The Saitama Seibu Lions would have some miracles to prevent a completely disastrous week. The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and Chiba Lotte Marines had their share of winning and handed the Lions their first losing week in four weeks.
In Game 1 against the Hawks, it would be a rematch of two weeks ago where Shota Takeda would face Takayuki Kishi. In the 2nd, Takumi Kuriyama gave the Lions an early 1-0 lead from a gapper, but it all went down hill in the top of the 3rd.
With the bases loaded, Kishi would walk Yuya Hasegawa on some initial close pitches. Nobuhiro Matsuda would then get an RBI single to bring in two more runs.
After the Hawks conceded a run on a groundout in the bottom of the 4th, Tomoya Mori tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the 6th off a blooper that fell into RF for an RBI double.
The top of the 7th was just too much for Kishi. He would give up an RBI single with two outs to Yuki Yanagita and a two-run home run to Hasegawa to give the Hawks the lead for good. Takeda would go 7 innings and the bullpen combination of Yuito Mori and Dennis Sarfate shut the door for good.
Hawks 6, Lions 3
For Game 2, it would be Shinsaburo Tawata vs Kenichi Nakata. A slow start from Tawata put the Lions in a 2-0 hole from a timely two-out hit by Seiichi Uchikawa. The Lions would get a run back on a two-out RBI double by Kuriyama.
Tawata failed to get a shutdown inning in the third, where Yuki Yanagita hit a solo home run to leadoff the frame. He would then load the bases with a lack of control and giving up hits. Kenji Akashi took advantage with a bloop single falling past the infield. The game was still in reach as Tawata struck out Kenta Imamiya and Toru Hosokawa to end the top of the third.
After the Lions got another run back on a sacrifice fly from Kuriyama, the Hawks struck again in the top of the 5th. Akira Nakamura pulled a safety squeeze and the Lions couldn’t stay on the bag, leading to a 5-2 score. In the top of the 6th, Yasuo Sano would then cough up a solo home run to Uchikawa making the game look insurmountable.
Takeya “Okawari-kun” would hit an RBI double off the wall to plate Mejia from first in the bottom of the 6th, but it appeared to be academic. In the 7th off Ryota Igarashi, Hideto Asamura hit a two-out RBI double and Kuriyama added another in the bottom of the 8th. Pinch hitter Tatsuyuki Uemoto would come up short, making it a one run game with the 9th approaching.
Tatsuya Oishi took the 9th inning and gave up a leadoff double to Tomoaki Egawa. He would advance to third and score on a wild pitch. It initially looked like Tomoya Mori had the out, but replay showed that he dropped the ball and a run would score.
The instrument curfew (after 22:00 local time, 4+ hours in length) would hit, meaning the crowd would have to be in acapella for the bottom of the 9th.
With one out, Asamura added an RBI double to make it a one run game again. Battling down from two strikes, Mejia would walk on a check swing, putting a pinch runner on first base. After Okawari-kun flew out, Mori was up and already had two strikes. But he took a gapper to left field and pinch runner Daichi Mizuguchi would score from first base ending one of the more improbable walkoff wins of the season.
The Lions didn’t lead until the final gun.
Lions 8, Hawks 7
-Nien Ting Wu would have a historic 18-pitch at-bat where he eventually lined out. It was the longest since 2001.
For Game 3, Ken Togame returned to the rotation to face Nao Higashihama. Ernesto Mejia started the scoring with a loud solo home run that left the park in the second inning. The Lions stranded a chance in the third with two runners on base as Asamura and Mejia couldn’t bring them home.
The lead wouldn’t last long as Egawa would get a two-RBI double in the top of the 4th and the wheels fell off for Togame. Akashi followed up with a sacrifice fly. Togame wouldn’t get an out in the 5th inning, but Hirotaka Koishi would clean up the mess fielding a safety squeeze and striking out Matsuda with the bases loaded for a Houdini and keep the game in reach.
The 6th inning is where the game was over, as Koishi gave up base hit after base hit, leading to six runs including singles from Uchikawa, A. Nakamura and Shuhei Fukuda. Takuya Toyoda tried to reduce the damage, but it was already too late.
Koishi just couldn’t get it done, while Togame was unable to take innings earlier with the lack of control by the 5th inning.
Hawks 9, Lions 2
-To make room for Togame, the Lions sent down Yasuo Sano.
-Kona Takahashi appeared in relief for the first time in his career, taking three innings and allowing two walks and two strikeouts.
-Daichi Mizuguchi recorded his first career RBI in the bottom of the 8th inning.
As the week shifted to Chiba, game one featured two top pitchers in Ayumu Ishikawa and Yusei Kikuchi. Ernesto Mejia got a timely single in the top of the third inning for the first run, but Ishikawa would limit the damage.
The Marines would get it back on a safety squeeze play from Ikuhiro Kiyota with runners on the corners to make it 1-1. Chances were otherwise dim, as the Marines would often bunt and play for one run as no success would come after.
The Lions had their best chance in the top of the 7th with a runner on 2nd and one out. Nien Ting Wu would strikeout and pinch hitter Naoto Watanabe lined out resulting in no runs. Norio Tanabe left Kikuchi in for the 8th inning after he struggled with control the whole night.
Tadahito Iguchi would single and Daichi Suzuki did the same, leaving runners on the corners with two outs. Kei Hosoya would walk on a full count to load the bases for Alfredo Despaigne, who would be the pinch hitter. After an 0-2 count, Kikuchi got the ground ball he needed for a fielder’s choice and no one would score.
Ishikawa and Kikuchi both went 8 innings in a deadlock 1-1 tie. Both closers for each team in Naoya Masuda and Tatsushi Masuda took the 9th inning with little drama to send the game to extra innings.
The Lions had a chance in the top of the 10th with two runners on and one out. But Asamura would groundout and Mejia struck out to ruin the opportunity. They also had a chance in the top of the 11th with two on and nobody out. However, Shogo Saito struck out and Ginjiro Sumitani hit a ground ball to prevent a run from scoring. Kyohei Nagae would walk, but Watanabe blew another chance by lining out and the Marines escaped.
The top of the 12th saw two more stranded runners as Tomoya Mori grounded out. Kazuhisa Makita had a scoreless 11th inning and there was minor drama in the 12th. Two runners were on base which included an intentional walk to Katsuya Kakunaka. However, Daichi Suzuki flew out on an early pitch and both teams played to a stalemate. It was the Lions’ third tie game of the season.
Lions 1, Marines 1 (12 innings)
-Ken Togame was sent down after the previous game’s start. The Lions would bring up Ryohei Fujiwara in his place.
-Asamura had a modasho.
For Game 2, “Makoto” Aiuchi would make his 2016 ichi-gun debut against Ryota Sekiya, a rookie who was drafted last fall. Asamura plated the first run on a sacrifice fly thanks to Yuji Kaneko hitting a leadoff double to begin the game.
The Marines got the run back immediately after Kakunaka sent home Yoshifumi Okada. Okada was able to steal second from a walk.
It would be the bottom of the third where Makoto would struggle. He gave up multiple hits and eventually Takashi Ogino would get a single to send two runners home. A wild pitch made it easier to advance the runners to second and third. Makoto would later balk to give the Marines their fourth run.
The bottom of the 4th would spell the end. Makoto would give up multiple hits again, but it started with a leadoff walk to Kazuya Fukuura. A sacrifice fly from Takeshi Kanazawa added one run. However, Kaneko couldn’t come up with the ball when Shota Omine got one to drop and it resulted in a triple. Makoto’s night was done after 3.2 innings and Koishi let the inherited runner score on a single from Ogino to make it 7-1.
Seibu chipped away at the lead with two runs in the top of the 5th, but the Marines answered back with two of their own in the bottom half in the bottom of the frame off Koishi.
Those two runs proved to be important as Okawari-kun hit a two-run home run to make it 9-5. Ernesto Mejia would then hit a three-run home run in the 8th inning to make it a one run game, but that was as close as they got. N. Masuda worked a 1-2-3 9th inning and the Lions would lose thanks to the poor start.
Marines 9, Lions 8
-To make room for Makoto, the Lions deactivated Takuya Toyoda. They would also send down Shogo Saito for Fumikazu Kimura.
For the final game, Brian Wolfe made his second start against Hideaki Wakui. Ernesto Mejia took the first blood with a three-run home run in the first inning. Wolfe then escaped a jam in the second inning with a failed bunt and he would later get a groundout from Kanazawa to end the threat.
Asamura’s throwing error would create a run for the Marines, where Alfredo Despaigne reached base. He would score on an RBI groundout in the 4th. Okawari-kun hit a solo home run in the 6th, but the heavy drama came in the bottom of the frame.
With two runners on, Hosoya would get a single off Wolfe’s foot where the ball bounced into no-man’s land to make it 4-2. The bases would be loaded and Shota Takekuma would come in with inherited runners. He successfully struck out Tadahito Iguchi and got a flyout from Shota Omine, where it took a running catch from Kuriyama to save the runs, all with two outs.
The bullpen took over and was on cruise control as Makita worked two innings and Masuda struck out the side to split the three-game series.
Lions 4, Marines 2
Ernesto Mejia is expected to be out as he will see the birth of his first child. The team has still played well for the most part minus the bad starts, but the main starters are still respectable and Brian Wolfe has been decent in his return to NPB.
Like anything, we hope this team remains out of the cellar for the 2016 season.
Originally Posted on Graveyard Baseball
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