Welcome to interleague 2022, where Day 1 looked like a summary of last year’s competition, when the Central League won the most games but was outscored. On Tuesday, CL clubs went 4-2, while PL clubs scored 21 and allowed 17.
But baseball isn’t about who is better or plays better, it’s about who wins, because the championship matters.
We also had a milestone of sorts for Tatsunori Hara, and some heroics that really got Tsuyoshi Shinjo excited.
While PL TV is once more streaming the Giants’ and Tigers’ home interleague games, the highlights are not part of the package…
Shall we get to it?
Giants 4, Buffaloes 2: At Tokyo Dome, Orix setup man Jesse Biddle (3-2) issued back-to-back no-out walks in the eighth, and Adam Walker singled in a run to break the 2-2 tie. Kazuma Okamoto, who opened the scoring with a two-run fourth-inning homer, his 13th, off Taisuke Yamaoka, brought home an insurance run with a ground ball.
The Buffaloes, last year’s interleague winners, tied it in the seventh against Giants lefty C.C. Mercedes. Keita Nakagawa, whose been on an absolute tear, doubled to open the inning with his third hit of the game. Joe McCarthy was hit for the second time, and Yutaro Sugimoto singled to load the bases. Mercedes got two outs before Kodai Sano’s pinch-hit single tied it.
Lefty Yuhei Takahashi (1-0) entered the game with the go-ahead runner on third in the top of the eighth and struck out McCarthy to end the inning and earn the win. Taisei Ota got his 17th in the ninth.
The victory was the 1,181st of Giants manager Tatsunori Hara’s career, tying him 10th all time with fellow Hall of Famer Senichi Hoshino.
BayStars 4, Hawks 3: At Yokohama Stadium, Katsuki Matayoshi (1-2) allowed a run in the eighth on a Neftali Soto single, Tatsuhiro Shibata double and a two-out passed ball to take the loss in his first action against CL hitters since he left the Dragons for the Hawks as a free agent over the winter.
Keita Sano, another guy named Keita who has been on a tear, had three hits against Hawks starter Shuta Ishikawa including a third-inning solo homer, his third. Hiroki Minei’s RBI single tied it in the fifth, and some ultra-small ball put the hosts in front in the sixth on a Masayuki Kuwahara leadoff single, two sacrifices and a Yamato Maeda pinch-hit single.
Taisei Makihara’s pinch-hit single tied it 3-3 in the seventh, but the middle of the Hawks order came up empty against Edwin Escobar (1-0) in the eighth, and Yasuaki Yamasaki finished up in the ninth for his seventh save.
Tigers 1, Eagles 0: At Koshien Stadium, Yuki Nishi (3-3) pitched into and out of trouble for six-plus innings, and four relievers finished the job as Hanshin got past Masahiro Tanaka (4-3), who allowed a run on six hits and a walk over six innings.
Takumu Nakano, who tripled to open the fourth but was stranded there, opened the sixth with an infield single, stole second with a 1-2 count on Yusuke Oyama, and scored on Oyama’s single. Suguru Iwazaki got his seventh save.
Marines 7, Carp 0: At Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, Ayumu Ishikawa (4-2) went to the mound after Akito Takabe manufactured a first-inning run, and allowed three hits and a walk while striking out six over seven innings.
Takabe, who scored three times, singled to open the game against Hiroki Tokoda (4-3), stole second, took third on a groundout and scored on a Leonys Martin sac fly. Tokoda walked a pair of hitters in the fifth and Hisanori Yasuda scored on teenage catcher Ko Matsukawa’s two-out double.
Takabe doubled and scored in the sixth on a groundout off the bat of Martin. He and Matsukawa walked in the eighth and scored on Shogo Nakamura’s second home run.
Lions 8, Dragons 5: At Nagoya Dome, Seibu’s top two hitters, Shuta Tonosaki and Natsuo Takizawa set the table, scoring a pair of runs each. No. 3 hitter Brian O’Grady walked and scored in the three-run first, plated Tonosaki with a second-inning sac fly, and doubled in two in the fourth.
Wu Nien-ting drove in two first-inning runs with a two-out single off Shinnosuke Ogasawara (2-3), and Aito Takeda doubled in another. With Seibu leading 6-3 in the seventh and Hotaka Yamakawa on base, Wu blasted his second homer of the year.
Dayan Viciedo, who walked and scored in the second, doubled in a run in the eighth and scored to make it a three-run game, allowing Tatsushi Masuda to come in and collect his 11th save. Dragons rookie Kosuke Ukai hit a solo homer, his fourth.
Ukai, O’Grady and Wu were all activated earlier in the day, as was Lions catcher and 2019 MVP Tomoya Mori.
Swallows 3, Fighters 1, 11 innings: At Jingu Stadium, Yakult came back to tie a pitchers’ duel in the eighth inning on rookie catcher Soma Uchiyama’s pinch-hit home run, the first of his career, and lefty Kazuto Taguchi kept it tied after inheriting a no-out bases-loaded pickle in the 10th before Munetaka Murakami won it with a two-run 11th-inning homer, his 14th, off rookie closer Koki Kitayama (3-2).
Yakult’s Cy Sneed allowed a run on four hits and a walk over five innings, making an early exit after running up his pitch count early with the help of veteran umpire Tetsuo Yamaji, who may have been missing his contacts, since his strike zone was extremely unpredictable.
Fighters lefty Takayuki Kato didn’t help Sneed either. The Fighters’ pitcher, batting eighth, forced Sneed to throw 10 pitches to him in the second, before singling off the first pitch he saw from Sneed in the fifth. One-out singles by Kazunari Ishii and Kato and a 10-pitch walk by Daiki Asama loaded the bases in the fifth to set up a Go Matsumoto sac fly.
Kato worked seven scoreless innings thanks to some outstanding defense behind him, while A.J. Cole stranded a pair of runners in the sixth for Yakult. Taichi Ishiyama worked two innings, and had to pitch out of trouble to keep it close in the eighth. Mizuki Hori surrendered Uchiyama’s homer in the eighth.
Scott McGough worked a 1-2-3 ninth thanks to a superb play at second from Tetsuto Yamada, and the Swallows bullpen appeared to be rolling, but Ryuta Konno allowed back-to-back singles in the 10th before walking Yuki James Nomura to load them up with no outs.
Taguchi, acquired just prior to the 2021 season after he fell out of favor down the road with the Giants, was probably never better. His fastball velocity has been ticking upward this year, and he hit 151 kph on one pitch probably the fastest of his career. He struck out two and got the second out on one of two outstanding plays made in extra innings by rookie shortstop Hideki Nagaoka.
Fighters manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo came out of the dugout to join in the applause raining down on Taguchi from the crowd.
Noboru Shimizu (2-1) worked a 1-2-3 11th for the Swallows, with Nagoka making a good catch to end the inning. Kitayama got two outs to start the bottom of the 11th before walking Yamada and serving up a monster mash to Murakami, who stood at home plate and watched it fly well past the center-field wall to the left of the batters’ eye.
I wonder if Shinjo being so visibly excited about his opponents’ big efforts annoys the old boys club, but it’s one of the things I really like about him. He treats baseball as if it’s supposed to be fun, and not some kind of critical human endeavor upon which lives are at stake.
“Man that was a great game,” he said afterward. “Uchiyama hit his first pro home run and it ent out to center, that’s not something you see often. And at the end that strength-against-strength battle between Murakami and Kitayama, to hit it that far, that was something else.”
Wednesday’s starting pitchers
Giants vs Buffaloes: Tokyo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Swallows vs Fighters: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
BayStars vs Hawks: Yokohama Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Dragons vs Lions: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Tigers vs Eagles: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Carp vs Marines: Hiroshima Citizen’s Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 5/24/2022