Interleague Day 18: CL on brink of success
The regularly scheduled interleague games ended on Sunday, with the leagues splitting the six games, leaving the Central League with a 42-40 lead with 11 ties, while trailing in runs 461-431. There are three games remaining, all in Hiroshima, so this could go either way, although the PL will most likely lead in runs for the 15th time in 16 seasons.
On the final day — not counting the three make-ups — the Hanshin Tigers completed a three-game sweep of the Rakuten Eagles, while the Yakult Swallows, long the CL’s doormats, finished a three-game sweep of the four-time defending Japan Series champion SoftBank Hawks IN Fukuoka. Surprise, surprise, surprise.
Tigers 6, Eagles 5
At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Hanshin’s Joe Gunkel returned to the mound for the first time in over a month and was lights out. He retired nine straight with ease, gave up two infield singles and a double in the fourth, and then retired nine straight for two runs over six innings.
The Tigers battled against Rakuten rookie lefty Takahisa Hayakawa, who, like his teammates couldn’t buy an easy third out. Takumu Nakano opened the scoring in the third. He singled with two outs, stole his CL-best 13th base, and scored on a Jefry Marte single. Ryutaro Umeno then triggered three run-scoring innings with two-out walks. Trailing 2-1 in the fifth, Koji Chikamoto hit his fifth homer to plate Umeno and put Hanshin in front.
Umeno walked and Chikamoto singled in the seventh and scored on a Nakano single.
The Eagles came behind on two runs against Kosuke Baba in the seventh, and Daichi Suzuki led off the eighth with his fourth homer against Shintaro Fujinami (3-1), who earned the win after Chikamoto tripled home Umeno off Yuki Matsui (0-2) in the ninth. Robert Suarez notched his Japan-best 21st save.
Swallows 6, Hawks 4
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, as one of the announcers said, “There are times when Tsuyoshi Wada (4-4) has it and times when he doesn’t.” This was one of those latter times. Tetsuto Yamada singled in a run in the first for Yakult, singled and scored on Munetaka Murakami’s Japan-best 20th home run in the third and hit his 17th home run, with a man on, in the fifth to chase Wada.
Yakult lefty Keiji Takahashi (1-0), who has gone from a windup worthy of the ministry of silly walks, to something approaching non-descript, gave up two runs in 6-1/3 innings. The Hawks’ first hit came on Wladimir Balentien’s 1,000th career hit and 300th home run against his former teammate. Balentien homered off new pitcher Taichi Ishiyama in the seventh to make it a 6-3 game.
And since it was officially “former Swallows hitting home runs off Yakult Day” in Fukuoka, Keizo Kawashima went deep for the second time this season in the eighth. Yuki Yanagita came up with a man on and one out in the eighth with a chance to tie it up, but hit into a double play.
Scott McGough worked the ninth for his 11th save.
Buffaloes 9, Carp 8
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Takahiro Okada singled in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth as Orix blew a late four-run lead. With the game tied 8-8 after Kaito Kozono singled in his third run of the game in the ninth, Hiroshima rookie Ryoji Kuribayashi (0-1) walked the bases loaded before giving up Okada’s two-out single, allowing his first run in his 23rd career game.
Marines 5, Giants 4
At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Lotte’s Brandon Laird went 2-for-2 with two sac flies and a solo homer, his 15th, while Leonys Martin bunted against the shift for a base hit, walked twice, scored twice and made an excellent catch on a sinking line drive in the ninth to secure the win and closer Naoya Masuda’s 17th save.
Katsuya Kakunaka doubled in the first of four runs against Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano (2-4), who was yanked after 2-2/3 innings. The Giants scored four runs in the seventh, all charged to Kazuya Ojima (3-2). After allowing two hits and three walks through six scoreless innings, the lefty allowed two no-out singles, and with two outs, walked a batter, hit a batter to put the Giants on the board. Reliever Fumiya Ono allowed two of the three on base to score.
BayStars 4, Fighters 1
At Sapporo Dome, DeNA ace Shota Imanaga (1-1) earned his first win since having his left shoulder cleaned out last season, allowing a run on minor league home run leader Chusei Mannami’s first career homer at the top level.
Manami’s homer tied it 1-1 in the second, but RBI singles in the top of the third by Hikaru Ito and Neftali Soto put the visitors up for good against Drew VerHagen (1-5) who gave up four runs, three earned, in five innings.
Imanga allowed four hits, a walk and hit a batter while striking out six. Leadoff man Masayuki Kuwahara singled and scored three times. Edwin Escobar worked the eighth, setting a speed record for a lefty in Japan with a 163 kph fastball against his old team, while Kazuki Mishima saved his 11th game.
Lions 4, Dragons 3
At MetLife Dome, Seibu rookie Junichiro Kishi hit a first-inning home run and singled and scored a tie-breaking run in the eighth on a Wu Nien-ting single after the Chunichi Dragons overcame a three-run deficit to tie it in the seventh on Naomichi Donoue’s two-run double.
Zach Neal allowed a run over six innings for Seibu, while Chunichi’s Koji Fukutani (3-6) allowed three through seven but went out for the eighth and took the loss, allowing four runs over 7-2/3 innings, leaving two on for lefty Hiroto Fuku to face Wu.
Reed Garrett (1-2) worked the eighth to get the win, and Kaima Taira earned his sixth save, while setting a record by opening a season with 32 straight scoreless pitching appearances.
Carp vs Lions: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT
Active roster moves 6/13/2021
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 6/23