Interleague 2022 has come to an end with two (or three) irregularities: (1) No ties! (2) No rainouts! (3) The Central beat the Pacific overall (55-53) for the second straight year, a first in interleague history! Let’s look at some of the final week in detail, plus a recap with standings, awards, and stat leaders.
Tuesday: Shota Imanaga became the first (and potentially last) pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter at Sapporo Dome (which will no longer be the Nippon-Ham Fighters home from 2023 onward) as his guys gave him two runs in the ninth to ensure he only needed to go nine to achieve fame. He is also the first-ever Yokohama Baystars pitcher to throw a no-no, as the last one in franchise history was in 1970 by Hiroshi Kito of the then-Taiyo Whales). A 2nd-inning walk was all that prevented the 28-year-old lefty from a perfect game. He struck out nine Fighters on the night.
Saturday: Third baseman Munetaka Murakami of the Yakult Swallows basically earned the interleague MVP Award on this day, as he hit two home runs against the SoftBank Hawks. The first was a two-run job to bring his team within a run, and the second one was a grand slam to give them the lead and the win. The Swallows would go on to sweep the Hawks, end interleague with a 14-4 record (best-ever win percentage in interleague play), and continue to assert their dominance as defending Japan Series champs. Murakami now has three grand slams on the year (most ever for a Yakult Swallows hitter), six for his career, and 19 home runs on the year, good for first in the CL.
Sunday: Outfielder Ryosuke Tatsumi of the Rakuten Eagles hit two home runs in a single inning (bottom of the 2nd) against the Yomiuri Giants as his guys put a beating down on the visitors, 9-2. The weekend series win pulled the Eagles back firmly into first place in the Pacific, while locking the Giants in for a second-straight interleague with a losing record.
Also on this day, Teruaki Sato of the Hanshin Tigers knocked in six runs and pitcher Joe Gunkel threw his first-career complete game. The Tigers beat the Orix Buffaloes down 9-1, completing their weekend sweep and pulling their record up to an almost respectable 29-35-1 (after a 3-19-1 start to the year). They are now in fourth place.
Here are the top players of the 18-game interleague mini-season:
Batting average: Yutaro Sugimoto (Buffaloes), .391
Home runs & RBIs: Yusuke Ohyama (Tigers), 7, 21
Wins: Koyo Aoyagi (Tigers), 3
ERA: Aoyagi, Takayuki Kato (Fighters), 0.00 (second and third pitchers to ever do this)
The international baseball community cringed as the Chiba Lotte Marines announced the signing of import pitcher Roberto Osuna. The former Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros closer has a splendid track record on the diamond, but also gained notoriety (and disdain) off the field for his domestic violence issues. He has already appeared in one farm game, giving up two runs in an inning of work.
NPB announced its players of the month for May, and they are as follows:
PL Hitter: Hotaka Yamakawa (Saitama Seibu Lions)
PL Pitcher: Naoyuki Uwasawa (Fighters)
CL Hitter: Shugo Maki (Baystars)
CL Pitcher: Aaron Wilkerson (Tigers)
Final Interleague Standings:
14-4 = Swallows
12-6 = Tigers
10-8 = Marines
9-9 = Baystars, Hawks, Lions, Eagles
8-10 = Giants, Buffaloes, Fighters
7-11 = Dragons
5-13 = Carp