The Saitama Seibu Lions would go 4-2 against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and Orix Buffaloes. They won two consecutive games and even won some series which something we haven’t seen since June.
In Game 1 against the Fighters, Takayuki Kishi would take on Anthony Bass, where the latter made his first start in a month. The Fighters struck first after a long inning due to Kishi’s lack of control. Kensuke Tanaka would plate the run after plenty of runners were on base, but the damage was limited in what could have been worse.
The Lions had runners on early in the game, but stranded them until the top of the third. With two outs and two runners on, Ernesto Mejia would smack a deep home run for his 28th of the year. It was his first since before the NPB All-Star break.
Kishi would have his share of jams, but escape each time including a two on situation with Sho Nakata up in the 5th. He would also walk two batters in the 7th with a high pitch count, but Shohei Otani flew out to centerfield to end the threat. Overall, he would settle in after the shaky first and go seven innings allowing one run.
Kazuhisa Makita and Tatsushi Masuda would pitch clean innings and the Lions took the first game of the series. Kishi finished the game with eight strikeouts and the bats did just enough to win with one home run.
Lions 3, Fighters 1
-Nien Ting Wu was called up in place of Shuta Tonosaki and started at SS. He would be given two chances, but failed to bring in a run including a first pitch groundout with a runner on third and one out.
In Game 2, Felipe Paulino would face Hayato Arakaki. The Lions began the scoring with a three-run first inning, all with two outs. Mejia and Hideto Asamura would hit some doubles off the wall to plate the runs.
However, the Fighters answered back in the bottom of the 4th, where Brandon Laird doubled down the left field line for a run. Paulino would escape the rest of the inning by limiting the damage with two flyouts.
The same wouldn’t happen in the bottom of the 5th, where he would leave the game with two runners on base and one out. Tatsuya Oishi would load the bases with a walk and allow a two-run single by Laird off the wall to tie the game. Despite the jam, Oishi would get the next two batters out to keep it tied.
This would become a bullpen game from here out out, as Shota Takekuma, Makita and Masuda worked scoreless frames for the Lions with minimal scare. Unfortunately, the Lions bats would do nothing after the first squandering more opportunities and the game would go to the 11th with Hirotaka Koishi on the mound.
He would hit Haruki Nishikawa to start the frame and everything went down hill. A bunt would move him to second base and they would intentionally walk Shohei Otani to get to Sho Nakata. After a near sayonara home run ended the game, Nakata would strikeout giving a two out opportunity for Kensuke Tanaka. He would hit a hard ground ball that needed to be fielded, but defensive sub Hotaka Yamakawa let it get past the infield for an error and the Fighters walked off.
Once again, the bats were cold, the pitching was mediocre from Paulino, but the chances were there to win and the Lions couldn’t take advantage of a questionable bullpen from the Fighters. They would be denied the opportunity to win two consecutive games again.
Fighters 4, Lions 3 (11 innings)
To settle the series for Game 3, Hirotoshi Masui would face Shinsaburo Tawata. This would be Masui’s second start of the season after being the team’s closer to begin the year. It was a matinee with a brand new holiday known as “Mountain Day” in Japan. Both teams would lack some hitting, but there was some early drama.
In the second inning, the Lions loaded the bases with one out, but Nien Ting Wu struck out and Ginjiro Sumitani grounded out to strand the runners. Tawata would allow a base hit to Shota Ono in the bottom of the 4th and he would advance to third on a wild pitch, but Takuya Nakashima struck out and the threat was avoided.
Momentum would carry for the Lions as Yuji Kaneko slipped a single by Tanaka, giving Shogo Akiyama a chance in the top of the 5th. He took a pitch deep to centerfield and the Lions would get two runs.
This day would belong to Tawata, where he was nearly automatic for the 6th, 7th and 8th innings retiring the side in order. With more than 100 pitches, Norio Tanabe kept in him for the 9th to get the accomplishment. After a quick two outs including a liner to Naoto Watanabe, Nakashima singled with two strikes. Shohei Otani would be the final hope, but Ernesto Mejia fielded a grounder down the right field line and tagged the base with his glove to complete the shutout.
This would be Tawata’s first career complete game and shutout in NPB. He would only walk one batter and allow three hits as a whole for a young career. In a building where he made his ichi-gun debut, he has come a long way defeating the Fighters twice since the All-Star break.
Lions 2, Fighters 0
-This was the first time the Lions won a series since June 12, nearly two months ago.
-The last time the Lions won a series in Sapporo Dome was May of 2015 prior to this series.
-Asamura had a modasho.
In Game 1 against Orix, it would be Takahiro Matsuba against Yusei Kikuchi. The Lions struck first on a two-out single by Mejia, but the Buffaloes answered back in the third.
With Yoshio Itoi leaving the game early after being HBP, pinch hitter Hikaru Ito would hit a two-run home run to give Orix a lead. The Lions tied the game in the bottom half of the frame when Tomoya Mori hit an RBI gapper, but the bats stranded the bases loaded to not go in front.
The Lions would continue to strand base runners and not score, while Orix took advantage of their own chance in the 5th inning. Kikuchi allowed consecutive hits and Brent Morel would drive in the run to make it 3-2.
Life would come in the 6th inning for the Lions, as Nien Ting Wu drew a walk to begin a rally. After an il-advised pickoff attempt by Matsuba, Wu moved to second base. Sumitani walked and with two outs, Akiyama delivered with a single up the middle to tie it. Mori would then hit a gapper to bring in another run.
Orix tried intentionally walking Mejia with a reliever and it backfired immediately. Asamura would get a two-run single to give the Lions a three-run lead at 6-3. To remove all doubt, Takumi Kuriyama would get a two-RBI single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th.
Kikuchi was far from dominant, but he kept the ball in the park minus the home run. It took some defense and luck to make sure no base runners did damage. He had a paltry three strikeouts in seven innings.
Lions 8, Buffaloes 3
-Kuriyama was the DH while Kaneko started in left field. Mori would be in right field as a result.
-Akiyama and Mori both had Modashos with the former going 4-4 and reaching base a fifth time with a walk.
-This was the first time the Lions would win two consecutive games since June 10, more than two months to the day.
In Game 2, Brandon Dickson would get the start against Ken Togame. It had the makings of a pitcher’s duel, as Asamura’s solo home run in the second inning would be the only run.
The Lions converted multiple double plays while Dickson picked off Kaneko and Wu while at 1st base to keep it low scoring. However, the wheels fell off for Togame in the 6th. Runners would be on first and second with one out and Yoshio Itoi grounded out to move the runners. Togame then hit Takahiro Okada to load the bases and he walked Morel on four pitches to tie the game.
Shortly after, our old friend Hiroyuki Nakajima hit a gapper off the wall to make it 4-1 and clear the bases. Masataka Yoshida and Kenya Wakatsuki would add a run each with a base hit off Shogo Noda and it would be 6-1.
Orix would add three more runs to pad the lead in the 8th and 9th inning off Ryoma Nogami. This included another RBI from Nakajima and a home run from Itoi.
This was a classic third time through the lineup penalty striking on Togame, where he couldn’t get an out when Nishino (the 19th batter) was up. Not much to blame, but his control was lacking when it mattered most. Regardless, the offense couldn’t score on Dickson for most of the night as he would go the distance with seven strikeouts and three walks.
Buffaloes 9, Lions 1
For the rubber match, Kona Takahashi would battle Sachiya Yamasaki to decide the series. Orix struck first off a triple by Shuhei Kojima in the fourth inning. After the Lions bats squandered more chances, the bottom of the 4th would be different.
With two runners on, Naoto Watanabe would double and tie the game with two outs. It would be up to Wu with another chance. This time, he delivered with a two-run single to give the Lions a 3-1 lead.
Takahashi would go seven inning and get four strikeouts, but no play was more important than the top of the 7th where he drew a double play to end a threat. Asamura and Yamakawa would add solo home runs and the Lions would secure their first winning week in two months. This would be Wu’s first career hero interview after having two hits and multiple defensive plays.
Lions 5, Buffaloes 1
The monkey is finally off their back, a winning week after a nasty stretch of losing, let alone winning a series and having two consecutive wins.
At this point, we hope to see weeks like this, where Kishi, Kikuchi, Takahashi and Tawata have quality starts. Wins and losses are somewhat moot, but if those four pitchers can pitch like this week, it would be a good step towards next year.
Bats are going to be up and down, but we’ll continue to enjoy the wins that come.
Originally posted on Graveyard Baseball
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