Sunday, August 16, 2015
Lions Weekly Digest: Akiyama drops the ball; Season on the brink
The Saitama Seibu Lions struggled this week losing both series to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. A 2-4 week has them in trouble, 3.5 games behind the Chiba Lotte Marines.
Game 1 against the Fighters lived up to the billing of a pitcher's duel in a rematch of Shohei Otani vs. Takayuki Kishi. Both pitchers would go the distance in what was a low scoring game.
Kensuke Tanaka would get the only RBI for the the Fighters off a single in the seventh inning, where it broke a scoreless tie. The bottom of the 7th had its own drama. With Takumi Kuriyama getting a leadoff double, there was a chance for Ernesto Mejia to tie the game. He would crush a pitch to deep left field and nearly hit it out of the park off Otani.
Kishi faced only 30 batters on the night, which is three over the minimum through nine innings. He had a base runner in the ninth, but forced a groundout to end the game for his second win of the season. It would be his fourth complete game and a win which he finally earned.
Game 2 against Hokkaido had a slow start from Yusei Kikuchi, where he allowed a barrage of hits and fell into an 0-2 hole. Shingo Ishikawa drew first blood with an RBI single. Takeya "Okawari-kun" would hit his 32nd home run of the season with a solo jack in the second to respond.
Okawari-kun wouldn't help in the third with a throwing error on what should have been a double pay. The Fighters would make him pay with an RBI single from Sho Nakata. He would add another RBI in the fifth with a timely hit.
The Lions would bring back two runs in the sixth from a sacrifice fly by Hideto Asamura and a single from Yutaro Osaki to make the score 5-3, but that is as close as they got. Keisuke Tanimoto would come in and stop the bleeding by getting Shota Tonosaki to fly out. Seibu would also strand the bases loaded in the fourth inning.
Luis Mendoza didn't have the greatest outing, but limited the damage in caparison to Kikuchi. The defense failed Kikuchi and it was the fourth straight time Mendoza would get a win over the Lions.
In Game 3, Chun-Lin Kuo would allow a home run from Sho Nakata to start the scoring in the second. The Lions would take the lead with some hits from Tomoya Mori and Tatsuyuki Uemoto, but hte offense would stall with a bases loaded opportunity in the fourth. Asamura, Okawari-kun and Kuriyama would strike out to Kohei Arihara to end the frame and no runs would come.
Daikan Yoh would go 3-5 and Takuya Nakashima would also do damage with three hits. After jumping ahead 7-2, the Fighters put the exclamation point on the game when Nakata would hit his second HR of the game off Kazuki Miyata, which was good for three runs.
Seibu would score six runs in the bottom of the sixth including a bases clearing double from Kuriyama, but it was too late. Otani would even add a solo home run of Yosuke Okamoto just for insult at the end.
In Game 1 against the Hawks, Ken Togame just couldn't get the final out in the first inning. On a two-strike pitch, he allowed an opposite field solo HR to Yuki Yanagita for the first run. After walking Dae-Ho Lee, he would allow another HR to Nobuhiro Matsuda and the Hawks would be up 3-0.
Softbank would add two more in the second inning and the 5-0 hole was just too much. The Lions would strand runners early again, but the poor start was too much to overcome. Their bats would combine for 16 strikeouts and Rick van den Hurk would get his seventh win of the season, second against the Lions.
In Game 2, Ryoma Nogami would be off to a good start, until Kenta Imamiya would get first blood off a solo HR to let field. Okawari-kun would do damage on his birthday as a three run home run would follow in the top of the fifth off Shota Takeda.
The Hawks would respond immediately with Dae-Ho Lee clearing the bases on a gapper with a three-RBI double to make it 4-3. Miraculously, the Lions would get on base in the sixth inning and a chance for Akiyama came with two on base. He would place a bloop single right in the left field gap and they would tie it. Ryota Wakiya would also walk with the bases loaded to put the Lions up 5-4.
With the Arizona Diamondbacks executives and Tony La Russa in attendance, things were looking good. Hall of Fame inductee Randy Johnson and former Dback Luis Gonzalez were also visiting for the game.
Tatsushi Masuda would work an easy sixth, but the seventh is where the nightmares continued. Tomomi Takahashi allowed a leadoff single and the runner was bunted over to second base. Then he tried fielding a comebacker with his bare hand where it bounced into an area where everyone would be safe. Yanagita would tie the game on double to left field with the first pitch.
However, the Lions nearly got out of the jam with two outs. But an error by Akiyama from dropping an easy fly ball from Akira Nakamura would put the Hawks back on top. Ryota Igarashi and Dennis Sarfate would make quick work of the Lions and Seibu would lose their fourth straight.
In Game 3 against the Hawks, the Lions would trail early after Lee would hit a two-run home run off of Kona Takahashi. He would do more damage with a two-run double in the third inning.
Wakiya would bring the Lions within two after hitting a two-run HR and Asamura had an opposite field homer to make it a one run game. Then the Lions would load the bases in the sixth, where Ernesto Mejia came through with a clutch single to tie it at 4-4. Masato Kumashiro would make contact as a pinch hitter and score Okawari-kun on a sacrifice fly.
The Lions had more chances in the seventh and eighth with the bases loaded, but would only score one run off a walk by Mori. T. Takahashi would be scary again, but would end up with a scoreless sixth while Masuda took the seventh and eighth. Makita closed out the ninth inning after allowing a run and the Lions would snap the four game skid.
This was a brutal week on all fronts and the Game 2 vs. the Hawks put the Lions' season in a nutshell. Nothing was going right with this team with hitting, pitching nor bounces and it took an unlucky round to lose to them. Pitching was poor this week for the most part outside of Kishi, but the bats woke up in the last two games against Fukuoka.
The Lions are facing Rakuten and Chiba this week and if a 4-2 record in the next six games doesn't happen, this season is all but over. I'm not feeling optimistic on this team, but it's not over yet. Wakiya has been a positive throughout this horrible month of Lions baseball, where they're 6-23 in their last 29 games.
This homestand is officially make or break, because Chiba isn't slowing down anytime soon.
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Posted by Christian Gin at 1:15 AM