NPB news: June 17, 2023

It’s Roki Eve Saturday as interleague winds down, with the Yomiuri Giants in position to seize the interleague championship that isn’t called a championship. Pitchers in Central League parks drove in more runs, while a couple of players had big days against former teams, and it has been a bad weekend for old men.

The PL won four of Saturday’s six games, leaving the CL with a 47-46 record, and for the first time in living memory a favorable ratio of runs scored to runs allowed, 331-313.

Sasaki, by the way, will start for Lotte with Kenta Ishida going for DeNA. Given how good Sasaki was in his last start, I’m really excited to watch this one.

Saturday’s games

Carp 6, Lions 4: At New Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, Shogo Akiyama doubled in a first-inning run against his former club to give Hiroshima the early lead against Lions ace Kona Takahashi (4-5). The right-hander started the season smoking, but who has been inconsistent of late.

Except for two doubles by Kento Watanabe and one by David MacKinnon, Masato Morishita (3-1) kept the Lions under wraps for the first five innings. The right-hadner allowed two runs over six innings while striking out six and walking one

Hiroshima made it 4-0 in the fourth on doubles by Shogo Sakakura and Kosuke Tanaka, a dropped third strike, a sacrifice and a Takyoshi Noma RBI single. Tanaka doubled in Ryoma Nishikawa and Sakakura to make it 6-0 after five before the Lions got on the board, largely through Watanabe, who went 3-for-3 with two doubles and a bases-loaded walk, and MacKinnon, who singled in a run in the seventh.

Takuya Yasaki recorded his ninth save as Seibu, last in the PL, dropped seven straight, and today is one of those rare days when Carp highlights are available!

Carp-Lions highlights

Hawks 6, Tigers 4: At Koshien Stadium, former Hanshin closer Suguru Iwazaki (2-1) was one strike away from sealing former Hawk Kotaro Otake’s seventh win, when Akira Nakamura struck midnight on that Cinderella story, fouling off two 2-2 pitches before finishing his day 1-for-5 with a two-run ninth-inning double, taking third on the throw home and scoring an insurance run.

Otake, one of the prize second-chancers from December’s active player draft after pitching just a handful of games over the last three years in Fukuoka, allowed an unearned run while striking out seven and walking one over six innings and left with a 4-1 lead.

Hawks catcher Takuya Kai led the visitors’ fightback, singling in Taisei Makihara in the fifth, walking and scoring on Isami Nomura’s seventh-inning pinch-hit homer, and walking with one out in the ninth to put the go-ahead run on. With two pinch-runners on base, Nakamura doubled to put the Hawks in front.

Tigers-Hawks highlights

Eagles 2, Giants 1: At Tokyo Dome, Yuya Ogo hit a two-run homer for the second straight day to decide a left-handed pitchers’ duel between Rakuten’s Takahisa Hayakawa (4-4) and new Yomiuri import Foster Griffin (4-3). Takumi Oshiro’s 10th homer made it 2-1 in the sixth. The Eagles had chances to ice this one, but left the bases loaded in the ninth. Yuki Matsui, whose absence after pitching three straight games during the week was noticeable Friday, in Yomiuri’s three-run game-winning ninth, struck out Oshiro, pinch-hitter Adam Walker, and former Eagle teammate Luis Okoye, another second-chancer, to end it with his 13th save.

Fighters 6, Dragons 3: At Nagoya Dome, Hiromi Ito (3-4) doubled in Nippon Ham’s first run to make it a 3-1 game and hung on until the seventh inning to pick up the win after former Dragon Ariel Martinez’s three-run sixth-inning homer, off reliever Kento Fujishima (0-1) his ninth, made it 4-3. Chunichi widened the lead against the bullpen with Chusei Mannami and Martinez in the thick of things. Three Fighters relievers retired six of the last eight hitters to close it out with Seigi Tanaka earning his 11th save.

Dragons-Fighters highlights

Buffaloes 8, Swallows 5: At Jingu Stadium, a week after he and 42-year-old Tsuyoshi Wada battled for the career interleague win record, 43-year-old Yakult lefty Masanori Ishikawa surpassed the Hawks lefty in getting hammered. Wada allowed four runs over six innings, but was outdone by Ishikawa (2-4) who surrendered three homers, allowing six runs in three innings of work, to put Yakult in a hole the Swallows couldn’t dig out of.

Solo homers by Tomoya Mori in the first and Kotaro Kurebayashi in the second gave 20-year-old rookie Shumpeita Yamashita (6-1) a 2-0 lead, and Yuma Tongu’s second homer in three games, a two-run shot, capped a four-run third.

Tetsuto Yamada hit a two-run homer and Domingo Santana doubled in Munetaka Murakami in Yakult’s three-run third, Jose Osuna homered in the sixth and Santana in the eighth, off Jacob Waguespack, before Soichiro Yamazaki worked the ninth for his third save. The loss was Yakult’s fifth straight.

Swallows-Buffaloes highlights

Deniers 10, Marines 1: At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA gave Luis Castillo (1-2) a rough time after he’d pitched six scoreless innings against Yakult in his previous start. Keita Sano put three on the board with a one-out third-inning bases-loaded double. Shugo Maki singled him home and scored on Toshiro Miyazaki’s 12th home run.

DeNA’s Shinichi Onuki (3-1) allowed a run over six innings on six hits and no walks. The win, and Yomiuri’s loss kept DeNA in the running for the interleague championship thing.

DeNA-Marines highlights

Who wants to be champion anyway

One team will win the 30 million yen interleague first prize, but that team, for some reason, is no longer called the interleague champion. Instead, it is called “the team with the highest winning percentage, which is dumb in ways only NPB can be, since if more than one team shares the best winning percentage, there are tie breaks to determine which team is the “team with the highest winning percentage” in name only.

But in a country where the Japan Series tournament quarterfinals and semifinals in each league are called “climax series,” I guess we should be thankful that they only screwed it up as badly as this.

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