Ernesto Mejia would leave the team for most of the week with the birth of his son. However, the Lions bats had no issues for the week against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Chiba Lotte Marines and Softbank Hawks.
In Game 1 against Rakuten, it was initially scheduled to be Takayuki Kishi. However, Kishi had a fever and Kona Takahashi was named the starter instead. He would face Yasunori Kikuchi for the night.
The Lions scored first with a solo home run by Ryo Sakata in the second inning. They would follow up with an RBI double by Nien Ting Wu to make it 2-0.
Takahashi had some early struggles but appeared to have settled in during the third inning where it was clean. However, the fourth was where he control faded with a HBP and a walk. With the bases loaded, Carlos Peguero would single and plate two runs.
Hideto Asamura would put the Lions on top in the 5th with an RBI single, but Takahashi allowed a backbreaker in the bottom half. With two outs and what appeared to be an easy inning, Eigoro Mogi took a home run to right field and tied the game again.
The 6th inning had drama on both sides as Koji Aoyama gave up a gapper to Tomoya Mori and it appeared that Wu would score from first. However, a perfect relay from Peguero and Kazuya Fujita would gun him down at the plate. Ryohei Fujiwara had his own jam in the 6th with the bases loaded. On a full count to Motohiro Shima, he struck him out on a 12-6 curve down the middle and froze the batter.
Hiroyuki Fukuyama would then be vulnerable with a leadoff walk to Yuji Kaneko. He then balked after a stolen base attempt from Kaneko to move the runner to second. Toshiaki Imae then bobbled the ball on a grounder to third base and runners were on the corners. Sakata picked up a timely hit once again and the Lions went up.
The bottom of the frame is where it all fell apart. Shota Takekuma gave up a leadoff single to Hiroaki Shimauchi and the Lions defense couldn't throw runners out on two bunt attempts. Mori, taking over at catcher bounced his throw to first base and Mogi was on with a bunt single. When Imae bunted, Takekuma went to third base and Shimauchi was called safe when he appeared to be out.
Kazuhisa Makita came in and had two quick outs. However, Taishi Nakagawa would get the clutch hit and plate two runs with a single. Felix Perez then doubled with the outfield playing in and scored two more.
Kam Mickolio worked the 8th inning with no drama. Yuki Matsui took the 9th and made it interesting with two outs and two runners on base. Sakata struck out and the game was over.
The Lions bats just couldn't break the game open as it was always within reach. There were guys on base, but not enough scored.
Eagles 7, Lions 4
-This win would be Masataka Nashida's 700th career victory in NPB. Prior to Rakuten, he managed the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.
-With Mejia gone for the week, Takumi Kuriyama was the designated hitter and Ryo Sakata moved to right field.
Game 2 was a makeup game from May 10 and it featured Shinsaburo Tawata vs. Takahiro Shiomi. Tawata had an initial jam in the first inning with two on and one out. He would strike out Zelous Wheeler and Peguero to keep the Eagles off the board.
Offense would become crooked as the Lions batted around in the top of the 4th. Asamura hit a two-run home run and Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura followed up with a solo home run. After Mori and Fumikazu Kimura singled, Nien Ting Wu would hit a triple to plate two more runs. Yuji Kaneko would get in on the action with a single and six would score in the frame.
Tawata had to get out of another jam for a shutdown inning. With two on and nobody out, he would strike out Peguero, Nakagawa and Perez for scoreless frame.
The Lions then hit two solo home runs in the top of the 5th, a second from Okawari-kun and one from Mori to make it 8-0. To put on the exclamation point, Hotaka Yamakawa would hit a grand slam in the top of the 6th and a two-RBI single in the top of the 8th for six RBIs.
Tawata would go the distance, but was denied the shutout with a solo home run in the 7th inning by Peguero. He finished the game with 15 strikeouts, including a punchout 9th inning. It was his second career complete game with only one walk, spreading out six hits.
Lions 14, Eagles 1
-Every Lions player had at least one hit, including Daichi Mizuguchi, who came in as a sub during the 7th inning.
-Akiyama, Mori, Yamakawa and Wu had Modashos.
-Kuriyama had the day off with Sakata as the designated hitter and Fumikazu Kimura in left field.
Game 2 against the Marines featured Ryota Sekiya up against Yusei Kikuchi. It was an early jam for Kikuchi in the first inning. However, he would get Ogino to be tagged out trying to advance home while a 6-4-3 double play from Alfredo Despaigne ended the threat in the 1st.
Hotaka Yamakawa opened the scoring with a two-out, two run home run in the bottom of the 2nd. The Marines got a run back on a sacrifice fly from Kakunaka, but Shota Omine was caught trying to advance to second base on the play.
The Lions would explode in the bottom of the 5th. With two outs, there would be timely hits from all three Osaka Toin guys consecutively in Asamura, Okawari-kun and Mori to make it 6-2. Fumikazu Kimura added two more runs with an RBI single in the bottom of the 7th to put the exclamation point on it all.
Kikuchi would get a complete game, but only had four strikeouts on the night. He had five double plays in all, including a few from some silly base running blunders by the Marines to help him out. He wasn't as dominant as Tawata's outing in Sendai earlier this week, but still good enough to win.
Lions 8, Marines 1
-The Lions deactivated Kuo and Ryohei Fujiwara for rookies Naoaki Matsumoto and Keisuke Honda. Fujiwara was injured last game and taken off for safety reasons.
-Yamakawa's home run was his 10th of the year. It was his 6th against the Marines.
Game 1 in Fukuoka against the Hawks would feature Brian Wolfe against Kodai Senga. The Lions would get the scoring start with a two-out double by Okawari-kun off the right field wall, plating Akiyama from first. Yamakawa followed up with a solo home run in the second inning.
The Hawks would get a run back from a solo home run by Shuhei Fukuda in the bottom of the third. However, Ginjiro Sumitani would get a timely double into the gap, plating two runs in the following frame. Takumi Kuriyama would get a timely two-out hit to make it 5-1.
Wolfe was mostly putting the ball in play like his last two outings. He was efficient to begin with, giving up some hits, but spreading them out. He didn't get his first strikeout until the 5th, but had two in the 6th inning. The Hawks got a run back in the 6th through a base hit by Yuya Hasegawa, but he was thrown out trying to advance on a throw to home plate and the damage was limited.
Shota Takekuma took the 7th inning and created a scare after a double play. He allowed a total of three base runners, but Norio Tanabe put in Tatsuya Oishi to get Seiichi Uchikawa out. The plan worked to perfection with Oishi striking out Uchikawa and ending the threat with two runners on.
Kazuhisa Makita took the 8th inning while the top of the 9th provided insurance. Okawari-kun hit a two-run home run deep into right field, which would set a franchise record for home runs. Shogo Noda then pitched a clean 9th inning to shut the door.
Wolfe got the just done in an ugly fashion, but the bats finally unloaded on Senga after losing to him most of the time in 2016.
Lions 7, Hawks 2
-Okawari-kun's home run was the 330th of his career, he surpassed Kazuhiro Kiyohara's franchise record for career home runs in a Seibu Lions uniform.
Game 2 had Tadashi Settsu take on Yasuo Sano in a spot start. The Lions botched an early chance with two on and one out. Okawari-kun and Mejia would strike out consecutively to end the threat.
The Hawks drew first blood in the bottom of the 2nd with a share of two out hits. Hiroaki Takaya got a single up the middle to bring home the first run. The bottom of the 3rd had Sano lose control and walk the first two batters. Nobuhiro Matsuda singled in the first run of the inning.
Sano's day would be done after only one out. Naoaki Matsumoto would then come in, making his ichi-gun debut. He allowed a sacrifice fly to Yuki Yoshimura. After a walk to Barbaro Canizares, Tomoaki Egawa plated the other inherited runner to make it 4-0.
The Lions answered with a two-run home run by Mejia in his first game back. Unfortunately, Kona Takahashi struggled with control in the bottom of the frame and gave up a two-out RBI single to Uchikawa.
Fukuoka conceded a run on an RBI groundout as Yuji Kaneko stole his second base of the game, but it wasn't enough. Takahashi struggled in the bottom of the 6th with control, like Sano. Uchikawa made him pay with a three run home run to break the game open. Yamakawa and Mori would hit consolation home runs to end the scoring.
It was a game of bad pitching, but a spot start is bound to have that. Bats had chances, but couldn't score on every opportunity. Takahashi's poor second half continues as it was for the final game in Fukuoka in 2016.
Hawks 8, Lions 5
-Wolfe was deactivated for Sano with the extended break.
-Keisuke Honda and Matsumoto made their 2016 ichi-gun debuts.
The season has long been over, but it's nice to see them continue to play respectable baseball for the time being. Hopefully Kishi isn't sick and the Lions can avoid the cellar. They will play only one game in the middle of next week at QVC Marine Field.
As a result of the irregular week ahead, the next weekly digest will not come until after Monday, Tuesday at the earliest.
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