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2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Rock Bottom Has Finally Arrived

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The Saitama Seibu Lions would go 1-5 against the Fukuoka Sofbank Hawks and the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. They dipped into last place in the middle of the week, but are now in sole possession of the Pacific League cellar with Orix winning.

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In Game 1 against the Hawks, it would be a battle of aces with Shota Takeda vs. Takayuki Kishi, After both pitchers had two perfect innings, Kishi would blink first giving up a solo home run to Kenta Imamiya, who was batting 9th.

The Lions would then squander a chance to tie the game with Naoto Watanabe having a leadoff triple. Ginjiro Sumitani grounded out, Kyohei Nagae struck out while Yuji Kaneko flew out, summing up the Lions offense in the last month.

This lived up to being a pitcher’s duel, but it wasn’t until the 6th inning where it became tough. Kishi faced the Hawks lineup for the third time and struggled. He allowed multiple hits and eventually loaded the bases for Nobuhiro Matsuda. After fouling off plenty of pitches, Matusda singled and brought home two runs. Akira Nakamura would then pad the lead with a double down the right field line and plate two more, making it 5-0.

After bobbling the ball in the top of the frame, Tomoya Mori would get the Lions two runs back with a home run, but it was too late. Kenji Akashi added a late run in the 9th to prevent any chance of a comeback.

Takeda continued his dominance of the Lions with eight innings and only allowing four hits, two of them to Watanabe. The bats continued to suffer while the third time through the order penalty hit Kishi hard.

Hawks 6, Lions 2

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In Game 2, it would be Tadashi Settsu against Felipe Paulino, seeking his first win in NPB. The Hawks struck first after a leadoff double from Akashi and a sacrifice fly from Seiichi Uchikawa.

The Lions failed to answer back with a near replay from the previous night. Yuji Kaneko was on third base with less than two outs, but a groundout by Mori, walk by Ernesto Mejia and flyout from Hideto Asamura ended it. Paulino earned a houdini in the top of the 2nd with two on and nobody out initially.

A two out rally gave the Lions a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third from a double by Mejia and single from Asamura. Unfortunately everything unraveled in the 4th inning. Paulino failed to get an out with the first three runners reaching base due to a lack of control. The third runner reached base due to a fielding error from Paulino. He would later walk in a run to tie it. After a double play nearly limited the damage, a two-out, two run single from Akashi would give the Hawks the lead for good at 4-2. Yuya Hasegawa added another run with a single making it 5-2.

After the Lions brought it a run to make it 5-3, Hirotaka Koishi would come in to eat some innings, but paid the price. With two outs and two runners on, Shinya Tsuruoka would pinch hit and get a triple which ended any chances of a comeback making it 7-3.

Paulino was fortunate to not allow more runs through three innings, but the fourth inning, facing the Hawks lineup for the third time was just too much. Bats continued to be cold against Settsu.

Hawks 7, Lions 3

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In Game 3, Nao Higashihama would face Shinsaburo Tawata in a battle of former first round picks. Mori struck first with a solo home run, but the Hawks answered back with a two-out RBI single from Tsuruoka making it 1-1.

Tawata would throw some hittable pitches and Yuki Yanagita took advantage in the third with a double. Uchikawa would then get an easy single to give the Hawks the lead. The Lions answered back in the bottom of the fourth, with back to back doubles from Asamura and Takumi Kuriyama to tie the game. After two outs and Kuriyama on third, Masatoshi Okada would get a bloop hit to fall for a 3-2 lead.

Another failed shutdown inning attempt would come for the fourth straight time in two games as Tawata couldn’t get Yanagita, Uchikawa or Matsuda out, leading to a run. Tawata couldn’t get an out in the 5th and Shota Takekuma came in with the bases loaded and no outs. The Lions defense conceded a run to get a double play. The killer run would come from Tsuruoka on a two-out single making it 5-3.

Both teams would trade runs afterwards with Mori scoring one in the bottom of the 8th for his second HR of the night, but the Lions still had no idea what a shutdown inning was as Tatsushi Masuda coughed one up in the 9th. Dennis Sarfate made quick work to earn the save and complete the sweep.

Hawks 7, Lions 3

Game note:

-Tomoya Mori played catcher for the ni-gun team earlier in the day. Hotaka Yamakawa, Shogo Saito, Shuta Tonosaki and Kyohei Nagae also participated.

-Ernesto Mejia was benched as Mori was the DH and Yamakawa played first base.

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In Game 1 against the Eagles, Yusei Kikuchi made his triumphant return against Minabu Mima. Zelous Wheeler drew first blood with an RBI single in the bottom of the 1st.

However, the top of the 2nd became a crooked inning for the Lions. They would bat around the order and the RBI hits would come from a single by Watanabe, double by Yuji Onizaki, single from Kaneko, triple from Akiyama and single from Mori to put six rungs on the board.

After a quick shutdown inning by Kikuchi, the Lions added two more from a two-out bloop single from Kaneko making it 8-1 in the third. Kikuchi would go six innings and gave up a solo home run to Wheeler in the 6th to make it 8-2. He was on cruise control shortly after the six run inning and proved to be efficient drawing weak contact.

Late in the game, Shogo Akiyama benefited from a dropped ball by Hiroaki Shimauchi to put the icing on the cake adding two more runs. It was a successful return for Kikuchi in his first game in nearly two months.

Lions 10, Eagles 4

Game note:

-Ryoma Nogami appeared out of the bullpen and earned a three-inning save. He did not look good with Sumitani as his catcher and gave up two runs, fortunate to not give up more.

-Kaneko had a modasho.

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Game 2 would feature Takahiro Norimoto facing Ken Togame. The Lions struck first as Asamura hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. A bad throw from Carlos Peguero would let Akiyama score from second base for two runs.

The Eagles answered back as Togame couldn’t strike anyone out. Zelous Wheeler would hit an RBI double and Toshiaki Imae would hit a sacrifice fly to tie it at 2-2. The wall would come crashing on Togame in the 4th inning, where Shimauchi would hit a grand slam after a lack of control. He wouldn’t even last through five innings, giving up a 7th run as the bullpen was forced to come in.

The Lions would get three runs with one in the 7th, 8th and 9th inning each, but it was too little, too late. The bases were loaded with one out, but Yamakawa and Asamura struck out on back-to-back at bats against Yuki Matsui and the Lions would lose another. It was a bad start from Togame combined with Norimoto settling inning after a shaky first inning.

Eagles 7, Lions 5

Game note:

-Asamura had a modasho besides the two-run sacrifice fly. He would hit a solo home run in the 8th inning.

-Ernesto Mejia was benched, but appeared as a pinch hitter late in the game and hit a double.

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For Game 3, Kona Takahashi would take on Wataru Karashima for the rubber match. The Eagles struck first in the 1st inning off base hits by Carlos Peguero and “Ginji” Akaminai. However, the Lions roared back with three runs in the top of the 2nd inning with an RBI single from Watanabe and a gapper by Sumitani.

That was all the Lions would score for awhile, as Kona Takahashi looked like he was in a shutdown mode. However, the 7th inning is where it got tough, as he allows multiple base hits which included an RBI double from Ryo Hijirisawa and a safety squeeze from Motohiro Shima, resulting in a flip error by Takahashi. With Shogo Noda in, he couldn’ help the caus as Eigoro Mogi would single and Kazuhisa Makita gave up an RBI single to Ginji.

The Lions added a run in the top of the 8th from a sacrifice fly by Mori, but it was too late again. They even had a chance in the 9th inning with the tying run on base, but Sumitani grounded out against Matsui and the Lions had another lost series.

Eagles 6, Lions 4

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The dark times continue and the team has failed to recover from the walkoff from Hiroshima on June 14. They’re 10-31 since that day and have yet to win two games in a row, let alone a series.

I wish this team would have some pride and care about these games, but the environment has become stale. There appears to be no end in sight, until the 2016 regular season ends.

Originally posted on Graveyard Baseball

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