One-third into the interleague schedule, no team has broken free from the pack (see standings below), but one team definitely won three games in spectacular fashion.
The defending Japan Series champion Yakult Swallows started their schedule against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, and found themselves duking it out at the end of their first two games. On Tuesday, they knotted at one in the 11th inning, and all signs pointed to this one ending in a tie. Enter reigning CL MVP Munetaka Murakami. He crushed a Koki Kitayama pitch to left-center, ending the game in jubilation for the home fans. Around 24 hours later, the Swallows came back from 3-0 in the bottom of the 7th, 4-3 in the bottom of the 8th, and 6-4 in the bottom of the 9th. This time, Kotaro Yamasaki smacked a ball over the wall in right off of Kitayama, ending the game 7-6 for the home team.
If that were not enough, leadoff man Yasutaka Shiomi (who batted 2nd on this night) hit home runs in each of his first three at-bats on Friday night against the Rakuten Golden Eagles, helping his team to an easy 8-1 win. The Swallows currently lead the Central by two games over the second-place Giants.
That game aside, there were precious few runs scored on Friday night, particularly by losing teams. In fact, three teams got blanked and two more scored just one run in a losing cause. Two winners only put up a single run as well. The victims on this night were the Hiroshima Carp (0-7 to the SoftBank Hawks), the Saitama Seibu Lions (0-1 to the Yokohama DeNA Baystars), and the Chiba Lotte Marines (0-1 to the Hanshin Tigers). The latter brought ace Roki Sasaki to the mound and he threw six shutout innings, but Tigers’ star sophomore Teruaki Sato hit a ninth-inning home run against closer Naoya Masuda to earn his team the win.
Finally, the Central League has struggled to keep up with the Pacific in these showdowns since their inception in 2007. In fact, the CL has only had an aggregate winning record against the PL twice: 2009 and 2021. This season’s schedule started off fairly even until Sunday, when the PL flexed their muscles and ran the board, winning all six contests. It was the first time in six years that they did so, and the fifth time ever. The CL has only returned the favor three times. Showing up in a dramatic manner was 38-year-old Takumi Kuriyama, whose home run in the bottom of the ninth proved to be the game-winner against the Baystars as the Lions walked off the Baystars 3-2 in Saitama.
This week features games at CL parks, so we shall have pitchers hitting! Next week is entirely on PL premises, so the DH shall rule. Stay tuned for all those results in the weeks to come.
4-2 = Swallows, Lions, Hawks
3-3 = Tigers, Dragons, Giants, Baytstars, Fighters, Eagles, Marines
2-4 = Buffaloes
1-5 = Carp