Wednesday, July 12, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Tawata, Fife earn first wins to sweep Marines


It was the final week of games before the 2017 NPB All-Star break and the Saitama Seibu Lions were successful with a sweep of the Chiba Lotte Marines. They would not gain any ground on the Orix Buffaloes due to them sweeping the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, but they retained a six game lead in the race for A-class. Here's how we got there:

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The first game against the Marines had Shinsaburo Tawata against veteran Jason Standridge. Chiba would strike first in the top of the 2nd on a two out rally where Katsuya Kakunaka reached base on a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Shogo Nakamura would plate him home with an RBI single for a 1-0 lead.

Tawata ran into another jam with two runners on and nobody out in the third. After a bunt moved the runners over, Daichi Suzuki struck out. However, Jimmy Paredes would deliver with a gapper and both runners scored making it 3-0.

The Lions answered back as Masatoshi Okada took one for the team, being hit by a pitch in the back to start the bottom of the third. Okada would advance to third on a wild pitch and later a groundout before Sosuke Genda reached base on a walk. Genda stole second, creating momentum as Hideto Asamura dropped a broken bat blooper to give the Lions two runs.

Tawata delivered a clean shutdown inning and was rewarded as Shuta Tonosaki tied the game with a solo HR in the bottom of the 4th. After what was a rough start, Tawata settled in with three scoreless innings, retiring 9 of the 10 batters faced from innings 4-6. Takeya "Okawari-kun" gave him some help, with a go-ahead solo HR in the bottom of the 6th inning. It would be the 350th HR in his career and 19th of the season.

Kazuhisa Makita would hit a batter in the 7th, but strikeout Roel Santos to have a shutdown inning. Hotaka Yamakawa would pinch hit and get an RBI single in the bottom of the frame, before he was tagged out trying to advance to second. Brian Schlitter also allowed a base runner, but no damage.

Tatsushi Masuda allowed a two out walk with Willy Mo Pena being the tying run at the plate. However, Masuda struck out Pena to end the game take the first game of the series for Tawata's first win.

Lions 5, Marines 3

Game note:

-To make room for Tawata on the roster, Brian Wolfe was taken off with the All-star break coming up.

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For the second game, Ryoma Nogami would go against Kota Futaki. After a houdini in the first inning by Nogami, Asamura would hit a solo HR in the bottom of the frame to make it 1-0. Shogo Nakamura would hit a solo HR to even up the score in the second inning.

This game wouldn't be close after that, as the Lions erupted for six runs in the bottom of the 2nd. This included timely hits from Yamakawa, Ginjiro Sumitani and Sosuke Genda added three runs, but it would be Asamura who would hit a three-run blast to make it 7-1 and the rout was on, ending Futaki's night.

Keisuke Takano would take over for the Marines and the Lions piled it on with four runs in the third and 4th innings each. The fourth inning was extended as Tonosaki struck out, but the ball could not be caught and he reached first base with two outs. After Sumitani had an RBI single, Shogo Akiyama put the game away for good with a three-run HR into the Marines Oendan.

Nogami would fail to go the distance by being tagged for three runs in the top of the 6th with the third time through the order penalty striking. He would have only one strikeout and allow eight hits.

Yosuke Okamoto also gave up two runs in the final three innings, as he wouldn't start this week. Despite the high scoring affair, the lead was never in doubt as the Lions took the series.

Lions 16, Marines 6

Game notes:

-Sumitani, Akiyama and Tonosaki each had modashos. Sumitani was able to get his batting average to .280 after this game.

-By pitching the final three innings, Okamoto earned his first career save.

-Ernesto Mejia would sit out of this game as Yamakawa started at 1B. He would PH and take over late in the game, but went 0-2.

-Daichi Mizuguchi would PH and take over in LF as Tonosaki would move to 3B as a defensive replacement.

-16 runs scored by the Lions were the most by any NPB team up to this point.

-Tawata was taken off the roster after the game, making him ineligible to return to the ichi-gun until July 22 as the All-star break has begun.

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In order to go for the sweep, Stephen Fife would be the starter against Ryota Sekiya. The Lions struck first with a timely double from Ginjiro Sumitani in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Yuji Kaneko added on with a two-RBI single, where Sumitani was initially called out at the plate. The play would go to review as the tape showed Sumitani's foot touched the plate before Yuta Yoshida got the tag down.

Fife would earn a shutdown inning the hard way in the third, escaping the frame with two runners on. He would get the ground ball and show good awareness to get Willy Mo Pena going to second base.

Daichi Suzuki and the Marines would get a run back in the 4th with a sacrifice fly. Fife avoided disaster with runners on the corners, getting Pena to strikeout and Yoshida to groundout to limit the damage.

Kaneko would answer with a solo HR for his second of the season. The top of the 5th looked like Fife was cruising, but with two outs, Shohei Kato would reach base on a hit. After a walk to Katsuya Kakunaka, Jimmy Paredes would plate a run with a double. With the tying run on second base, Fife would get Suzuki to flyout and end the threat, finishing his night with five innings, two strikeouts and two walks.

Tatsuya Oishi would have a two base runner jam in the 6th, but retained the lead allowing only a sacrifice fly to Ryo Miki. It would be his first earned run of the season. Makita had a scare with two outs, but got Shogo Nakamura to ground into a fielder's choice.

Yamakawa would blast a solo HR into the batter's eye for insurance, making it a two run lead. Schlitter also had a base runner, but two line drives to Genda and Asamura prevented any hits. Asamura would add another insurance run with an RBI single, which Akiyama reached base through a triple.

Tatsushi Masuda gave up a two out hit to Paredes, but that was it and the Lions would sweep the Marines for the second time this year.

Lions 6, Marines 3

Game notes:

-Mejia would start this game on the bench once again, taking a pinch hit appearance in the 8th inning.

-The Lions are now 9-3-1 against the Marines in 2017.

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It was a successful week, no doubt. At the same time, this is also the Chiba Lotte Marines, who are going through a historically bad season. They're on pace for the worst season in franchise history. Fife's back was against the wall with this game, had there been more struggles or runs on the board, patience with the team could have worn thin. Instead, there's still a reason for optimism as he did just enough to win.

There's still plenty of concerns with this pitching staff, but it's good to know the bats were alive in this month of July. Last year, we suffered a run of 10-31 after a backbreaking loss. This time, the drought only lasted a week and the sweep of the Fighters proved to be a remedy. Right now, it's great to be in A-class, but there is still plenty of baseball to be played and nothing is guaranteed.

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