Interleague baseball is, for all intents and purposes, over for another year. A champion has been crowned (don’t laugh – the team gets ¥30,000,000 for “winning” the “mini-season”!) and it wasn’t who anyone expected it to be. The Orix Buffaloes finished with a 12-5-1 record, putting them 1.5 games ahead of second-place Hanshin (11-7).
It would be nice to be able to officially announce that the Central League finally finished higher than .500 against the Pacific League (for the second time ever and first time since 2009), but there are still three games to play! It will be up to the Hiroshima Carp (2-10-3 so far) to win one of their three remaining games (Lions, Lions, Fighters) to make it happen. It is currently 48-46 for the CL, with 11 ties.
In MLB-NPB news, ex-Toronto Blue Jays right-handed pitcher Shun Yamaguchi, who pitched in the minors for the San Francisco Giants at the start of this season, has reached an agreement to return to his old NPB team, the Yomiuri Giants. He will wear #99 and says the only thing he wants to do is help his team win the pennant.
Here is a quick look at the past week of action.
Tuesday: Kyodo News writer Jim Allen wrote a piece about these two games, but it bears mention (briefly) again here. Seiya Matsubara of the Yomiuri Giants hit a game-tying triple over a drawn-in Orix Buffaloes outfield to knot their game at 4. The Hanshin Tigers accomplished a similar feat as Fumihito Haraguchi hit a go-ahead RBI double in the same situation. The Tigers took down the Nippon-Ham Fighters, 3-2.
Wednesday: Nineteen-year-old lefty Hiroya Miyagi of the Buffaloes no-hit the Giants through nearly seven innings, striking out 13 Giants to lead his team to a 3-1 win.
Thursday: Brandon Laird, who finished interleague play with a .375 average, hit a game-winning home run in the bottom of the eighth to lift his Chiba Lotte Marines to a 2-1 win over the Yakult Swallows.
Friday: Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto was perfect through seven innings and fanned 15 Hiroshima Carp batters. His counterpart, rookie Haruki Ohmichi, also had a no-hitter going through five innings. The Buffaloes ultimately won this one 4-0.
Saturday: Last year’s Central League home run king Kazuma Okamoto hit two home runs as the Giants spanked the Marines 11-4.
Sunday: SoftBank Hawks DH Wladimir Balentien hit his 300th career home run, which happened to be his 1000th career NPB hit, and added a second home run later in the game, but it was not enough as he and his mates got swept by his old team, the Swallows.
The Tigers saw their 5-2 lead against the Rakuten Eagles vanish in the seventh and eighth innings, but put together a nice rally in the top of the ninth. The Tigers were a strike from running out of outs, when catcher Ryutaro Umeno battled to a ten-pitch walk, stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error, and scored on teammate Koji Chikamoto’s triple to right. The Tigers won the game 6-5 and swept the series, 3-0.
As if things could not get worse for the Carp, dynamite rookie closer Ryoji Kuribayashi saw his scoreless streak (22 games to start his career) end as T-Okada of the Buffaloes hit a walk-off single at Kyocera Dome for a 9-8 win.
Good week: Tigers (6-0), Buffaloes (5-0-1), Lions (4-1-1)
Bad week: Fighters (1-5), Carp (0-4-2), Hawks (1-3-2)