Baseball: Keiji Takahashi fades out Hawks, Swallows end Interleague in style

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Keiji Takahashi of the Yakult Swallows throws a pitch during an interleague baseball game against the SoftBank Hawks at PayPay Dome in Fukuoka, southwest Japan on June 12, 2022. (kyodo)

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) — Keiji Takahashi scored 10 in his first shutout of the regular season as the Yakult Swallows, who top the Central League, defeated the SoftBank Hawks 3-0 in their final interleague game on Sunday of the Pacific League won.

A day after Yakult clinched the interleague title, 25-year-old Takahashi (5-1) took on 41-year-old southpaw Tsuyoshi Wada, who put in an excellent performance.

Wada was finished after 96 pitches. He hit eight and allowed a hit and two walks over six scoreless innings. However, Takahashi denied him a chance to tie Swallow’s left winger Masanori Ishikawa’s record of 27 career interleague wins.

Yakult didn’t get on the scoreboard until Jose Osuna opened the round of 16 against substitute Katsuki Matayoshi (1-3), who gave up rookie Hideki Nagaoka’s RBI brace.

Yasutaka Shiomi followed by celebrating his 29th birthday with a double home run, his 10th this season.

“At first I couldn’t throw my breaking pitches for strikes, but when those started clicking in the middle innings, I started thinking about a full game. The best part was being able to challenge hitters with a lot of first-pitch fastballs,” Takahashi said.

“Shiomi hit that home run on his birthday so I wanted to make sure it happened in a game we won.”

Takahashi’s previous shutout came in Game 2 of last year’s Japan Series, which was won by the Swallows over the Orix Buffaloes in six games.

The Swallows’ win extended their CL lead to seven games over the Yomiuri Giants, who lost 9-2 to the PL leaders Rakuten Eagles.

Elsewhere, Brian O’Grady hit two homers and Dietrich Enns (4-3) pitched seven innings for the PL’s Seibu Lions in their 11-0 win over the Hiroshima Carp.

The Nippon Ham Fighters and Lotte Marines were the other winners of the final day of the PL, the Fighters beat the Chunichi Dragons 2-0 and the Marines won 5-4 over the DeNA BayStars.

The Hanshin Tigers, whose strong interleague performance lifted them out of the CL basement, beat the Orix Buffaloes 9-1.

The CL finished with the best interleague record, 55-53 for the second straight season and the third since interleague play began in 2005.

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