The Yakult Swallows, the lone Central League team with a better record against the Pacific League than against the other five CL teams since 2005, won their second interleague title on Saturday with a game to spare. They became the first team since the 2011 Hawks to have a winning record against all six interleague opponents, although that doesn’t SoftBank’s achievement in the 24-game home-and-away format then in use.
Elsewhere, Chunichi rookie Kosuke Ukai set a CL record, while Roki Sasaki and Yoshinobu Yamamoto both pitched, we had a two-run squeeze, and a runner score from first on a stolen base, so there was a lot going on.
Swallows 7, Hawks 4: At Fukukuoka Dome, Munetaka Murakami, whose hometown of Kumamoto is 1-1/2 hours from the ballpark by train, batted like he owned the joint, homering for the second straight day with his 18th and 19th of the year, and drove in six runs as the Swallows overcame a three-run deficit to clinch their second interleague title and their first in four years.
Hawks rookie Tomohisa Ozeki pitched out of a one-out bases-loaded jam in the first and Isami Nomura gave him a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the inning off Andrew Suarez with his fifth home run after Ukyo Shuto’s leadoff single.
The Swallows got a second-inning run on Soma Uchiyama’s leadoff walk and two-out singles by Yasutaka Shiomi, awarded after a review, and Kotaro Yamasaki. Suarez followed Nomura’s home run by retiring 11 straight.
With two out in the fourth, the Hawks loaded the bases on Taisei Makihara and Yurisbel Gracial singles, and a walk by rookie outfielder Tomoya Masaki, SoftBank’s second pick in last year’s draft. Nobuhiro Matsuda drilled a high 2-2 fastball for a two-run double before Suarez avoided further damage by striking out rookie catcher Riku Watanabe.
Murakami’s second opposite-field home run in two games made it 4-3 in the fifth after Tetsuto Yamada’s leadoff single. Suarez got two outs in the Hawks’ fifth, but left after Yuki Yangita singled off his 73rd pitch, and Yugo Umeno (3-1) picked up for him by striking out Alfredo Despaigne.
The Swallows loaded the bases in the sixth with three straight one-out singles off Yuki Tsumori (4-3), who fanned Yamada before leaving the mound. Lefty Shinya Kayama came in and missed low over the plate with a 3-2 slider that Murakami lined off the permanent wall behind the home run terrace in right for his 19th homer.
The Swallows finished last season with an identical .470 winning percentage against CL and PL teams since 2005. Through 2021, every other CL franchise had a worse record interleague than in the CL. The only PL team with a worse record against the CL, has been the Seibu Lions.
Heading into Sunday’s finale, the Swallows since 2005 are .472 in the CL and .483 against the PL.
Tigers 3, Buffaloes 2, 11 innings, : At Osaka Dome, three mistakes doomed the Buffaloes. With a 2-0 eighth-inning lead, Koji Chikamoto reached on a two-out infield singled off Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who then gave up a sinking liner to right off the bat of Teruaki Sato. Right fielder Kodai tried to catch it, then tried to short hop it, then chased after it as Sato was credited with an RBI triple.
The winning run came on an equally weird play. After Sato singled to lead off the 11th, pinch-runner Takahiro Kumagai stole second and scored when Fushimi’s throw hit off his helmet and rolled into the gap in left.
Yamamoto allowed seven hits, struck out eight and hit a batter. He was charged with one earned run – on Sato’s “triple.”
Eagles 8, Giants 1: At Miyagi Stadium, Keizo Kawashima opened the scoring against C.C. Mercedes (5-2) with a three-run homer, his first as an Eagle and the 38th of his 17-year pro career, in the second after Ginji Akaminai singled and Ryosuke Tatsumi doubled.
Hayato Sakamoto’s fourth-inning RBI single made it 3-1 against Takahisa Hayakawa (4-3) after a Naoki Yoshikawa single and a Kazuma Okamoto double. The Eagles lefty worked six innings, allowing a run on a walk and five hits while striking out five.
Rookie reliever Taiki Kikuchi got the final out for the Giants in the sixth, but allowed the first two runners to reach in Rakuten’s four-run seventh. Takuya Takuhara took over and things went from bad to worse.
Lions 2, Carp 1: At Seibu Dome, Brian O’Grady’s first-inning solo homer, his sixth, put Seibu on the board against Masato Morishita (4-4). Rookie reserve catcher Yuto Koga made it 2-0 in the second, doubling in journeyman utility infielder Shota Hiranuma.
Kaito Kozono singled to open the Carp’s third against Wataru Matsumoto, was sacrificed to second and scored on a Koki Ugusa single. Keisuke Honda (2-1) worked an 1-2/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win, and Tatsushi Masuda earned his 15th save.
BayStars 2, Marines 1, 11 innings: At Chiba Marine Stadium, Roki Sasaki made more use of his slider and curve than he has all season as he allowed one run on three hits and no walks over eight innings. His command was unimpressive, but the slider appeared to add an unexpected variable into the BayStars’ hitters calculations, while the curve cost him his only run, when Shugo Maki blasted one into the home run lagoon in right for his 16th home run, in the second.
The Fighters added on three in the fifth against reliever Shinji Tajima. Nomura and Ryota Yachi singled with one out, Yuma Imagawa doubled in one. Ryo Ishikawa got down a 1-2 squeeze, and Imagawa, going with the pitch, was able to score when Tajima didn’t pay attention to him and threw to first for the out.
Fighters starter Toshihiro Sugiura (3-5) managed his biggest early threat by striking out Dayan Viciedo to end the Dragons third with two on. He allowed four hits and a walk while striking out five over five innings, and three relievers held the Dragons to a single over the final three innings.
Dragons rookie Kosuke Ukai broke Davey Johnson’s record for consecutive strikeouts by fanning in the second and fifth innings to run his streak to nine straight plate appearances. He tied the NPB record, set by Rakuten’s Teppei Tsuchiya in 2006, but missed his chance to be a trail blazer by grounding out in his final at-bat.
NOTE: I originally misread Yachi’s name as Taniuchi. Sorry for the error.
Sunday’s starting pitchers
Fighters vs Dragons: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Eagles vs Giants: Miyagi Stadium 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
Lions vs Carp: Seibu Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
Marines vs BayStars: Chiba Marine Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Buffaloes vs Tigers: Osaka Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT
Hawks vs Swallows: Fukuoka Dome 1 pm, 12 midnight EDT
Active roster moves 6/11/2022
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 6/21