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2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Yamakawa Called Up to Spark a Comeback

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The Saitama Seibu Lions went 2-4 against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and Orix Buffaloes. They’re now 1/2 game ahead of being in the cellar, but close to last place in the Pacific League.

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In Game 1 against the Fighters, Luis Mendoza would face Takayuki Kishi. The Fighters struck first in the second inning with a barrage of two out hits followed by a single from Shota Ono.

Hokkaido would score another run in the 4th inning where Sho Nakata doubled and Shohei Otani (as a hitter) would double down the right field immediately after. The Lions got a run back in the bottom of the 4th from a single from Takeya “Okawari-kun” Nakamura to make it 2-1.

The Lions squandered multiple opportunities which a runners on the corners with no outs situation in the second. Kyohei Nagae struck out and Ernesto Mejia would ground into a double play. In the fifth inning, Yuji Kaneko reached second base with one out. Ginjiro Sumitani would then hit a short flyball that could have looked like a bloop single. Kaneko would take off and be doubled up for an 8-6 double play, not tying the game.

Brandon Laird, a Lions killer like many on the team, would take Kazuhisa Makita deep to left field and it would be 3-1. After the Fighters added another run, Chris Martin closed it in the 9th and the Lions would lose their second straight.

Kishi wasn’t bad through six innings, but he was being hit hard in the early innings and couldn’t put a zero on the board. The bats were once again dead and couldn’t muster up anything and the late inning runs didn’t matter. Mendoza’s control showed vulnerability, but the offense failed to take advantage.

Fighters 4, Lions 3

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In Game 2, it would be Felipe Paulino looking for his first win in NPB against Mitsuo Yoshikawa. The Fighters struck first on a two-out timely RBI hit from Ono, like the previous night. Sumitani answered back with a two-out RBI single of his own to tie the game.

The Lions would later take the lead from an RBI single with the bases loaded from Naoto Watanabe. However, 3B coach Hiroshi Narahara sent Ernesto Mejia home and had no business doing it with right fielder Hiromi Oka playing in. After a review, Mejia was confirmed to be out at the plate.

The top of the 4th proved to be the difference maker, where Paulino coughed up solo home runs to Sho Nakata and Oka in the frame. Oka would hit only his second home run of the season.

To put salt in the wounds, Haruki Nishikawa would get an RBI single off Hirotaka Koishi in the top of the 9th inning to double the lead. Koishi continued to allow a barrage of hits and eventually it would be 8-2, including an infield single where Otani hustled to first base and beat the throw. RBI doubles from Brandon Laird and Nakata would put the game out of reach.

The Lions picked up two runs in the 9th, but it was too little, too late. Bats were cold once again and they didn’t wake up until it was garbage time.

Fighters 8, Lions 4

Game note:

-Ginjiro Sumitani left the game with a bruised thumb. He took a wild pitch off the wrist in the 6th inning as Masatoshi Okada took over.

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In the final game, Shinsaburo Tawata would face the handkerchief prince known as Yuki Saito in a battle of former first round draft picks. The Fighters struck quickly after Nishikawa reached base and stole second. Kensuke Tanaka would hit a double for the first run, but Tawata escaped the rest of the inning without further damage after a scare.

The Lions answered back in the bottom of the 1st when Tomoya Mori would double off the left field wall to plate Akiyama. Two more hits from Hideto Asamura and Okawari-kun made it a 3-1 game. The bottom of the 2nd would feature a two-run home run from Akiyama after Kaneko did the dirty work in forcing a walk on full count followed up by a stolen base. Akiyama would add another home run in the 7th inning to make it 6-1.

Tatsushi Masuda came in for the 9th and created a scare. A few bounces didn’t go his way and a throwing error extended the game. After a base hit from Nishikawa to bring in a run, Masuda struck out Tanaka to have two outs. Daikan Yoh would then whiff on a pitch and Okada picked off Nishikawa at first base to end it.

Lions 6, Fighters 2

Game note:

-To make room for Tawata, the Lions deactivated C.C. Lee and Nien Ting Wu. They also added Toshihiro Iwao to the ichi-gun roster for the first time this season.

-Takumi Kuriyama was given the day off. Okawari-kun played third base for the first time since June. Ernesto Mejia was the DH batting 7th and Hideto Asamura was batting cleanup.

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In Game 1 against Orix, Takahiro Matsuba faced Kona Takahashi. Like the previous night, ORix’s first run came quickly in the first inning from an RBI double from Yoshio Itoi. Tatsuyuki Uemoto hit a solo home run to tie the game at 1-1, but the Lions blew a chance.

Okawari-kun would groundout with the bases loaded and fail to bring in a run with the bases loaded. Matsuba was otherwise on cruise control for the rest of the night.

The wheels fell off for Takahashi in the 2nd, where he allowed an RBI double by Ryoichi Adachi followed by a single from Brent Morel. Orix then took advantage of Tomoya Mori starting at catcher for the first time since 2014, where he was a liability. Takahashi’s control was off with multiple walks and a single by Masahiro Nishino made it 4-1.

Mori would then throw a ball into centerfield on Nishino’s steal attempt to score another run for Orix. Takahashi’s day would be done before the 4th inning ended and the rest was history. Bats were completely dead, combined with Kona having no control for the night.

Toshihiro Iwao made his 2016 ichi-gun debut and didn’t help the cause. He would allow two more runs to make the game completely out of reach. Matsuba would go the distance with only three strikeouts and allowing four hits.

Buffaloes 7, Lions 1

Game note:

-Okawari-kun would be deactivated after the game in place of Hotaka Yamakawa.

-Tatsuyuki Uemoto started at first base while Ernesto Mejia was benched.

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For Game 2, Ken Togame took on Brandon Dickson, who has been a nemesis for the Lions bats. After the Lions ruined multiple chances in the first two innings with less than two outs, Orix struck first in the bottom of the 4th with a single from Kenya Wakatsuki to open the scoring.

The Lions struck back with a two out single from Akiyama followed by a double from Mori off the left field wall to tie the game in the 5th. Takahiro Okada would take Togame deep with a home run in the bottom of the 6th to give Orix the lead once again.

Despite the offense looking dead for majority of the game, life came in the 8th inning. Hotaka Yamakawa hit a two-out opposite field home run off Yomoyuki Kaida to tie the game. Shortly after, Uemoto would hit a double with Shogo Saito pinch running for him. A wild pitch advanced him to third and Naoto Watanabe walked, giving Kuriyama a chance as he was pinch hitting earlier in the game off the bench. Kuriyama made no mistake on a single and gave the Lions a 3-2 lead.

Shogo Noda would pitch a quick 8th inning, but more struggles happened in the 9th. The Lions would strand the bases loaded with two outs as Saito had to bat in the designated hitter position. Saito grounded out with Sachiya Yamasaki pitching and the game was close.

Masuda came in the 9th and allowed a leadoff single to our old friend Hiroyuki Nakajima. After a bunt moved a pinch runner to second, Morel would groundout put the tying run 90 feet away. Wakatsuki was up again, but a diving stop by Watanabe saved the game and the Lions would hang on.

The bats were cold, but just enough hits would come to preserve a win. Togame went seven innings and earned his first win as a starter since April 29. It was a respectable outing despite giving up a home run.

Lions 3, Buffaloes 2

Game note:

-Uemoto started as the designated hitter and Mejia was once again benched, but had a pinch hit appearance in the top of the 8th striking out.

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For Game 3’s rubber match, Ryoma Nogami would face Daiki Tomei. The Buffaloes struck first after Nogami lost control and a wild pitch with the bases loaded brought in a run.

The Lions answered back with a two-run blast from Yamakawa. Akiyama would get a timely base hit in the third inning to make it 3-1. Mejia, moving to the bottom of the lineup would get a bloop single to fall in the fourth to give the Lions a 3-run lead.

Orix got a run back in the bottom of the 4th, but they couldn’t take advantage of a two on, one out situation. Shunta Goto would lineout while Masahiro Nishino popped out to end any threats.

Nogami was scary all day and Norio Tanabe yanked him after five innings. Kazuhisa Makita entered in the 6th and gave up one run, but stranded two runners getting Adachi to flyout to right field.

After a scoreless 7th inning, the 8th would be trouble for the Lions. Noda came in and allowed a leadoff double to Takayoshi Kawabata. Orix would sacrifice bunt him to third base, then Wakatsuki did damage again with a double to right field to tie the game.

The Lions would blow a chance in the top of the 9th with runners on 2nd and 3rd and one out, but Watanabe grounded out and Uemoto struck out to end any threat. It was all downhill in the bottom of the 9th. Adachi and Itoi reached base on back to back singles Masuda and the Lions had to intentionally walk T. Okada with no outs.

After Morel grounded at home plate, Kawabata did it again with a single to left field and Orix would take the series. In one week, Masuda would get two saves and a blown game but shaky in every outing.

Buffaloes 5, Lions 4

Game note:

-Tomoya Mori started at catcher again and allowed two stolen bases.

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The Lions go 2-4 with another losing week, another lost series and a continued free fall. At this point, with the decision to play Mori at catcher, the team barely cares about winning in the short term.

Masuda was on fumes and had a terrible week, similar to how Tomomi Takahashi was in the second half of 2015. Where does this team go from here? Everything is going wrong and it looks like there’s no direction in what is a lame duck year for Norio Tanabe.

Originally posted on Graveyard Baseball

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