Opener, closer, middleman, it’s all the same to the Seibu Lions’ lineup.
When the Lions’ bats are roaring, it doesn’t matter who is on the mound or when they get there, they’re going to get hit. Hard.
Shogo Akiyama and Tomoya Mori keyed the five-run third inning that put the Lions in control, and their teammates piled on during a seven-run fifth as the defending Pacific League champs routed the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 16-3 in front of a crowd of 37,058 on Saturday at Tokyo Dome.
Mori had a huge day, going 4-for-5 with a three-run homer, an RBI single and a pair of doubles.
“Having a good batting average and driving in runs is really important,” Mori said after the game.
Mori is on a five-game hitting streak, a run that includes a two-hit night on Tuesday and a three-hit performance on Thursday.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said.
The Lions, NPB’s top offense last year, were overpowering at the plate as they won for the fourth time in five games to improve to 4-4 after a slow start to the year.
Seibu finished with 19 hits, while its 16 runs were the most by an NPB club this season. Seven of the team’s nine starters drove in at least one run.
“Obviously when everybody is hitting like that, everyone else wants to do something too,” said Ernesto Mejia, who didn’t start, but contributed with a three-run home run.
Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama used lefty Takayuki Kato as a short starter and took him out of the game after two scoreless innings.
Which, as it turns out, allowed Kato to avoid the pain the Lions were about to inflict.
Akiyama drove in the first two runs of the game with a bases-loaded double in the third and Mori finished clearing the bases with his three-run homer.
“Akiyama driving in the first two runs was big for us, and then we got the three-run (homer),” Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji said.
The floodgates opened in the fifth, with six different Lions combining to drive in seven runs. Yuji Kaneko came up twice during the frame, walking to start the inning and driving in a run when he came up again.
“Everyone was able to connect and we just rode the wave,” Kaneko said.
Mejia had three RBIs, while Akiyama, Shuta Tonosaki, who had a solo homer, and Fumikazu Kimura each finished with two.
Mori had four RBIs and finished a triple away from hitting for the cycle. He sent a hard-hit ball into the outfield in the eighth, but settled for a double.
“I wasn’t really thinking about anything special like that,” he said of the at-bat.
Starter Tatsuya Imai benefited from the run support in picking up his first win of the year. Imai (1-1) allowed three runs — one earned — on five hits over seven innings. He struck out five and walked five.
It was rough afternoon for the Nippon Ham pitchers who followed Kato to the mound.
Chihiro Kaneko allowed five runs in two innings, Takahiro Nishimura gave up seven in two-thirds of an inning and Yuki Yoshida was charged with four runs in 3⅓ frames. Mizuki Hori kept the Lions off the board in the ninth.
Kaneko (0-1) was charged with the loss.
The game was already out of hand by the time the Fighters scored their three runs in the fifth.
Haruki Nishikawa hit a one-out solo homer to get Nippon Ham on the board and Wang Po-jung drove in two runs with a two-out double.
The clubs split the first two games of their current three-game set. They’ll return to Tokyo Dome for the finale on Sunday.
Kohei Arihara (1-0) will get the start for the Fighters, with the Lions handing the ball to Kona Takahashi (0-1) for the matchup.
Marines pound Hawks
The Chiba Lotte Marines handed the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks a second straight loss, bombarding them with four home runs in a 7-3 triumph on Saturday in the Pacific League.
Buffaloes 3, Eagles 1
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Orix topped Tohoku Rakuten for its second straight win.
Joey Meneses drove in all three Buffaloes’ runs.
BayStars 9, Giants 2
At Yokohama Stadium, Toshihiko Kuramoto’s pinch-hit RBI single capped a four-run fourth inning as Yokohama ended Yomiuri’s six-game winning streak
The Giants sent former closer Hirokazu Sawamura to the mound for his first start in five years. The right-hander held the BayStars to a run through three innings, but surrendered a 2-1 lead in the fourth, when he issued two walks and allowed a game-tying double to former Giant Jose Lopez.
Lopez doubled twice, singled and scored twice, a day after he broke Lee Seung-yeop’s Central League record of 1,225 consecutive errorless chances at first base. Lopez has won three straight Golden Gloves and four overall.
After Sawamura (0-1) was yanked, a walk and a groundout produced the go-ahead run. Kuramoto, batting for starting pitcher Masaya Kyoyama, singled in two runs to make it 5-2.
“Right now my role is off the bench. Since they went to me, I’m happy I could get a big hit,” Kuramoto said.
Yuki Kuniyoshi led the BayStars bullpen by striking out four of the next seven batters. The 196-cm right-hander hit 161 kph with his fastball, becoming the sixth Japanese pitcher to throw a pitch clocked at 160 kph or faster.
“From the reaction of the crowd, I was wondering what was going on,” said Kuniyoshi (1-0), who earned his first win since 2015.
“I have numerical goals, but not on the speed gun. My focus is on getting good results throughout the season.”
Lefty Edwin Escobar, right-hander Spencer Patton and closer Yasuaki Yamasaki finished up for the hosts.
Carp 10, Tigers 3
At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Seiya Suzuki homered twice and drove in five runs as Hiroshima whipped Hanshin.
Swallows 4, Dragons 3 (12)
At Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Norichika Aoki homered to lift Tokyo Yakult to a sayonara victory over Chunichi.