Sunday, June 26, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Sayonara from Sakata prevents a sweep


The Saitama Seibu Lions would lose the series coming off interleague play to the Chiba Lotte Marines. They're now six games behind the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and are still in fourth place.

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In Game 1 against the Marines, Kona Takahashi would play in the city of his high school career in Maebashi (Gunma prefecture) against big time nemesis Ayumu Ishikawa. Tomoya Mori opened the scoring with a two-run home run, but Daichi Suzuki answered back with a solo HR making it 2-1 in the 2nd.

Ernesto Mejia hit his 23rd HR of the season in the bottom of the 3rd to make it 3-1. The bottom of the 5th saw Mori hit another HR for a no-doubter and Hideto Asamura added on with a solo HR of his own to make it 5-1 after five.

However, the top of the 6th would be a disaster. Takahashi wasn't looking good all game, but only gave up the solo HR despite a lack of control and giving up hits. He only had two strikeouts entering the 6th, but a two-out rally would come out of nowhere. Tatsuhiro Tamura would double and the hits or walks would keep coming, all with two outs.

The Marines would bat around the order and score six runs through htis and walks, leaving Takahashi in the dust unable to retire the final batter. Shota Takekuma entered with the bases loaded as it was 5-4. However, Yamaico Navarro would single and the Marines took the lead for good at 6-5.  Suzuki added another to make it 7-5.

Mejia got the Lions a run back in the 7th inning, but the Marines bullpen shut the door and Ishikawa would earn a win despite four home runs given up. Norio Tanabe tried to save his bullpen and Takahashi only needed one out, but he was not good the entire game and it backfired.

I (クリスチャン) can understand where Tanabe was thinking on this move as only one out was left, but the worst case scenario happened. Takahashi had to put the ball in play and get lucky more times than not and ultimately paid the price. His pitch count wasn't a problem, but the control was and he was sweating bullets in the rain as the nerves most likely got to him.

Marines 7, Lions 6

Game note:

-Yusei Kikuchi and Shogo Kimura were taken off the roster. Recently, Kikuchi was feeling stiffness in his non-throwing side and the team deactivated him as a precaution. Kimura tore his ACL in practice and will most likely miss the entire season.

-Ken Togame and Naoto Watanabe became the corresponding moves with the open roster spaces. Togame appeared in one inning as a middle reliever.

-Hotaka Yamakawa would get his first base hit of the 2016 season.  He was initially 0-13 after making the opening day roster.

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In Game 2, Kota Futaki would face Ryoma Nogami in a crazy contest.  The Marines jumped out to a 3-0 lead thanks to some errors from Mori and Kaneko. The first run came from a rundown where Kaneko dropped the ball and the throw to Nogami at home plate was not in time after a review.

The Lions answered back with a solo HR from Asamura and a three-run HR from Yamakawa to make it 4-3. Alfredo Despaigne would hit a solo HR off Nogami in the next frame to even the score.

The Marines would get four hits in the top of the 5th but not score a run thanks to some poor decisions to send a runner home on sharply hit singles. Katsuya Kakunaka was tagged at the plate and Despaigne was sent on a flyball out, resulting in a 7-6-2 double play.

Seibu took advantage of the bottom frame as Mori hit a two-RBI single with the bases loaded to give them a 6-4 lead. Mejia's presence would make the Chiba outfield play back and normal lineout to CF resulted in a single, bringing in a third run for the inning.

Togame would appear for his second relief inning after a scoreless sixth and the disaster struck in the 7th. An error from Yuji Onizaki would bite and the damage would start. A barrage of base hits and poor defense would give the Marines an 8-7 lead. On what could have been routine outs, Yamakawa chose to attack home plate and not concede a run, getting no outs. Asamura would also throw to the plate and the Marines would keep the lineup moving.

Tamura looked like he would hit the dagger to end it with a two-out single up the middle making it 8-7. Esmerling Vasquez would then give up a solo HR in the 8th to Despaigne for his 2nd of the game.

All would not be lost yet, as the Lions would get the first two batters on base in the bottom of the 8th. After Naoto Watanabe bunted both runners over, Tatsuyuki Uemoto slapped a single up the middle and tied the game a 9-9 for an improbable score. Tatsushi Masuda worked a scoreless 9th inning and the Lions would go to extras in an affair that was already at four hours and counting.

In the top of the 10th, Shota Takekuma would load the bases with a leadoff double to Kakunaka, pitching around Despaigne and a walk to Navarro as there were no outs. Suzuki would hit an infield fly, followed by a strikeout of Shota Omine. Tamura would then lineout to shortstop and an epic Houdini kept the game tied.

Watanabe would get a one out single and Ginjiro Sumitani would bunt him over to second base. After Chiba pitcher Masaki Minami intentionally walked Shogo Akiyama, Kaneko would reach base in an unusual fashion. On what looked like a routine grounder, Kaneko would beat Minami to 1B and keep the game alive to load the bases.  Pinch hitting for a defensive substitute in Kyohei Nagae, Ryo Sakata, the last position player off the bench took the first pitch to RF and the Lions walked off for the 4th time this season.

This was an improbable miracle with both teams playing sloppy baseball from errors and poor base running decisions. It's not the best game to be proud of, but it wasn't a loss and they were able to hang tough with chances.

Lions 10, Marines 9 (10 innings)

Game note:

-The Lions waited nearly three months for their first Sayonara in 2015. They had three sayonara wins last year and have already reached four for this season.

-Nogami's defense let him down, as he only allowed one earned run through the HR by Despaigne. He continued to have another decent outing of at least 5 IP and three earned runs or less.

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Game 3 saw Shinsaburo Tawata face Jason Standridge in the rubber match.  Chiba jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead that could've been worse as Tawata loaded the bases early on. Both runs would score on outs, with a flyout and a groundout.

A throwing error from Kaneko in the second inning made it 3-0 Marines. Nagae would get a start and had a two-out RBI to give the Lions their first run, but the next frame would be a killer. Tawata allowed a two-out, two-run HR to Tamura and it became a 5-1 ballgame. The Lions answered with another run thanks to a throwing error by Standridge, but Mejia grounded into a 6-4-3 double play which cleared the bases.

Tawata would last five innings and was fortunate to dodge some bullets to not allow more runs in the 4th and 5th innings. Akiyama had to rob Despaigne of some extra base hits with a leaping grab at the wall.

The Lions chipped at the lead in the 6th, with an RBI groundout from Yamakawa and a two-out RBI single from Uemoto to make it a one-run game.  Hirotaka Koishi failed to get a shutdown inning with a two-out RBI single from Shohei Kato. Yasuo Sano would give up more runs in the top of the 9th and the game was out of reach.  After walking and allowing multiple hits, it would be a nightmare 9th inning with four earned runs.

Tawata had a rough start, bats weren't bad against Standridge, but it wasn't enough to win. Pitching and control wasn't there for the rookie.

Marines 10, Lions 4

Game note:

-Nagae would get a modasho (three hits in one game).

-Asamura would leave the game after injuring himself running to 1B. His status is unclear.

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The Lions pitching was just terrible from top to bottom without Kikuchi. We can only hope he will be back for the following week, because the team is nowhere near contention for a playoff spot with who is missing.

Is Asamura out for a long time?  Will Kazuhisa Makita return? When does Okawari-kun come back? There's too much uncertainty and the word "playoffs" needs to be out of our vocabulary for now as it's not looking good.

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