The Pacific League won the most interleague games for the 10th straight year after splitting Saturday’s six NPB games, although the Hawks’ loss to the Giants left the overall title up for grabs. The winner of Sunday’s game between the Hawks and Giants will capture the title.
If that game is tied, the Hawks will win unless the Rakuten Eagles win both of their remaining games, on Sunday against the BayStars and Monday against the Carp.
Giants 7, Hawks 2
At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri’s Shun Yamaguchi (7-2) allowed a run over seven innings to shut down SoftBank and give the Giants a chance to capture the interleague title.
Yamaguchi gave up five hits but no walks, while striking out seven and hitting a batter, making him Japan’s hit batsman leader with 10 and moving him out of a tie with the Seibu Lions’ Kona Takahashi.
Yoshihiro Maru went 3-for-4 scored twice and drove in the game’s first run with single in the Giants’ three-run third off right-handed side-armer Rei Takahashi (7-2), who was pulled for a pinch hitter after four innings.
Sunday’s climactic interleague finish will see the Hawks send Tsuyoshi Wada, the club’s former ace, against Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano.
Marines 8, Swallows 4
At Jingu Stadium, Daichi Suzuki homered twice and reached base five times to spark Lotte’s 16-hit attack in a one-sided win over Yakult.
Brandon Laird made it a 4-0 game in the third with his 21st home run, a three-run shot off Swallows lefty Masanori Ishikawa (2-4). The Swallows were the lone NPB team he had yet to hit a homer against.
Eagles 11, BayStars 9
At Yokohama Stadium, Rakuten clobbered rookie Shinichi Onuki, who didn’t retire any of the seven batters he faced in a six-run first inning but still had to come back to beat DeNA.
“I threw too many pitches in the strike zone against a lineup that was filled with a lot of aggressive hitters,” Onuki said.
Eagles starter Yuri Furukawa called Onuki and raised him a run in the home half, when the BayStars sent 12 men to the plate and took a 7-6 lead. The hosts looked to be in command after scoring two more in the fourth, but the Eagles’ bullpen allowed just two walks over the final five innings.
Ayatsugu Yamashita restored Rakuten’s early lead with a two-run homer in the seventh, and Jabari Blash, singled in his second run of the game in the eighth to give the Eagles relievers some breathing room.
Eagles closer Yuki Matsui walked the first batter he faced in the ninth but struck out the next three to nail down his Japan-leading 24th save.
Dragons 5, Fighters 1
At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi’s 34-year-old Kazuki Yoshimi won a veteran pitching matchup against Nippon Ham’s Chihiro Kaneko, allowing a run in 5-1/3 innings.
Yoshimi (1-1) struck out six, while allowing three hits, a walk and a hit batsman.
Ryosuke Hirata, who returned to the Dragons’ lineup on Thursday after missing more than a month with a calf muscle strain, had his second-straight multi-hit game and scored three runs as Chunichi’s top three hitters accounted for nine of the team’s 15 hits.
Tigers 6, Lions 2
At Koshien Stadium, lefty Minoru Iwata (2-2) allowed two runs over six innings, while Jefry Marte’s two-run, fourth-inning single overturned a 2-1 deficit in Hanshin’s win over Seibu.
Takeya Nakamura, who holds the career interleague recors for home runs and RBIs, added to those totals with two solo homers for the Lions.
Buffaloes 3, Carp 2
At Mazda Stadium, rookie Hiroshima shortstop Kaito Kozono let a ball go through his legs with no outs and a runner on first to help set up Orix’s decisive three-run inning.
Buffaloes rookie Keita Nakagawa singled in two runs in his third straight multi-hit game, while 26-year-old rookie starter Yudai Aranishi (1-0) allowed a run over 5-1/3 innings to earn the win.
Brandon Dickson converted his third straight save opportunity as he stands in for deactivated closer Hirotoshi Masui.
Hawks deactivate Imamiya
SoftBank opted to rest their star shortstop Kenta Imamiya, who was deactivated due to lingering issues with his left hamstring.
“I want him to know he’ll be back quickly,” manager Kimiyasu Kudo said. “I think it’s best to give him this time since it has not been getting any better.”
Imamiya has been rested whenever possible but has still played in 61 of the Hawks’ 69 games. He’s batting .271 with nine home runs, but nagging injuries have robbed him of much of his old speed and due to the injury the 27-year-old has frequently been pulled this season for a pinch runner.