The SoftBank Hawks moved to within one win of the team’s eighth interleague championship with a come-from-behind win over the Yomiuri Giants, who dropped a game back in the chase with the two clubs playing their final two games at Tokyo Dome on Saturday and Sunday.
With the two leagues splitting Friday’s four games, the PL on Saturday can wrap up the overall interleague win lead for the 14th time in 15 seasons. The PL now leads 51-39, and can own this year’s bragging rights with three more wins.
Of course, interleague is just part of the journey, and it doesn’t really matter which league wins it. Without interleague to brag about, the PL would have to fall back on the Japan Series, which it has only won 11 times over the past 14 seasons.
Hawks 8, Giants 3
At Tokyo Dome, Shuhei Fukuda hit a grand slam off a former teammate and Kodai Senga reached double digits in strikeouts for the first time since April 27.
Senga (7-2) allowed two runs seven hits and four walks over six innings after striking his way out of a no-out, bases-loaded pinch in the second.
Yoshihiro Maru, who drove in all four of the Giants’ runs in Friday’s 4-2 win over Orix had three hits off Senga and scored both runs, one on an RBI single by Giants elder statesman Shinnosuke Abe and the other on his 13th home run.
Giants starter Cristopher Mercedes (5-3) cruised through five innings before giving up Seiji Uebayashi’s leadoff homer in the sixth and back-to-back two-out singles to Cubans Alfredo Despaigne and Yurisbel Gracial.
Rysuke Miyaguni walked the bases loaded and Carp catcher Takuya Kai slid headfirst to beat out an RBI bunt single to tie the game 2-2, and former Hawks side-armer Masahiko Morifuku came in and threw four sliders to the left-handed-hitting Fukuda, who slammed a fat 2-1 pitch way back into the right field stands.
Marines 12, Swallows 3
At Jingu Stadium, both clubs had a first-inning leadoff homer for the 14th time in NPB history as Lotte’s Takashi Ogino went deep off David Buchanan (1-5) and Yakult’s Tetsuto Yamada did the same to Kota Futaki in the bottom of the inning.
Ogino singled in a run in the fourth and doubled in another in the Marines’ seven-run fifth.
Futaki (5-5) twice allowed the Swallows to tie it, in the first on Yamada’s homer and in the second on a pair of singles and a wild pitch. The right-hander allowed three runs on four hits, a walk and a hit batsman, while striking out eight.
Yamada has now homered off of all 11 opposing NPB teams this season, a feat he also accomplished in 2016.
BayStars 3, Eagles 2
At Yokohama Stadium, Yamato Maeda hit his second sayonara double in three days, lifting DeNA over Rakuten.
BayStars’ starter Shota Imanaga struck out 12 over seven innings, but blew his 2-0 lead in the sixth inning on Hiroaki Shimauchi’s leadoff homer, a one-out walk to Jabari Blash and a two-out Zelous Wheeler double.
Eagles lefty Wataru Karashima allowed only two hits through five innings but both cleared the wall in Yokohama. Kazuki Kamizato opened the home half of the first with his sixth home run, while former Mariner Jose Lopez hit shots down the right-field line on consecutive pitches. The First sliced foul, while the second stayed fair for his 13th home run.
Edwin Escobar (3-2) pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the win after Toshiro Miyazaki battled Rakuten’s Alan Busenitz (1-1) for a one-out walk to set the table for Maeda.
Dragons 4, Fighters 2
At Nagoya Dome, Shuhei Takahashi continued his torrid hitting with a three-run, first-inning homer off Kohei Arihara (8-3), who had not allowed a homer in his first three interleague starts, all wins for the right-hander.
Yuya Yanagi (8-2) allowed a run over seven innings on six hits and a walk, while striking out six. He’s now won five straight starts. Lefty Joely Rodriguez and right-hander Raidel Martinez, each struck out two batters in a scoreless inning to close it out for the Dragons.
Tigers 5, Lions 3
At Koshien Stadium, Deunte Heath inherited a no-out, two-on predicament in the seventh inning and struck out three but not before he’d loaded the bases with a walk and hit Ryutaro Umeno to force in the go-ahead run.
Kento Itohara, who singled to open the seventh and scored the go-ahead run, singled in an insurance run in the ninth, while Rafael Dolis worked a 1-2-3 ninth to record his 14th save.
Buffaloes 5, Carp 4
At Mazda Stadium, with both team’s closers sitting on the farm team due to lack of effectiveness, Orix won a battle of understudies against Hiroshima.
With Geronimo Franzua (5-3) on the mound, rookie Kaito Kozono’s error allowed the tying run to reach with one out in the ninth, and Masataka Yoshida followed with his 12th homer of the season.
Carp lefty Kyle Regnault survived a game of Russian roulette in the eighth, when he loaded the bases with one out, and another first-year import, Tyler Eppler (3-2) worked a scoreless eighth for the Buffaloes.
Brandon Dickson earned his second save in two opportunities to wrap it up for Orix.
Matsuzaka goes 6 in 3rd rehab game
Daisuke Matsuzaka inched closer toward pitching for the Chunichi Dragons’ top team after his throwing 108 pitches in a six-inning rehab start on Friday at Nagoya Stadium. Here’s the Sankei Sports story.
The 38-year-old, who suffered right shoulder inflammation in February when a fan gave him a high five, was pitching for the third time this year.
Fans lined up early to see Matsuzaka, who allowed two runs on seven hits with two strikeouts with his fastball maxing out 139 KPH (86.4 MPH). The right-hander was NPB’s comeback player of the year in 2018, when he went 6-4 after pitching in just one game the previous three seasons when he was with the SoftBank Hawks.
Giants on track to acquire D’Backs’ De La Rosa
A year ago, the Giants appeared solid in the bullpen with Arquimedes Caminero as their closer and bulldog Scott Mathieson as their principle set up guy. But Mathieson had season-ending knee surgery in August and Caminero struggled. This year, Mathieson was slowed by a bacterial infection and only recently returned to the first team, when he suffered a minor adductor muscle strain.
Ryan Cook was expected to close, but the right-hander has felt discomfort in his surgically repaired right elbow. He returned to action this past week.
The Giants have not won a Central League pennant since 2014 — equaling the franchise record for consecutive seasons without a pennant.