NPB news: May 28, 2024

The 20th season of Interleague play started Tuesday, with the Pacific League holding a 1,253-1,122-71 record for a .526 winning percentage. The current format is for each team to play six three-game series, one against each of the other league’s teams, playing home and away in alternate years. I have some interleague notes below, as well as some news regarding Roki Sasaki, and a new Buffalo.

Roki Sasaki was deactivated Tuesday, due to his inability to recover sufficiently from upper-body fatigue following Friday’s start against the SoftBank Hawks, when he overcame a stressful 35-pitch first inning to go seven in a 3-1 win. Sasaki is currently 4-2 with a 2.18 ERA in eight games.

The Orix Buffaloes have signed 31-year-old right-hander Luis Perdomo, making him the second former Marine on the roster, after Luis Castillo. Perdomo posted 41 holds and went 1-3 in 53 games last year with a 2.13 ERA. He struck out 41 batters in 50-2/3 innings while walking 15 and allowing one home run.

Tuesday’s games:

Carp 2, Buffaloes 1: At New Hiroshima Citizens Stadium, Anderson Espinoza (4-3) allowed two runs on two walks and three hits over seven innings but came out on the short end when both of his first-inning walks scored on a Shota Suekane single, while Hiroki Tokoda (6-2), stranded seven runners over seven innings to earn the win after Sotaro Shimauchi retired the heart of the order 1-2-3 in the eighth and Ryoji Kuribayashi did the same in the ninth for his 15th save and Hiroshima’s fourth straight win. The Buffaloes lost their third straight.

Ryoma Nishikawa returned to Hiroshima and Yuma Tongu returned to Orix’s lineup for the first time in 13 games. Singles by Tomoya Mori and former Carp Nishikawa set up Tongu’s sacrifice fly that halved Hiroshima’s lead.

Marines 5, Swallows 3, 5 innings, rain: At Jingu “Tokyo’s sacrifice to corporate greed and political malfeasance” Stadium, Katsuya Kakunaka and Toshiya Sato powered Lotte’s offense and Marines lefty Kazuya Ojima (4-3) had little trouble with the Swallows other than from Hideki Nagaoka who had three hits including a homer and an RBI double. Lotte extended its unbeaten streak to 11 games, including two ties. The nine straight winning decisions are the most for the Marines in 18 years.

Nagaoka homered in the first, Sato walked and scored the tying run in the second, and Kakunaka and Sato homered back-to-back in a three-run third off Kojiro Yoshimura (4-3). Domingo Santana also homered for the Swallows.

BayStars 6, Eagles 1, 6 innings, rain: At Yokohama Stadium, Toshiro Miyazaki hit a two-run first-inning double and his RBI groundout completed a two-run third inning off Cody Ponce (3-4) after Rakuten got a run in the third against Anthony Kay. Sixth-inning RBI singles by Yudai Yamamoto and Naomichi Nishiura made it 6-1 before rain delayed the game.

Tyler Austin returned to the starting lineup after a run-in with the photographers box over the weekend, and scored twice for DeNA, while Anthony Kay allowed a run on three hits and four walks over 6-2/3 innings.

Hawks 2, Giants 0: At Tokyo Ugly Dome, Yomiuri held a pregame ceremony for their former star, Hawks chairman Sadaharu Oh, with all the Giants’ players wearing Oh’s No. 1 on their sleeves. The Hawks then did their boss proud and snapped a three-game losing streak.

Ryoya Kurihara opened the scoring with a fifth-inning leadoff homer against Iori Yamasaki (4-1). SoftBank’s Tatsuro Yanagimachi made his season debut with a seventh-inning pinch-hit single to set up the Hawks’ second run.

Kohei Arihara (5-3) allowed three singles and three walks over six innings, and three relievers completed the three-hit shutout.

Dragons 3, Lions 0: At Nagoya Dome, Hiroto Takahashi (2-0) worked 7-1/3 innings, and two relievers completed the four-hit shutout as Chunichi spoiled Lions GM Hisanobu Watanabe’s return to the Seibu dugout as interim manager. The Dragons’ win was their third straight and their third straight shutout.

Chunichi opened the scoring in a two-run third starting with a Yuki Okabayashi double, and a wild throw from Seibu starter Tatsuya Imai (3-2) when he tried to nail the runner at second when Dragons pitcher Hiroto Takahashi bunted. Mikiya Tanaka squeezed the pitcher home. Alex Dickerson hit his second home run in three games to make it 3-0 in the fourth.

Tigers vs Fighters: At Koshien Stadium, rained out…

Interleague a la carte

Interleague play began in 2005, more than a decade after the Pacific League owners proposed it, and Central League owners rejected it because it would cost them a couple of lucrative home games against the Yomiuri Giants, with the TV revenue and ticket sales that brought.

Interleague play came in along with a rash of new ideas and a new team, the Rakuten Eagles, after the old order was crushed in the 2004 labor struggle, when players and fans united to deny the owners’ efforts to contract NPB and eliminate the two-league system that had been in place since 1950.

Although the PL has regularly been better at interleague play, in the past three seasons, the CL has won one more game despite being outscored 1,229 runs to 1,175.

The team with the worst interleague record in history, the DeNA BayStars, had the best record last year. The best team by far, has been the SoftBank Hawks with a .619 IL winning percentage. The Chunichi Dragons are the only CL team with a better record the last 19 years in interleague than against league opponents, while the Seibu Lions are the only PL team that has played worse against the CL.

There have been three interleague no-hit shutouts, all three by CL pitchers: Yakult’s Rick Guttormson against Rakuten in 2005, and Yomiuri’s Toshiya Sugiuchi, also against Rakuten, in 2012, and last year by DeNA’s Shota Imanaga against the Nippon Ham Fighters.

The Hawks have a .619 winning percentage against the CL with 1,462 wins. The Yomiuri Giants are the best CL team, with a .522 winning percentage that is fourth best overall.

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