullpen blunders continue


The Saitama Seibu Lions went 2-4 against the SoftBank Hawks and Rakuten Eagles. Their lead is down to 1/2 a game in front of the Fighters in the Pacific League.

Here is all that happened:

The first game in Fukuoka had Shiinsaburo Tawata against Kodai Senga. Hotaka Yamakawa hit a two-run HR in the top of the first, but that was all the glory the Lions would get. Tawata allowed six runs in the bottom of the first alone, including three HRs. He gave up a total of 4 HRs and 11 runs in 3.1 innings to put this game away early. This was a no-contest from the first inning.

Hawks 16, Lions 4

Game note:

-Ichiro Tamura was taken off while Shota Takekuma was called up.

-This was Shogo Akiyama's 1,000th career ichi-gun game.


Game 2 had Ken Togame up against Shuta Ishikawa. Togame was hit for three runs, all with two outs as Seiichi Uchikawa hit a gapper and Taisei Makihara dropped a bloop with the bases loaded in the first inning. The Lions struggled to plate runs all night as it was a left on base party.

Togame kept the game close, but finally succumbed in the 6th inning where Nobuhiro Matsuda hit a HR and Kenta Imamiya added another hit. Ishikawa couldn't be stopped, as he went seven innings and only allowed an RBI single from Hideto Asamura.

Hawks 6, Lions 1

-Takuya Toyoda was called up for the first time since 2016 as he replaced Tatsuya Oishi.


The final game of the series took place in Kitakyushu as Brian Wolfe faced Shota Takeda. First blood went to the Lions as Hotaka Yamakawa and Shuta Tonosaki delivered timely two out hits for an early 3-0 lead. The game was truly broken open in the top of the second when Hideto Asamura had a two-run double off the wall with the bases loaded. Yamakawa padded it on with a two-run single making it 7-0.

Brian Wolfe gave up a solo HR to Alfredo Despaigne in the bottom of the frame, but didn't crumble. An unearned run came in the 5th off an error by Okawari-kun, but Wolfe successfully went five innings with six strikeouts.

Both teams traded runs for the rest of the night off each other's bullpens, where Shogo Akiyama, Asamura and Okawari-kun all hit home runs to salvage one game.

Lions 12, Hawks 5


The series came to MetLife Dome where Yusei Kikuchi faced Takahiro Shiomi. Seibu's bats failed to score until the 9th inning, while Kikuchi looked dominant through four frames. In the fifth, he gave up a HR to Toshiaki Imae and a timely double from Carlos Peguero to make it 2-0. Imae had another timely hit in the 6th and our old friend Naoto Watanabe hit a bases-clearing triple to end any hopes of a comeback.

Shiomi ended up going the distance, but was denied a shutout in the 9th inning.

Eagles 7, Lions 2

Game notes:

-Fabio Castillo, Naoaki Matsumoto and Yasuo Sano were taken off the ichi-gun to make room for Kikuchi's start, Neil Wagner and first round draft pick Hiromasa Saito. Saito ended pitching a scoreless 7th inning with a strikeout and a hit.


The second game had Takayuki Kishi facing Tatsuya Imai in the battle of players wearing No. 11. It was a home run derby for the Osaka Toin players as Hideto Asamura and Okawari-kun had two each and Masatoshi Okada even got in on the action with one.

Tatsuya Imai went six innings and only allowed three runs, giving him a position to win. However, Shogo Noda blew it with two errors, when one of them was a pickoff attempt and the other was a poorly fielded ball by Yamakawa to tie the game in the 7th. Okawari-kun's second HR gave the Lions a lead in the bottom of the 7th, but the top of the 8th was the ultimate bullpen disaster.

Katsunori Hirai allowed a leadoff hitter on base and Shota Takekuma walked two batters. With one out, Kazuki Tanaka hit a grand slam which put the Eagles up for good and created another bullpen meltdown.

Eagles 9, Lions 7

Game notes:

-Yuji Kaneko was taken off the roster to make room for Imai.

-Akiyama set a new Pacific League record for most consecutive games played when including every inning at 536.

-Okawari-kun set a franchise record with career multiple HR games with 38, passing Kazuhiro Kiyohara's initial 37.


The final matchup had Wataru Karashima facing Daiki Enokida. Japhet Amador hit a HR in the second for first blood. It was a game of solo HRs where Tanaka hit one, then Amador hit a second before the Lions got one back via Yamakawa in the fourth.

Yamakawa hit a second HR in the 6th to make it a one score game. Enokida was in line for a loss with 3 solo HRs allowed through 7 innigs, but the Lions scored in the 8th. A gapper by Shogo Akiyama plated one, while Sosuke Genda had another timely to give the Lions their first lead of the night off Yuki Matsui. The comeback was complete after 2 more runs scored.

Neil Wagner closed it out and the Lions salvaged one game.

Lions 6, Eagles 3

Game notes:

-Keisuke Honda and Makoto Aiuchi were called up, while Imai was taken off with Toyoda.


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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Report: Lions acquire Ogawa from Dragons

The Saitama Seibu Lions acquired LHP Ryuya Ogawa from the Chunichi Dragons for cash considerations on Thursday afternoon. The July 31 deadline for postseason eligible players was approaching and the Lions made their move in advanced.

Ogawa, who will turn 27 in September, fell out of favor with the Dragons in 2018 with multiple relievers on the depth chart in front of him. He has yet to appear in an ichi-gun game this season. At the ni-gun level of the Western League, Ogawa has a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings of work.

In 2016, Ogawa appeared to have had a breakout year with a 2.27 ERA in 44 games and 31.2 innings. His role diminished in 2017 where he only pitched 12.1 innings and had a 2.19 ERA. He was originally a second round draft pick in 2009 out of Chiba Eiwa High School.

Ogawa had the following statement on switching teams:
"Thank you Dragons for taking care of me for the last eight and a half years. I thank you very much. I will do my best to be able to become a help of the new team as I hope to grow again in the new place." 
Dragons blogger @chunichisoul had this to say about Ogawa:

The Lions currently have the worst bullpen ERA in NPB and it was a disastrous 7.20 in the month of June. Most recently, Tatsushi Masuda lost his closer role and the Lions spent several weeks without a left-handed pitcher receiving high leverage innings.

"Currently, there are not enough left handed pitchers in the bullpen, so we've reinforced out depth," Seibu Lions Senior Director Hisanobu "Nabe-Q" Watanabe said in a statement. "Ogawa has plenty of ichi-gun experience and I think that he will definitely become a help to our unit."

Shota Takekuma used to be the team's left specialist, but even he was deactivated after blowing a three-run lead. Shogo Noda has been decent in the last few weeks, but still unproven. On paper, Ogawa could be a lefty one-out guy if everything goes right.

In the best case scenario, his side-arm delivery can throw batters off balance as a change of pace out of the bullpen and he could be a setup option.

This is the second trade of the 2018 calendar year the Lions have made. Their last swap was in March prior to the beginning of the regular season when Yosuke Okamoto was sent to the Hanshin Tigers for Daiki Enokida.


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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Seibu Lions are winning, but bullpen could be downfall

The Saitama Seibu Lions are in first place of the Pacific League, but this season is far from over. Unfortunately, the bullpen blunders could catch up to them.

Rewind to three years ago, a similar thing happened where the Lions looked like a first place team, but a downfall occurred slightly before the All-Star break and led to a franchise record 13-game losing streak. It was the decline of Tomomi Takahashi when the wheels began to fall off when he recorded his first blown save of the season.

In 2018, the Lions have gotten away with the league's highest team-ERA at 4.30, where majority of it comes from the bullpen. Every Lions reliever has been deactivated at least once this year, including the incumbent Tatsushi Masuda.

Here's a brief look at each struggling reliever:

Tatsushi Masuda: Lost closer role in June and continued to give up base runners. In his latest outing against the Fighters in early July, he failed to record an out which led to his deactivation.

Shota Takekuma: Failed to close a game against the Carp when the Lions had a three-run lead in the 10th inning. In low leverage, he continued to either give up home runs or scoring and was deactivated during interleague play.

Katunori Hirai: Was a clear culprit at giving up home runs early, but many of them were with a cushion. Things caught up to him in interleague play and he was deactivated in June. However, he showed a resurgence in July where he struck out all four batters faced in a win against the Eagles.

Shogo Noda: Gave up several home runs early in the year and was deactivated. He was called up recently and helped preserve a one-run lead against the Eagles. Might be the best left-handed option out of the bullpen when the Lions had nearly none at one point.

Naoaki Matsumoto: A 10th round pick in 2015, Matsumoto has received mostly low leverage innings to finish mop up duty. He gives up a lot of loud contact, but not much of it has been damaging the team despite his ERA.

Neil Wagner: Initially thought to be the setup man, he continued to walk batters and everyone was able to foul off his pitches after the first month. A horrible June led to his deactivation. He was later called up after Brian Wolfe wasn't needed for an extended break, but gave up five runs with a nine-run lead in his return, leading to another deactivation. It's likely he won't return to the ichi-gun for the rest of the season with that performance.

Hirotaka Koishi: A pitcher best used in a pinch for a ground ball. Like the rest, he hangs up the pitches which allows contact for doubles and easy base hits.

Tomomi Takahashi: Coming off Tommy John surgery. Lions fans saw a snippet of him in 2017 on the road to recovery. In his only ichi-gun game of 2018, he failed to record an out and didn't look impressive, leading to what is a reported injury. At this rate, he will never return to the form he had in 2014 and the first half of 2015.

Deunte Heath: Heath was given an early audition in Kobe against Orix and gave up some hits, where the Lions chose Wagner over him at the time. He was called up again and has improved after starting this year in Toyama playing in an independent league. Currently the team's setup man.

Fabio Castillo: Initially in the rotation, the Lions made Castillo the closer once Masuda began to struggle. Castillo has done the same, but with walks. In high pressure situations, Castillo's lack of control has hurt him which have led to walked in runs and loud contact. He's better off as a starter, but the Lions prefer his velocity in the 9th inning compared to others.

Tatsuya Oishi: Received limiting playing time after not pitching in a dominant fashion. Capable of doing well against righties with his slider.

Hayato Takagi: Gave up too many hits as a reliever and did better in a starting role for a pinch. Likely not built to be on call as a bullpen guy.

Others like Tadasuke Minamikawa or Sho Ito are not included since they've only been up for a few games. 


The Lions have continuously seen a revolving door in the bullpen due to these poor performances and it appears to only get worse with no established closer. Their options are limited, but here are some of the things I'd suggest with 2.5 months left in the season:


Demote Fumiya Nishiguchi, promote Kento Sugiyama

Nishiguchi inherited an ichi-gun pitching coach role due the death of the late Shinji Mori. The 2017 season was his first as a full-time coach at the ni-gun level and he was already seen with the ichi-gun after Mori's death. His experience is minimal as a whole and while he's a great name, it's possible he's not ready to be coaching everyone full-time.

I truly don't know exactly what goes on behind the scenes, but Nishiguchi is the coach who sits in the bullpen on game day while Yoshihiro Doi is in the main dugout and talks to pitchers during the game. Something needs to be done as this bullpen regressed from last year.

On the flip side, Sugiyama has plenty of coaching experience and was even teammates with Nishiguchi at one point during the post-Golden Era 90s. He had a shorter playing career, but coached with the Rakuten Eagles and most recently, the Lamigo Monkeys in Taiwan for 2017.

Rather than handing someone a top job based on their playing experience or even hierarchy experience, the Lions should make a move somewhere.


Move Heath to close, Castillo to the rotation

Heath is by no means dominant, but I think he's the best option given the circumstances. He has shown the ability to strikeout batters despite the scare and has better control than Castillo. At this point, Heath should get a look into the 9th inning. Castillo can go into the rotation again and be able to focus on knowing when he'll start, rather than being on-call.


Make Hirai and Noda the setup men

The Lions are mostly doing this already given how both guys were better in ni-gun. They can easily go by the matchup with Hirai having extreme splits against right handed batters, but both guys could interchangeably take the 7th and 8th.


Give Masuda a look when it's August, but ease him in

Masuda has yet to play a ni-gun game and it's likely that he's just trying to refine his game with Ming-Chieh Hsu and Sugiyama coaching him. The Lions had the right idea to demote him to a 6th or 7th inning role, but even he failed in that department up to this point. If the coaches like what they're seeing later, give him a shot back into the 7th inning for an ichi-gun game, but don't force him as a closer yet.


Sign another import before the deadline

Teams have signed several mid-season imports as the July 31 deadline is coming up. The Lions have room for up to three players with 67 on their 70-man roster. However, two of those spots are reserved for possible ikusei promotions with Wataru Takagi and/or Masato Saito there. One spot is open and the Lions should take a flyer on someone given the glaring needs in the bullpen.


The Lions are fortunate their offense is at the top of the league and hasn't cooled down as a whole, preventing any issues up to this point. However, this bullpen has the makings of a collapse just waiting to happen. August will be a very telling month one way or another if this team can be taken for real or not.

Otherwise, the starting pitcher will be asked to go at least seven innings every time, which is ill-advised in today's game. Do you have alternate suggestions? Let us know.


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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Genda sets a new record

Photo credit: @n_524_photo

The Saitama Seibu Lions went 2-1 in a series against the Chiba Lotte Marines. With the All-Star break here, they're now 2.5 games up on the Fighters with a game at hand.

Here is how it all went down:


The first game had a battle of young pitchers with Tatsuya Imai and Keita Watanabe, who were drafted in 2016 and 2017 by the Lions and Marines, respectively. This one started with a disaster from the beginning, as Imai allowed a three-run HR to Seiya "Aja" Inoue in the top of the first. The bats for Seibu showed threat in the bottom of the frame despite not scoring, which set the tone for later.

Imai's control struggled in the second which included some batters hit, which even led to a conflict. With the bases loaded, Katsuya Kakunaka plated two more runs with a single to send Imai to the showers. Yasuo Sano came in to clean up the damage and prevent more runs on the board.

Life came around for the Lions in the bottom of the third, where the bases were loaded. Shuta Tonosaki walked to send one run in, then Takumi Kuriyama cleared the bases on a gapper. Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura tied the game off a timely single to make it 5-5.

Sano pitched a combined 3.1 innings and got the Lions through five tied, while the bats stranded the bases in the bottom of the 5th. Katsunori Hirai struck out the side in the 6th where one of them went off Takashi Ogino's hand while swinging.

The bottom of the 6th fared better for the Lions as Hideto Asamura dropped a perfect bloop single with Shogo Akiyama on third base to give the team their first lead of the game. After a walk to Hotaka Yamakawa, Chiba made a pitching change to our old friend Yasuhiro Tanaka and it backfired big time. Tomoya Mori hit a three-run HR to cement the Lions lead to 9-5.

In the 7th inning, the Lions added two more after Sosuke Genda got a ball to bounce in fair territory for a double. The Lions bullpen combined for 7.1 innings of relief after Imai's disaster to preserve the win, which was their fifth straight.

Lions 11, Marines 5

Game note:

-Daichi Mizuguchi was called up with the extended break ahead as Yusei Kikuchi was taken off. He appeared in the 8th inning as a defensive replacement for Asamura after Ernesto Mejia was pinch hitting.


Game 2 had Ayumu Ishikawa facing Ken Togame. Togame coughed up four runs early, which two of them came from fielder's choices, but he allowed several base runners. Katsuya Kakunaka plated two runs in the third to make it 4-0.

The Lions chipped away at the lead with only home runs. This included solo HRs from Okawari-kun and Genda. Yamakawa tied the game in the 6th with a two-run blast.

Fresh off his first ichi-gun game in two weeks, Brian Wolfe came in and pitched two scoreless 6th and 7th innings. However, he loaded the bases in the 8th with two walks and a hit, finding an inability to draw a whiff. Shogo Noda came in an got a comebacker, but Ginjiro Sumitani threw the ball to right field and failed to get a 1-2-3 double play, scoring a runner. The other two runners scored on singles to secure the Lions loss.

Hideto Asamura hit a solo HR in the 8th, but it already too late.

Marines 7, Lions 5


The final game before the break had Daiki Enokida against Yuki Ariyoshi. First blood came as Daichi Suzuki couldn't catch a throw on a fielder's choice, where Tonosaki scored from third. The Lions batted around in the 4th inning, scoring six runs, which included a two-run HR from Asamura and bases-clearing double from Yuji Kaneko.

Enokida was vulnerable the whole night, but only gave up a two-run HR to Inoue in the 5th despite allowing several base runners. Genda added insurance with two RBI hits to make it 8-2, where he had a five-hit game.

Naoaki Matsumoto and Katsunori Hirai allowed two base runners, but no runs. Deunte Heath had no trouble in the 8th, while Fabio Castillo closed it out in the 9th for the Lions' 6th win of the month. Unfortunately, Castillo struggled again where he walked in a run and loaded the bases.

Lions 8, Marines 4

Game note:

-Sosuke Genda not only had five hits, but also broke a record for most consecutive games played (while playing every inning) from the start of career at 221. He beat Shigeo Nagashima's, which took place from 1958-1959.


The All-Star break is here and with good reason, it's nice to be on top of the Pacific League and NPB as a whole. However, the bullpen still has its flaws and the lead isn't that large. Too many pitching issues need to be fixed if this team wants to be taken seriously as a contender. Time will tell, but the relievers are still ticking time bombs.


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Sunday, July 8, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Home runs bail out trip in Sendai


The Saitama Seibu Lions went 3-0 in a rain-condensed week on the road against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. They have a three game lead on the Fighters with three games to go before the All-Star break.

Here is how we got to where we are:


The first game from Sapporo Dome had Ken Togame facing Naoyuki Uwasawa. Takeya "Okawari-kun" hit a two-run HR in the top of the second to begin the scoring. Hotaka Yamakawa delievered a timely hit in the third to make it 3-0. Shogo Akiyama and Sosuke Genda had timely hits of their own with two outs in the 4th where the latter beat out an infield single to make it 5-0.

Togame was cruising for most of the night and was forced to take a portion of the 8th inning due to an untrustworthy bullpen. While battling through a few jams, he still had 10 strikeouts on the night and didn't allow a run. With one final jam in the 8th, Deunte Heath got the final out with an infield fly.

Tatsushi Masuda failed to record an out in the 9th inning and allowed three runners to reach base. Fabio Castillo closed it out and conceded a run on a groundout as the Lions remain undefeated in Sapporo Dome.

Lions 5, Fighters 2


The second game was scheduled for Thursday in Hakodate with Shinsaburo Tawata against Kenta Uehara. However, the game was rained out and will be made up sometime later in the year at Sapporo Dome.


The Lions took the bullet train down to Sendai where Yusei Kikuchi had a rematch scheduled against Takahiro Shiomi. This game was also rained out and called right as first pitch was scheduled at 18:00 local time.


After two rain outs, the Lions started Tawata against Takayuki Kishi. Hotaka Yamakawa hit a solo HR in both the second and fourth innings for most of the Lions offense off the day.

Tawata was cruising as he only allowed one hit and faced the minimum through six innings. However, he faced the lineup for a third time through the order and struggled, giving up three base runners without an out. Hiroaki Shimauchi showed bunt, but then swing and got a single through no-man's land to give the Eagles their first run. Toshiaki Imae hit a sac fly to tie it up.

Tomoya Mori slowed down all momentum when throwing out Shimauchi trying to steal and Tawata kept the game tied through seven. Takumi Kuriyama responded with a solo HR that just cleared the feces off Chia-Hao Sung to give the Lions a lead again.

Tawata allowed the first base runner to reach base and the Lions went with Shogo Noda in the bottom of the 8th. After Noda gave up another hit, he struck out the next two hitters and Kazuki Tanaka struck out against Deunte Heath to escape the jam.

Fabio Castillo hit a batter, but got a double play to end the game as the Lions won their third straight.

Lions 3, Eagles 2


The last game of the week had Kikuchi and Shiomi squaring off once again after their initial matchup was postponed from Friday. Okawari-kun started the scoring in the top of the 5th with a timely single with two outs/

Rakuten responded in the 7th when they had two runners on scoring position with one out as Carlos Peguero grounded out and the Lions conceded to make it 1-1. Kikuchi went nine innings and gave up only one run, but some amazing defense from Shuta Tonosaki prevented more. He gunned down a runner in the second inning at the plate, while a diving catch in the 8th inning saved a run as well.

With Yuki Matsui pitching in the 10th, Tonosaki and Ernesto Mejia both hit a solo HR to the batter's eye to make it 3-1. Castillo took the bottom of the frame adn walked two batters, eventually loading the bases for Imae. The Eagles leading hitter singled and tied the game at 3-3. However, the game remained tied.

Yuhei Takanashi pitched the 11th and Shogo Akiyama hit a solo HR to give the Lions a lead again. The game still wasn't over, as Heath walked two batters and forced manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji to put in Shogo Noda to face Eigoro Mogi. Noda succeeded, earning his first save as Mogi flied out to centerfield and the Lions won their fourth straight.

Lions 4, Eagles 3 (11 innings)


This team is still hard to watch given the bullpen woes, but 3-0 is better than losing, let alone picking up ground on the Fighters being a good thing. Can this relief pitching get better? That's the problem, because there are no signs of it. That being said, Shogo Noda played well enough to earn some more meaningful innings this weekend.


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Monday, July 2, 2018

Seven Lions named to 2018 NPB All-Star Series

A total of seven Saitama Seibu Lions were named to the 2018 NPB All-Star Series which will take place later this month. Six of them were voted in by the fans and/or players while one was selected by Softbank Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo.

Here are the Lions who made it in:

* Denotes fan vote
^ Denotes player vote
! Denotes first year player

All stats are reflective of games through July 1. Offensive numbers will show a slashline of AVG/OBP/SLG

P Yusei Kikuchi (8-1), 3.12 ERA*

This was not Kikuchi's best first half. However, he had enough popularity to win the fan vote despite missing a few weeks due to injury. In the first five games, he continued to get run support for the wins, but he's been hanging up more pitches than usual for what is supposed to be the Lions ace.


OF Shogo Akiyama .352/434/.567*^

Akiyama is a no-doubt All-Star putting in an MVP caliber season. He's in contention for the batting title while continuing to get on base and could even hit 20 home runs for the second time in his career as he currently has 12. He's been the most consistent player on the Lions.


SS Sosuke Genda .282/.337/.379*^

Genda's popularity shot up fast, having more votes than Kenta Imamiya both ways. It's rather impressive how his bat has found value and this year, his walk rate has improved to prevent an OPS being under .700. Defense is still there and he leads the team with 23 stolen bases. He also has seven triples on the year.


C Tomoya Mori .288/.370/.479*

Mori's popularity has been large before he even put on a Lions uniform as was a Koshien champion at Osaka Toin. It also helped that one of the two games will be in Osaka at Kyocera Dome.

However, he's done a decent job being the catcher of the Lions in his first full season taking majority of the games starting there. It's a good thing it isn't hindering his bat either, which was one of the first concerns with him as he's in a transition year.


2B Hideto Asamura .302/.384/.502*^

Asamura has better pop than other candidates in the Pacific League and like Akiyama, this was a no-doubt decision for players and fans alike. He could have a career high in home runs as he has 16 already on the year.


1B Hotaka Yamakawa .272/.403/.574*^

Yamakawa has lived off a monster April and cooled off in both May and June. However, his OPS is still above .900 and already has 20 home runs as we're halfway through the season. Based on home runs and batting average, he's still at the top among 1B candidates, but he's not this dominant force like he was in April.


OF/3B Shuta Tonosaki .291/.368/.463

Kudo selected Tonosaki as one of the last players to make the team. Tonosaki has continued momentum from last year by not only being fast on the base paths (19 stolen bases), but hitting above his own weight and continuing to get on base. He already experienced playing with Samurai Japan in the short Asia Professional Baseball Championship last fall and won a local award for being the best athlete of his home prefecture of Aomori. This All-Star appearance caps of a solid full year of work he's put in after initially starting his NPB career as an infielder.


Remaining Pacific League roster:

P Naoki Miyanishi (Fighters) (2-0), 1.86 ERA, 16 Holds*

P Naoyuki Uwasawa (Fighters) (7-2), 2.04 ERA

P Hirotoshi Masui (Buffaloes)* (1-0), 1.64 ERA, 21 Saves

P Takayuki Kishi (Eagles)^ (8-1), 1.80 ERA

P Andrew Albers (Buffaloes) (9-1), 2.55 ERA!

P Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Buffaloes) (3-0), 0.87 ERA, 21 Holds

P Ayumu Ishikawa (Marines) (9-3), 2.17 ERA

P Mike Bolsinger (Marines) (10-1), 2.20 ERA!

P Tatsuya Uchi (Marines), (1-3), 3.09 ERA, 19 Saves

P Yuito Mori (Hawks) (0-3), 4.03 ERA, 16 Saves

P Ren Kajiya (Hawks) (2-0), 1.83 ERA, 14 Holds


C Takuya Kai (Hawks) .230/.301/.365^


1B Sho Nakata (Fighters) .259/.310/.500

IF Toshiaki Imae (Eagles) .296/.342/.421

2B Shogo Nakamura (Marines) .313/.399/.419

3B Nobuhiro Matsuda (Hawks) .214/.288/.433*^


OF Yuki Yanagita (Hawks) .343/.407/.635*^

OF Masataka Yoshida (Buffaloes) .317/.389/.517*^

OF Takashi Ogino (Marines) .303/.343/.387

DH Kensuke Kondo (Fighters) .361/.466/.591*

DH Alfredo Despaigne (Hawks) .231/.337/.496^


Kimiyasu Kudo (Hawks)

Hatsuhiko Tsuji (Lions)

Yosuke Hiraishi (Eagles)


Matsuda is the only funny vote among the Pacific League players for a guy batting nearly .200. Atsuo popularity rules I suppose, but Brandon Laird hasn't been lighting it up either. It's also interesting how the players took Despaigne over Kondo.

Kudo's selection of his closer Y. Mori has its own humor given how Softbank's bullpen has had its struggles, but there hasn't been many closers who've been dominant outside of Masui and Uchi. Would've gone with a better middle reliever over Y. Mori.

As a whole, the Pacific League looks like they got it right as there aren't too many name recognition votes on the past outside of Matsuda. Kai's defense is All-Star worthy for the casual fan who may not watch a lot.


Central League All-Star roster:


Daisuke Matsuzaka (Dragons) (3-3), 2.41 ERA*

Tomoyuki Sugano (Giants) (8-5), 2.38 ERA^

Katsuki Azuma (Baystars) (6-4), 2.79 ERA!

Koji Uehara (Giants), (0-3), 4.50 ERA, 7 Holds*

Onelki Garcia (Dragons) (8-4), 2.66 ERA!

Randy Messenger (Tigers) (9-4), 2.45 ERA

Yuta Iwasada (Tigers) (3-3), 1.88 ERA

Taichi Ishiyama (Swallows) (2-0), 1.56 ERA, 13 Saves

Shota Nakazaki (Carp) (0-0), 2.37 ERA, 20 Saves

Daichi Osera (Carp) (10-3), 2.62 ERA

Yasuaki Yamasaki (Baystars) (2-2), 1.29 ERA, 16 Saves*


Seiji Kobayashi (Giants) .230/.319/.279*^

Yuhei Nakamura (Swallows) .196/.275/.253

Tsubasa Aizawa (Carp) .333/.417/.547


Kazuma Okamoto (Giants) .306/.377/.506*

Tetsuto Yamada (Swallows) .286/.413/.541*

Jose Lopez (Baystars) .326/.355/.632^

Ryosuke Kikuchi (Carp) .252/.305/.395^

Kosuke Tanaka (Carp) .261/.381/.368

Toshiro Miyazaki (Baystars) .321/.364/.545*^

Kento Itohara (Tigers) .296/.401/.372

Hayato Sakamoto (Giants) .331/.418/.502*^


Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (Baystars) .295/.393/.603*^

Norichika Aoki (Swallows) .306/.399/.459*

Seiya Suzuki (Carp) .301/.417/.565*^

Yoshio Itoi (Tigers) .301/.409/.484^

Ryosuke Hirata (Dragons) .332/.411/.461

Wladimir Balentien (Swallows) .246/.371/.500


Koichi Ogata (Carp)

Alex Ramirez (Baystars)

Tomoaki Kanemoto (Tigers)


Quite a few players got in by the fans off name recognition. Aoki, Uehara and Matsuzaka all got in based on their past and being loved for what the did well-before 2018. Among the three, Aoki can say he's done well enough to deserve a spot, but Uehara an Matuszaka is hilarious how many fans of the individual shot up the numbers.

Matsuzaka hasn't been bad, but he's mostly spot starting and it will be interesting to see if he plays or not given his injury. He will need to miss the next 10 games in the event he is too injured. Zolio Almonte of the Dragons might be the biggest snub given his offense, but have heard he's just average on defense.


The Home Run derby will be determined by fan vote from July 3-8. The winner will be announced on July 10.

The 2018 NPB All-Star Series will begin on Friday, July 13 from Kyocera Dome. Game 2 will happen on Saturday July 14 from Kumamoto prefecture.


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Sunday, July 1, 2018

2018 Seibu Lions Weekly digest: Sayonara prevents disaster


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

Here is how we got to where we are today:


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

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

Buffaloes 4, Lions 2

Game note:

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


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

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

Lions 3, Buffaloes 3

Game note:

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


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

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

Lions 14, Buffaloes 11

Game note:

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


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

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

Eagles 15. Lions 1 


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

Eagles 9, Lions 1

-Game note:

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


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

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

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

Lions 8, Eagles 7


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


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