Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2016 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Kishi has a strong outing, but Rakuten takes the series

The Saitama Seibu Lions had a short week with one series against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles right before the All-Star Series.  How did this shape up?


In Game 1, it would be Kenny Ray taking a spot start for the Eagles against Takayuki Kishi. The Lions initially struggled out of the gate, having runners on base, but not punching in a run.

The scoreless tie would break in third inning, with an unconventional double play with runners on the corners for Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura. Ernesto Mejia hit his 27th home run in the 4th inning, matching his HR total from the 2015 season.

Okawari-kun would add a third run with a two-out RBI single to plate Hideto Asamura, snapping a long, dubious distinction. The Lions had 30 consecutive innings without scoring a run by an in-play base hit. They either scored from home runs, errors or sacrifice outs which led to runs.

Kishi would give up multiple extra base hits, but didn't allow a run until the 7th inning, where pinch hitter Shintaro Masuda singled with two outs and a runner on second to make it 3-1. After an initial scare, he would finish the day going 7 innings with four strikeouts and three doubles allowed, two of them being to "Ginji" Akaminai.

The top of the 8th inning featured an unlikely pair of pitchers in Shogo Noda and Tatsuya Oishi. Noda allowed a leadoff single, but a decent ground ball didn't advance anyone. Oishi came in and got a 5-4-3 double play from pinch hitter Akihisa Makida to end the frame.

Tatsushi Masuda shut the door in the 9th after giving up an awkward infield single and the Lions snapped a two game losing streak. The bats were still rather cold for the Lions given their chances, but they finally broke free and had a decent outing from Kishi in order to get a win.

Lions 3, Eagles 1

Game note:

-The Lions made multiple transactions with the all star break near. Shinsaburo Tawata was deactivated as a result of no games on the back end of the week.  They also deactivated Daichi Mizuguchi, Esmerling Vasquez and Fumikazu Kimura.

-As corresponding moves, the Lions activated Atsushi Okamoto, Shuta Tonosaki and Shogo Saito.

-Shogo Akiyama and Takumi Kuriyama switched places with the former batting second and latter batting first. Asamura moved up to third and Mori was dropped down to fifth. Akiyama recorded a run saving catch in the 6th inning.


In Game 2, it would be Takahiro Shiomi against Felipe Paulino. Making his NPB debut, new foreign import Felix Perez would hit a two-run HR on his first at-bat to begin the scoring in the first.

Asamura answered back with a solo home run in the bottom of the frame to make it a one run game. The Lions squandered a chance in the 5th inning with the bases loaded and one out. Asamura would foul out and Okawari-kun grounded into a fielder's choice to end the threat.

Rakuten broke the game open in the top of the 7th where it all started with a leadoff walk to Hiroaki Shimauchi. After an ill-advised throw to first from Paulino, he would advance to 2nd and later 3rd on a single. Shortly after, the bases were loaded with only one out after walking pinch hitter S. Masuda. Paulino would get a ground ball from Takero Okajima, but Kazuya Fujita did the damage by clearing the bases on a two-out gapper to make it 5-1.

The bats once again showed no life and it was an easy game to close for the Eagles to even up the series. What makes this game sad is how Shota Takekuma was warming up in the bullpen and would have been ready to go, but Norio Tanabe elected to keep Paulino in to close the inning with several left handed batters up. Takekuma could've been an option with one or two runners on, but instead, it felt like Tanabe wanted Paulino to get a win.

Eagles 5, Lions 1


For Game 3 in the rubber match, Kona Takahashi faced Yoshinao Kamata to settle the series. Takahashi initially struggled with control and in the fourth, he struck out Perez, but the pitch was wild to put him on first base. After moving him to second, a single from Ginji had the third base coach send Perez home, but he was out at the plate by a mile.

The Lions broke the tie with an RBI single from Akiyama.  After a two-out single from Mejia, Mori would plate Akiyama to make it 2-0. Everything went wrong in the top of the 6th. Takahashi couldn't get an out with a walk and single to begin the frame. A single from Perez would score Okajima, but a bad throw from Mori to third base also scored Fujita to tie it with one hit. Toshiaki Imae then singled to break the tie at 3-2 with Shota Takekuma pitching.

After a shutdown 6th inning, the Eagles would strike again as Perez hit a solo home run off Shogo Noda in the 7th.  The Lions got a run back from an RBI single by Mori, but Wu grounded into a 4-6-3 double play with the bases loaded to kill the rally.

The 9th inning created a chance with Asamura getting a one-out double off Yuki Matsui. However, Mejia grounded out to put Asamura on third. Mori would then flyout on a 3-1 count and the game was over.

The big criticism goes for not pinch hitting Wu in the 7th, but keeping Takahashi in for the 6th wasn't a problem. Understandably, he had a low pitch count and while he was facing the lineup for the third time, you can't expect his control to fade that quickly.  It got the best of him while some errors advanced the runners. It's possible that Perez is a new threat for NPB.

Eagles 4, Lions 3


The Lions ended up losing another series, falling to 5-19 in their last 24 games dating back to the June 14 Sayonara loss in Hiroshima. Obviously we declared the season over two weeks ago, but this just adds more insult to injury.

Bullpen depth is questionable, but the decisions of trying to save that unit have hurt the starting pitcher trying to stretch another inning. There was progress from Paulino and a solid outing from Kishi, but there wasn't much help to build on with the lack of runs on what's supposed to be a team that can hit.

The rough patch continued when questionable pitchers are still owning the Lions bats. With the All-Star break here, we can only hope there's just progress and improvement on the field as the season goes along. We're not thinking about A-class or even B-class, just get better on the field please.


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