The Saitama Seibu Lions looked to continue the hot form they’ve had since the second week of August. They would end up needing big contributions against the Orix Buffaloes and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.
In Game 1 against the Orix Buffaloes from Kobe, Yuki Nishi would return to the ichi-gun and face Takayuki Kishi. Orix began the scoring with a base hit from Masataka Yoshida. The Lions answered back as Hideto Asamura would clear the bases with a two-out double giving a 3-1 lead. Ernesto Mejia added another to make it 4-1 in the third.
After Orix got a run back through a gapper by Hiroyuki Nakajima, the Lions broke the game open in the top of the 5th. It all started with a throwing error from Koji Oshiro. Takumi Kuriyama would plate Shogo Akiyama immediately for the first run. Takeya “Okawari-kun” would get an RBI single then Hotaka Yamakawa broke it open with a bases loaded double. Nishi couldn’t escape the 5th inning and the Orix reliever would give up two more runs from hits by Ginjiro Sumitani and Akiyama making it 10-2.
Shunichi Sato would add insult to injury in the top of the 6th. The Lions would load the bases with only one hit, but Sato walked in two runs to create a double digit lead. Yuji Kaneko would reach on error by Masahiro Nishino to make it 13-2. On the next pitch by reliever Tatsuya Sato, it would get past Kenya Wakatsuki for a passed ball making it 14-2.
Kishi would last 6 innings with an initial scare in the 6th, but a padded lead made it easier for the relievers on who would come in. Hirotaka Koishi, Tsubasa Kokuba and Tatsuya Oishi would get scoreless innings to end the game.
Lions 14, Buffaloes 3
-Every starting Lion would get at least one base hit.
-Daichi Mizuguchi came in as a substitute pinch runner for Okawari-kun in the 7th. He would earn his first career base hit in the 7th inning.
For Game 2, Daiki Tomei would face Shinsaburo Tawata. The Lions jumped to a quick start in the 1st after Asamura hit an early gapper for the first blood. Tomoya Mori would then get a bloop single to fall into no man’s land for the second run.
Masataka Yoshida would give Orix a run back with an RBI single in the bottom of the 3rd. Both eams would trade runs as Asamura singled again in the 4th after a stolen base from Yuji Kaneko. Oshiro would then plate Nishino to make it a one run game in the 5th, Asamura would answer back with another single to plate a run, making it 4-2.
Tawata had some early trouble, but would get some key strikeouts and make a play at the plate to limit the damage. He settled in during the 6th and 7th innings and finished with seven strikeouts to go with only one walk on the night.
Kazuhisa Makita worked a clean 8th inning and the Lions put no doubt in the game in the top of the 9th. With multiple walks and an error, the bases were loaded for Naoto Watanabe after an intentional walk to Mori. As a defensive sub coming in for Yamakawa, he would single up the middle and bring home two more runs. Tatsushi Masuda loaded the bases with three singles, but wouldn’t allow anything as the Lions held on to take the series.
Lions 6, Buffaloes 2
-Mori started the game at catcher before moving to right field. He would successfully call a pitch out on a potential hit and run and threw out Brian Bogusevic.
In the first game against the Fighters in Omiya, Kohei Arihara would face Yusei Kikuchi. The Lions pounced on Arihara early as he struggled with control. Shogo Akiyama would plate Kaneko and Okawari-kun blasted a three-run home run in the first inning to make it 4-0.
Things wouldn’t get better in the 2nd for Arihara as Kaneko was plated again by Akiyama. an error by Brandon Laird would also bring home another run to give a 6-0 lead after two innings.
Kikuchi escaped a rough first inning which included a base running blunder at the plate, but settled in through the next four innings. However, the 6th inning would be the end as three batters would reach base and Kikuchi allowed his first run. Norio Tanabe took him out and Shota Takekuma retired the next three batters in order to limit the damage at 6-1.
To secure this game, Okawari-kun blasted “Okawari” (another) home run off the LF foul poll and erased any doubt. Tatsuya Oishi would take two innings while Yasuo Sano ended the game with a double play in the 9th.
Lions 7, Fighters 1
-Kaneko had three stolen bases on the night. He also recorded a Modasho.
-The Lions finished with a 2-1 record in Omiya for the 2016 season.
For Game 2 in Seibu Dome, Kona Takahashi would see Hirotoshi Takanashi. The Fighters struck first in the 2nd inning off a gapper by Daikan Yoh. Takumi Kuriyama answered back with an RBI single.
The bottom of the 3rd would see more damage from teh Lions as Asamura hit a two-RBI gapper to give the Lions a lead. He would later score on a sacrifice fly from Okawari-kun. Unfortunately, things would not be good after that.
In the top of the 5th, facing the lineup for the 3rd time, the penalty struck on Takahashi as the bases were loaded with no outs. After he struck out in the first inning with the bases loaded, Laird made no mistake this time and hit a grand slam to go up 5-4.
The Lions’ had their best chance in the bottom of the 6th, but Hotaka Yamakawa grounded out to end the threat. To remove any chance of a comeback, the Fighters struck in the top of the 9th with back to back solo home runs by Shohei Otani and Sho Nakata.
The third time through the order penalty made the difference, but the Lions bats were all but dead after the third inning.
Fighters 7, Lions 4
-Mori started at catcher for the first time against the Fighters. He allowed one stolen base to Takuya Nakashima.
For the rubber match against the Fighters, Brian Wolfe made his long anticipated Lions ichi-gun debut against his former team facing Takayuki Kato. The Fighters took an early lead with an RBI single from Kensuke Tanaka in the 4th and a second from Sho Nakata in the 6th.
However, the offense came alive in the bottom of the 6th when Ernesto Mejia struck a three-run home run for his 30th of the year off Kato. The third time through the order penalty struck on Kato, like Takahashi the night before. Wolfe would last six innings giving up only two runs, but had only one strikeout.
Mejia added insurance in the 8th inning with an RBI single as he would go 3-4 on the night. This would prove to be the difference after Tatsushi Masuda coughed up a solo home run in the top of the 9th to Nakata. Three strikeouts later, the Lions would have another four-win week and the team continued to play their best baseball of the year in winning the series.
Lions 4, Fighters 3
-This was the first time a foreign pitcher had a win for the Lions. Wolfe would see the Lions go ahead in the bottom of the 6th to secure the decision.
With another productive week, the Lions gained more ground on Orix and have a cushion outside the cellar. As we will speak on our upcoming podcast episode, there is no reason to tank in NPB.
There is a lot of “what could have been”, but we’re seeing progress and that’s all we can ask for.
Originally Posted on Graveyard Baseball
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