Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Sano earns first win as the Lions Sweep Orix



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The Saitama Seibu Lions would have a long road trip to both Hokkaido to face the Nippon-Ham Fighters and in Kansai against the Orix Buffaloes. Against Orix, the Lions were winless heading into the weekend. Could they rebound from their bad ways?

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The first game in Sapporo would feature Kona Takahashi against Hirotoshi Takanashi, the reigning Pacific League rookie of the year. It would be another slow start for Kona as he gave up a timely base hit to Sho Nakata for the first blood. Shota Ono would then hit a solo HR to make it 2-0 in the second.

It wouldn't be long before the Lions responded in the top of the third. Sosuke Genda would steal second base and with Shogo Akiyama on third, the tying run was in scoring position for Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura. Okawari-kun didn't disappoint with a timely single scoring both runners. Takumi Kuriyama would give the Lions the lead with a two-run blast right into the Seibu Oendan to make it 4-2.

Genda would add a timely two out hit with the Fighters outfield playing in to make it 5-2. Masatoshi Okada would score from second and barely beat out Haruki Nishikawa's throw. Kona Takahashi would settle in after a slow start, going five innings with seven strikeouts before being taken out.

Shota Takekuma and Kazuhisa Makita had clean 6th and 7th innings, but the Lions put the game away in the top of the latter inning. Okada and Fumikazu Kimura would deliver timely hits off the Fighters bullpen making it 7-2, ending a two game skid.

Lions 7, Fighters 2

Game notes:

-Ichiro Tamura made his ichi-gun debut in the 9th inning. He would give up a single to Kensuke Tanaka, but not allow a run.

-Every Lions player who started had a hit and even the substitutes got on base or hit later in the game after coming in as pinch runners.

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Game 2 would have Ken Togame up against Takayuki Kato. The Lions scored first with a bases loaded single by Okawari-kun, but they failed to capitalize afterwards. Brandon Laird responded with an RBI single in the bottom of the frame, but like the Lions, the Fighters couldn't take advantage of more runs.

Kensuke Kondo hit a simple single, but a bobble error by Shogo Akiyama helped him get to second base. It would be Laird again with a timely hit to make it 2-1 in the third inning.

Togame was rather fortunate, giving up seven hits but only one run through five innings on the night. He would have one strikeout and two walks included. Kato went six innings, but settled in after the first and had seven strikeouts.

The Lions would have the tying run on second base in the 7th, but Kensuke Tanimoto got Kimura to flyout and Naoki Miyanishi struck out Akiyama to end the threat. Chris Martin pitched a clean 8th while Hirotoshi Masui ended the game with a double play to Shuta Tonosaki.

Fighters 2, Lions 1

Game note:

-Kuriyama would continue to play DH.

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Game 1 against Orix would have Yusei Kikuchi against Yuki Nishi from Kobe. The Lions took advantage of a leadoff double by Akiyama and Asamura plated him on a sac fly after Sosuke Genda would bunt him to third.

With the bases loaded, Asamura would plate two more runs on a single in the top of the third.  The top of the order would produce again in the top of the 5th. with Akiyama and Genda reaching base on singles, Asamura would blast a three-run bomb off Nishi for a 6-0 lead to put the game away.

Kikuchi would go six innings with plenty of run support with six strikeouts and three hits allowed. Asamura would get a 7th RBI through a groundout in the top of the 8th inning. The Lions poured it on in the final three frames of the game with five more runs, included base hits by Okawari-kun, Genda and Naoto Watanabe. It would be the team's first win against Orix in 2017.

Lions 11, Buffaloes 0

Game notes:

-Three Lions would have Modashos in Genda, Asamura and Akiyama.

-Mejia was hit by a pitch, but stayed in the game.

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Game 2 from Kyocera Dome would have Yasuo Sano making his 2017 debut in a spot start against Phil Coke. Ernesto Mejia starting the scoring with a no-doubt HR in the top of the second. Coke would end up leaving the game in the third inning, as Genda would reach on an E1 with a surprise bunt. With Sachiya Yamasaki coming in, he would walk both Mejia and Naoto Watanabe as the bases were loaded with the latter up, scoring another run.

Kimura would add another run with a solo home run off Yamasaki in the top of the 4th. Sano wuold have one scare in the 4th inning, but only gave up one run from a hit by Hiroyuki Nakajima in the process. With the bases loaded, he would force one key ground out to Kenya Wakatsuki to limit the damage.  Sano would go five innings with five strikeouts on the day.

The Lions got two runs in the top of the 6th off Satoshi Oyama thanks to timely hits from Genda and Asamura. Shota Takekuma allowed a run in the 6th from an RBI single by Hikaru Ito, but avoided further damage escaping a small jam. Kimura put the game away with a 2-RBI double in the top of the 7th, securing a modasho for the day.

For the first time in 2017, the Lions took a series from Kansai.

Lions 8, Buffaloes 2

Game notes:

-Shogo Noda was sent down as the corresponding move to make room for Sano.

-Kuriyama was a pinch hitter and walked in the top of the 7th. He would be replaced by Shotaro Tashiro, who would score on Kimura's double.

-Daichi Mizuguchi came in as a defensive replacement for Ernesto Mejia and got an RBI single in the 8th.

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Game 3 from Kyocera Dome would see Brian Wolfe try to complete the Lions sweep with Orix rookie Taisuke Yamaoka on the hill for the home team. The table would be set early for the Lions with Hideto Asamura doubling creating a second and third opportunity for Okawari-kun. He would capitalize on the opportunity by following it up with another double of his own to give the Lions an early 2-0 lead. Ernesto Mejia would then line a single up the middle to bring home Okawari-kun and just like that, Brian Wolfe would take the mound with a 3-0 lead.

Wolfe would give one run right back to the Buffaloes thanks to some opportune base running from Kyohei Iwasaki. Iwasaki would slap a one-out single and then promptly steal second base, and after a Masahiro Nishino groundout would move him over to third, a wild pitch would allow him to score. That would be the only run that Orix would score on the day.

The Lions would then tack on another run in the 5th thanks to Sosuke Genda who would drive in Shogo Akiyama who got into scoring position thanks to his fifth stolen base of the season. Genda would line one into the outfield and put the Lions back up by three.

Brian Wolfe would be pulled after six innings, where he scattered six hits and allowed one run with two strikeouts,  good enough for another quality start for Wolfe to start the year. Kazuhisa Makita and Brian Schlitter would pitch the 7th and 8th innings respectively in clean fashion.

The Lions would then tag on two runs in the 9th with Sosuke Genda providing an RBI-single which also gave Genda a modasho and that brought in Fumikazu Kimura and then Hideto Asamura would hit a chopper up the middle to bring home Ginjiro Sumitani to officially make the game into a rout.

Tatsushi Masuda would be brought in for a non-save situation in the bottom of the 9th just to get some work in and the Lions closer would get three quick outs to deliver the Lions a clean sweep of the Orix Buffaloes.

Lions 6, Buffaloes 1

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The Lions are back in A-class for now and above .500 thanks to the sweep. Of course there is still plenty of work to be done. They look competitive again, but they saw a back end of Orix's rotation.

Can they continue to hit their ways? How does the back end hold up now that Nogami has been shifted to the front end of a week? Questions will still need to be answered.

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