GERMAN BACKS TENACIOUS KIKUCHI AS LIONS DOWN ORIX BUFFALOES
Esteban German broke a scoreless deadlock with a two-run single in the sixth inning, Yusei Kikuchi threw seven gritty innings and the Seibu Lions beat the Orix Buffaloes 2-0 to resume league play with a victory on Friday night in Saitama Prefecture.
The Lions improved to 4-3 in head-to-heads this season against their Pacific League rivals, PL ERA leader Kikuchi improved to 8-2 on the season and 3-0 against Orix in his career. The lefty scattered five hits — all singles — struck out seven and walked three but lacked his usual sharp stuff.”I was just pitching on emotion,” said Kikuchi, who threw a one-hit 10-0 shutout against the Chunichi Dragons in his previous start on June 12. “I felt like I needed to pitch at least as well as I did in my previous start.
But today it was about winning, no matter how we went about it, even if it wasn’t a pretty win.”Trouble found Kikuchi in the top of the second, when he yielded consecutive singles to Aarom Baldiris and Shinji Takahashi. The runners advanced to second and third on a sacrifice bunt, but the lefty zeroed in for his next three pitches against Mitsutaka Goto, who stared at three straight fastballs for the second out.Hikaru Ito then flied out to end the threat.
Orix starter Alessandro Maestri, making his first career start at Seibu Dome, faced his own conundrum in the bottom of the third, loading the bases with one out on a pair of singles and a hit batsman before he got Lions captain Takumi Kuriyama to hit into an inning-ending double play.In the fourth with runners on first and second, Goto was caught taking a big lead off first for the third out and showed his disagreement with the call by erupting in an angry tirade directed at first base umpire Junichi Sato.
There was a short intermission ahead of the sixth, and it appeared to disrupt Kikuchi’s rhythm. He walked the first two batters on eight straight pitches, but he regained his poise and retired the next three batters, leaving runners stranded at the corners.”When I walked those two batters leading off the sixth, I told myself I can’t give any runs up here. I kept trying to throw inside on right-handed batters and it started working in my favor.”Maestri, whose start was his first since Seibu hammered him on April 18, kept pace with Kikuchi, digging himself out of jams, until the Lions finally got to the right-hander in the sixth.Ryo Hayashizaki and Kuriyama opened with back-to-back singles.
After Hideto Asamura’s bunt moved the runners to second and third, German hit a line drive up the middle for a 2-0 lead. Maestri (1-2) allowed two runs and eight hits in 5-1/3 innings.”It was a good ballgame. We tried to put pressure,” said German. “The last game we had we scored a lot of runs, so I think we’re in good shape right now. I just tried to be patient and I had guys in scoring position. I found a fastball and put a good swing,” he said.Seibu’s Chris Carter returned to the lineup with his team from last season. The Lions, who released him last autumn, signed Carter this week from the Ishikawa Million Stars of the BC Shinetsu independent league. He was activated before the game, while Seibu put veteran Jose Ortiz on waivers. Carter, who hit .294 in 59 games last season, went 0-for-2 with a walk and hit into a double play in the designated hitter’s spot.