Sunday, August 6, 2017

2017 Seibu Lions Weekly Digest: Streak ends at 13, Yamakawa sparks offense

The Saitama Seibu Lions had another strong week, going 5-1 against the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. They currently hold a 14 game lead against the Orix Buffaloes and are four games behind the Eagles for second place. Here is how we got there:


The first game against Rakuten would have Ken Togame up against Wataru Karashima. An error from Takeya "Okawari-kun" put Togame in an early jam for the third inning, but a strikeout and lineup gave him a houdini.

After a double from Shogo Akiyama, Sosuke Genda drew first blood in the third inning with an RBI triple on an ball that could've been caught by Ryo Hijirisawa. Genda scored immediately as Hideto Asamura hit a sacrifice fly. Shuta Tonosaki added another run in the bottom of the 4th with a single to make it 3-0.

The best chance came in the 6th inning, where the bases were loaded with no outs for the Lions. A bunt attempt by Takumi Kuriyama was a disaster for Rakuten as Karashima tried throwing to 3B, but Asamura was safe at the bag. Shu Sugahara would walk in a run with Tonosaki at the plate for one score.

Masatoshi Okada hit a comebacker which looked like an inning-ending double play, but Sugahara throw the ball off target, forcing Motohiro Shima off the bag and Okawari-kun scoring. Yuji Kaneko doubled down the LF line to plate two more runs and the rout was on. Akiyama added a sacrifice fly to pad the deficit.

Togame would pitch seven shutout innings with three strikeouts and two walks, scattering three hits. Two important double plays would prevent any runs up to that point. Shogo Noda had a clean 8th inning while Keisuke Honda took the 9th. After walking a batter, he would strikeout two others and the Lions secured their first 10 game win streak since the 1990s.

Lions 8, Eagles 0

Game notes:

-Mejia would once again sit out with Hotaka Yamakawa at 1B.

-This was the 8th shutout win of the season for the Lions.


The second matchup had Yosuke Okamoto facing Takahiro Norimoto. Okamoto had an early jam, but only gave up a sacrifice fly when loading the bases twice in the first inning.

There would be a response by the Lions in the third inning, where it all came with two outs. Genda had a timely RBI single to send Tonosaki home. After Asamura was hit by a pitch, Okawari-kun was up with the bases loaded. Two unconventional runs would score with a wild pitch by Norimoto as Genda scored from second base to give the Lions a 3-1 lead.

Okamoto would get a shutdown inning with two strikeouts, something he usually lacks. Hotaka Yamakawa would hit a solo HR in the bottom of the 4th, but the Eagles would get that run back from a solo HR by Shima in the 5th. Okamoto's day would end with five innings and only two runs given up with four strikeouts and a walk.

After a scoreless inning from Shota Takekuma, Norimoto would stay in the 6th inning and give up a base hit to Takumi Kuriyama. Yamakawa would haunt him again with a two-run HR into the batter's eye for a 6-2 lead. Brian Schlitter had a four pitch 7th inning with no runs allowed.

Kazuhisa Makita had a rough 8th inning, giving up solo HRs to Zelous Wheeler and Hiroaki Shimauchi, but nothing more. The bottom of the 8th would also have a home run. Once again, it was Yamakawa pulling off the hat trick of HRs with the third coming off Yuya Kubo.

Tatsushi Masuda allowed a leadoff double, but nothing more to secure an 11th straight win. It was their first 11 game win streak since 1994.

Lions 7, Eagles 4

Game notes:

-Daichi Mizuguchi would be a pinch runner for Kuriyama in the 6th inning.

-Besides Yamakawa's modasho with 3 HRs, Tonosaki would also have a modasho, bring his average up to .243 after the game.

-Yosuke Okamoto currently holds a five game win streak when starting a game.


Going for another sweep, Yusei Kikuchi took the mound against Tomohiro Anraku. Shogo Akiyama pulled off another Rickey Henderson style home run to begin the bottom of the first for the opening run. Sosuke Genda stole a base and was eventually on third after walking. He scored on a passed ball by Toru Hosokawa to double the lead. Yamakawa added a third run with a single to make it 3-0.

Kikuchi retired the first 14 batters faced, but allowed his first base hit to Hijirisawa in the top of the 5th inning. He gave up a home run to Hosokawa in the top of the 6th as his only run allowed. Anraku was left in for the 6th inning and a two out rally turned into a run. Yamakawa hit a double and Tonosaki followed it up with a deep gapper as the outfield played in.

Yasunori Kikuchi would pitch in the bottom of the 7th and it was nothing but a disaster for Rakuten. With two runners in scoring position and no outs, Genda would hit a deep triple to RF to plate two more runs and put the game away for good. Yamakawa added two more runs with a single to add the icing on the cake, securing a modasho for himself once again.

This day belonged to Yusei Kikuchi, where he went eight innings with 12 strikeouts and only one walk while scattering three hits. Shogo Noda took the final inning and completed the sweep.

Lions 8, Eagles 1

Game notes:

-Genda tied the franchise rookie record for triples with seven, matching Nishitetsu Lion Futoshi Nakanishi. He also reached 100 hits on the season, becoming the first Lions rookie since Kazuhiro Kiyohara (1986) to accomplish this milestone.

-Kikuchi threw a 158 km/H (98 mph) pitch to Zelous Wheeler in the 5th inning, tying the record for fastest pitch by a left handed pitcher.

-Mejia sat out once again, with Yamakawa taking over at 1B and Kuriyama at DH.

-On the final play of the game, Ginjiro Sumitani had a bat strike him on the neck for the last strike. It's unclear


The first place Softbank Hawks came to town with Hayato Terahara to face Ryoma Nogami. Okawari-kun drew first blood with a two out double as Asamura scored from first base.

Nogami was cruising through three innings with several strikeouts, but ran into trouble in the top of the 4th. Nobuhiro Matsuda tied the game with an RBI double then Alfredo Despaigne plated the go-ahead run with a single, but the damage was limited for the rest of the frame.

In what was a scheduled bullpen game for the Hawks, Kimiyasu Kudo went with Livan Moinelo in the 5th inning. Asamura tied the game with an RBI single after Akiyama reached base early. With two outs and two on, Yamakawa hit a deep double off the wall to plate two more and give the Lions the lead again.

The Hawks threatened again in the top of the 6th inning and Nogami would be pulled with two outs. He would finish the day with nine strikeouts and three earned runs as well as no walks. Katsunori Hirai walked a batter and left, then Shota Takekuma gave up a hit to Akira Nakamura for an inherited runner to score. However, the damage was limited as pinch hitter Yusuke Masago would strikeout.

In the top of the 7th, the tying run was on base with Tomoki Takata up, but a strikeout on full count ended the threat into the Lucky 7 break. With Ken Okamoto taking over, Okawari-kun took one deep into the Lions Oendan for a solo HR for his 24th of the season.

Yamakawa hit another double to create another chance in the inning. With two outs, it would be Masatoshi Okada ripping the timely single for a 6-3 lead. The bases were loaded for Genda and he would slap the first pitch for a single, adding two more runs as Kaneko scored from second for an 8-3 lead.

Keisuke Honda allowed a run while taking the final two innings in mop up duty, but he finished the game and the Lions won their 13th in a row. It was the first true 13 game winning streak in franchise history since 1958.

Lions 8, Hawks 4

Game notes:

-Okawari-kun had a modasho which included the Home run and timely hit.

-By having two hits, Yamakawa's batting average spiked up to .278.

-This was Nogami's first win in three weeks.


The second game would have Kodai Senga facing Shinsaburo Tawata. It would be a scoreless game until the top of the 4th, where Akira Nakamura hit a timely with the bases loaded. Seiji Uebayashi added another run with a base hit while Kenta Imamiya reached first on an error by Asamura, scoring two more runs.

Tawata would leave the game with the bases loaded in the top of the 5th. Shogo Noda walked in a run, making it 5-0. The Lions were finally on the board with a solo HR by Akiyama in the bottom of the 6th. However, the Hawks responded in the top of hte 7th when pinch hitter Kenta Kawashima hit a two-run HR off Noda for a 7-1 lead.

Senga was dominant with seven strong innings allowing only the HR to Akiyama with seven strikeouts and two walks. Asamura got those runs back in the 8th inning with a two run HR. With Dennis Sarfate taking the 9th, but not starting the frame, the bases were loaded. Asamura and Yamakawa would tie the game in improbable fashion with two different two-RBI singles, making it 7-7.

With the top of the 10th, Masuda took the mound, but it would be Nobuhiro Matsuda to lay the dagger with a double in the RF corner. Moinelo closed the game out and the win streak was over.

Hawks 8, Lions 7 (10 innings)

Game notes:

-Daichi Mizuguchi would pinch hit late in the game for Okada.

-Sumitani came in as a defensive sub when Okada was pinch hit, he appears to be fine after taking a hit earlier in the week.

-Mejia was taken off the roster for Shotaro Tashiro.  He will be ineligible to return until August 15.


In the final game as a rubber match, Brian Wolfe took on nemesis Shota Takeda. After Takeda hit Tonosaki, Sumitani initially showed bunt, but slapped a single past the infield to get runners on the corners with no outs. Akiyama started the scoring with a sacrifice fly.

Wolfe pitched efficiently to start, but ran into some trouble in the 4th inning with two outs before getting Despaigne to ground into a fielder's choice. Uebayashi would drop a bloop single to tie the game in the 5th, but no further damage took place.

With runners on the corners, Asamura would head slide into first base in the bottom of the 5th and beat out a double play to give the Lions a lead again. Yamakawa would then hit a three-run HR, which ended Takeda's night before the 5th inning was over. It was his 8th HR of the season.

The 5-1 lead proved to be enough as the rest of this game was on cruise control. Wolfe would go seven innings with four strikeouts, three walks and only three hits given up. Schlitter pitched a clean 8th inning and Tonosaki would hit a solo HR in the bottom of the frame for his 9th of the year.

Shota Takekuma took the 9th inning and finished the game as the Lions took the series.

Lions 6, Hawks 1

Game ntoes:

-Asamura was hurt when head sliding to first base. He was taken out of the game as Tonosaki moved to 2B and Fumikazu Kimura took RF to close it out.

-Naoto Watanabe started at DH and went 1-4.

-Frank Garces and Ichiro Tamura were called up to the ichi-gun. Keisuke Honda and Shogo Noda were taken off to make room.


No complaints this week. Sure it could've been another 6-0 week with a one run loss, but Senga was the one who dominated and the Lions really had no business winning that one. Any winning week is solid, but going 5-1? We'll take that and they even beat my expectations with taking a series against the Hawks.

We can really start to focus on the Eagles, possibly catching them with the team only being four games behind. They're also injured, which is leading to a little bit of losing for them this week. The offense is something everyone knew about, but the pitching has continued to be amazing given the personnel.

This road trip to Osaka and Chiba continue the grind. Amazingly, it's the last time the Lions will be in Zozotown Marine field for 2017, this season has flown by quickly.


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