The Saitama Seibu Lions went 1-4 combined against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and Orix Buffaloes this week. They’re back at .500 with a 9-9 record as the month of April is more than halfway through.
Game 1 against the Hawks saw a rematch from two weeks ago between Tsuyoshi Wada and Takayuki Kishi. It wasn’t the greatest outing from the team’s ace, as he gave up three runs, including a solo home run from reigning Pacific League MVP Yuki Yanagita. The Hawks would also score through situation hitting with a runner on third, having RBI groundouts and a sacrifice fly.
This didn’t come without chances, however. Ernesto Mejia was up twice with runners on the corners, but couldn’t punch in the runs. Shuta Tonosaki also had a chance late in the game, but struck out. Wada wasn’t perfect, but he went six innings with only one earned run thanks to a solo HR from Takeya “Okawari-kun” Nakamura. He allowed plenty of runners, but no one would touch home plate.
After Wada left the game, the Hawks bullpen shutdown the Lions and made it easy. Dennis Sarfate would strike out Yuji Onizaki to end the game and the Lions lost their second straight.
Hawks 4, Lions 1
In Game 2, the Lions faced the red hot Kodai Senga against Ryoma Nogami for their first of what will be three games in Omiya. The Hawks struck first with an early RBI single fro Seiichi Uchikawa in the third inning.
The Lions had their chances, particularly in the fifth inning with runners on the corners and two outs. However, a strikeout ended the frame when Senga challenged Okawari-kun on a fast ball. Seibu was not able to muster up any rallies or chances until there were two outs. Otherwise, Senga was cruising.
It was not a poor outing from Nogami, who went six innings with one earned run, but he kept allowing base runners and would be partially lucky not to allow more runs where the team was getting out hit.
The Hawks would break the game open against the Lions bullpen after Shota Takekuma would allow a run and Kazuhisa Makita did no better in the 8th. He would give up base hit after base hit to make it a 5-0 ballgame after eight innings.
Shogo Akiyama prevented a shutout in the 9th when he hit a deep double to right-center field and Onizaki would score from first base. Otherwise, Senga still had a complete game and it looks like it could be this way for a decade at this pace.
-Shuta Tonosaki also had two errors, but neither of them cost the team runs.
-Yuki Yanagita had three hits on the night and reached base four times adding a walk. He has walked at least once in each of the 15 games played up to this point.
Hawks 5, Lions 1
In Game 1 against Orix in Kyocera Dome, Yusei Kikuchi faced Kazuki Kondo. The Lions squandered an early chance with two runners on and no outs, which resulted in a Houdini for Kondo.
Orix struck first on a sacrifice fly from Brent Morel in the third. Kikuchi escaped the inning with minimal damage, but a painful fourth put this game out of reach. With runners on the corners and two outs, Kikuchi struck out Yuki Miyazaki, but Ginjiro Sumitani couldn’t hold onto it and had to throw to first. His throw to Yuji Onizaki (who was playing 1B instead of Mejia) was high and it was snow coned to a drop as a run scored from 3rd.
Masahiro would make Sumitani pay with a triple on the next at-bat to make it 4-0 and it would be 5-0 from a single by Yoshio Itoi. This put the game out of reach as Orix would go up 6-0 in the 5th and Kikuchi would only go 4.1 innings.
Ryo Sakata would add some runs to prevent a shutout, but it was too late. This game had an unusual lineup where Shotaro Tashiro was starting in RF while Onizaki was at 1B and no Tomoya Mori playing. If Mejia was at 1B, he would catch the throw from Sumitani easily and the Lions would’ve been in it. Unfortunately the bats were not alive until it was too late.
Buffaloes 7, Lions 4
In Game 2 at Hotto Motto Stadium in Kobe, it was Chihiro Kaneko against Ken Togame. Seibu struck first, pulling off a successful double steal as Mejia struck out. Onizaki would steal second while Akiyama was able to reach home plate easily.
Orix would answer back with single from Itoi followed by a throwing error from Tatsuyuki Uemoto leading to him being pushed to third base. Brent Morel would single him home with two outs to tie the game.
Mejia put the Lions up with a deep solo HR to centerfield in the fourth, but it looked like things would unravel in the bottom of the 5th. A flurry of bloop singles and a bunt from Nishino made things dangerous. Brian Bogusevic tied the game with an RBI single and bloop singles from Masataka Yoshida and Takuya Hara made it 4-2 for Orix after five innings.
Things were becoming boring as Kaneko looked like he was on cruise control through mostly 7 innings. However, a throwing error had Mejia reach first in the sixth. Captain Takumi Kuriyama would then hit a double in the gap to score Mejia from first to bring the Lions within one.
Orix manager Junichi Fukura left him in for the eighth inning and then everything unraveled. Onizaki had a leadoff single and Okawari-kun would walk after a long at-bat. Kuriyama would load the bases with one out on a sharply hit single. It was up to Uemoto hoping to redeem his mistake. He hit one past Ryoichi Adachi through the infield and tied the game at 4-4.
A struggling Hideto Asamura would later hit a slow roller to 2B, but had no chance of a double play for Nishino to make, creating only a force out at second. Sakata delivered insurance with a gapper and made sure the Lions wouldn’t look back as the team went up 7-4.
This was a game where Fukura made one large mistake in keeping Kaneko on the mound for the 8th. Orix doesn’t have the most reliable bullpen in the world, but Fukura waited until it was too late to put in a reliever with runners on base. Pitch count was high, for Kaneko, but he was also getting hit hard and the clean 7th inning was a smokescreen most likely to make the manager think he could squeeze an 8th.
The hard part about this game was how there were several errors that fortunately didn’t cost the Lions. Players were getting on base, whether it was a slip from Asamura to a throwing error by Uemoto. Togame also tried a pickoff attempt which went away leading to a runner advancing 90 feet. Lastly, the Lions couldn’t even handle a pickle attempt where Brent Morel fought off multiple throws and was awarded third base due to a path being blocked.
With all the terrible errors, Orix handed this one to Seibu and we’ll take it. It wasn’t pretty as the scoreboard indicates though.
Lions 7, Buffaloes 4
-This is the third time Ken Togame started and got a no decision with Kazuhisa Makita getting credit for the win in relief.
In the third game against Orix, Andy Van Hekken faced Yuki Nishi, who is off to a slow start. The Lions struck first on a RBI single from Naoto Watanabe in the top of the fourth, but the bottom frame hurt them the most.
Van Hekken couldn’t handle the bottom of the lineup as the bases were loaded with no outs all due to hard hit singles. Adachi would get a sacrifice fly to tie the game and Takuya Shimada took Van Hekken deep with a three-run home run to left field, putting Orix up 4-1 after four innings. Orix added another in the 5th as Yoshida sliced a single off Chun-Lin Kuo to make it 5-1.
Mejia was able to get a consolation home run in the 7th, but that was as close as it got. The Lions had plenty of chances with two runners on as they got 10 base hits, but no runs to show for it. The bases were loaded for Okawari-kun in the third, but he struck out while Mejia would strike out in the 8th with two on base.
Nishi, off to a slow start in 2016, was able to weather the storm going six innings with seven strikeouts while reaching 125 pitches. The Lions forced him to work for every out, but Van Hekken’s fourth inning did him in.
Buffaloes 5, Lions 2
This brutal 1-4 week just didn’t have the competence in the field nor with the bats. Seibu saw the front end of Orix’s rotation in Kaneko and Nishi and were shutdown for the most part. The Hawks also shut the Lions down with Wada and Senga.
The bats were dead, but so was the defense. Shuta Tonosaki might have lost his way with the team’s management after he was benched due to errors this week. Mori doesn’t have a position while Asamura is on a cold streak. We can only hope the bats rebound as the team heads to Sapporo Dome to take on the Fighters.
Wes Mills also contributed to this report.
Posted by Christian Gin at 12:42 AM
Originally posted on Graveyard Baseball
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