Buffalo face the opportunity to claim the Interliga crown


The Orix Buffaloes made the most of the inter-league game.

The Kansai club hobbled three games under .500 into the intermediate league and finished fifth in the Pacific League standings. This was followed by a 12-5-1 run against the Central League from May 25 to June 13. The Buffaloes won the Interleague title for the first time since 2010 and will return to the Intraleague game in third and three games over .500.

Buffaloes manager Satoshi Nakajima couldn’t explain the team’s turnaround.

“I don’t know,” he was quoted by Jiji Press as saying. “The players really did their best.”

When asked who he thinks the MVP is, Nakajima told reporters, “We all are.”

Orix did not return to first place. The Buffaloes hit the hammer last week to break away from the Chunichi Dragons and DeNA BayStars, who also had their eye on the annual midseason crown.

Orix secured the highest Interleague win share last week at 5-0-1. The key component of this run was a dominant show on the hill with three standout performances.

Taisuke Yamaoka got the ball rolling against the Yomiuri Giants on June 8, allowing two runs over seven innings while hitting 12. Hiroya Miyagi won the hill against the Giants on Wednesday, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh. He finished with seven innings of one-run ball and 13 strikeouts.

Ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto went one step further against the Hiroshima carp on Friday. Yamamoto was in top form from the start and finished eighth with a perfect game before allowing two goals. He settled on a gem that got him across with eight scoreless innings and 15 strikeouts.

While the Buffaloes reached the finish line, the Dragons stood 2-4 last week. The BayStars, whose loss to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters on Saturday sealed the title for Orix, stood 2-3-1.

Elsewhere in the NPB there was a duel between the CL-leading Hanshin Tigers and the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, the PL leaders, on the last weekend of the interleague game.

Hanshin won the first game behind a strong performance from Koyo Aoyagi, who allowed for two runs – one deserved – over eight innings in a 3-2 win on Friday. The Hanshin Bats did the job on Saturday with three players taking a 9-1 win – twice behind Masahiro Tanaka. Koji Chikamoto tripled in a tiebreak in run ninth on Sunday to help the Tigers complete the sweep with a 6-5 win.

Hanshin looked just as strong as Orix, his Kansai brothers, in 6-0 last week. Hanshin finished second in the interleague ranking.

The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, the NPB’s most successful interleague team with eight titles, had an unusually bad run this year. The team, which is missing some players due to injuries and duties of the Cuban national team, was only 5-9-4 this year and finished in 10th place, the worst result.

SoftBank was 1-3-2 in their six games last week. One of the few bright spots was Vladimir Balentien, who scored a home run on Sunday in his second at-bat against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, his former team.

This explosion gave Balentien his 1,000th hit and his 300th career home run in Japan. He had another homer to work on his next milestone in his next at-bat.

Bragging rights

The Central League won the overall interleague match that season 48-46-11 against the PL. The CL finished with the most victories for the first time since 2009 and only for the second time since the introduction of the Interliga game in 2005.

Record holder

Seibu Lions rescuer Kaima Taira entered the record books on Sunday with a parade in the 4-3 win over the Dragons.

Taira allowed a single against Dayan Viciedo before hitting three straight-outs to end his 32nd straight goalless appearance since opening day, a new NPB record.

“I’m delighted to have set a new Japanese record,” Taira was quoted as saying by Daily Sports. “Since it would have been a draw if I had allowed a run, I knew that I had to set a zero and was determined not to allow any runs.”

Taira’s record goes for games from the start of the season. The overall score for goalless missions in a row is 38 and was set in 2006 by former Tigers rescuer Kyuji Fujikawa.

Completion of the set

BayStars bat Tyler Austin played the Seibu Lions on Wednesday night and went deep against the Fighters again on Friday night.

Those explosions helped Austin end the interleague game with a home run against all six PL clubs. The American racket also has homers against the other five CL teams this year.

All good things end

Dayan Viciedo of the Dragons started a 16-game hitting streak last week and extended it with two hits in his first three games. Viciedo increased his streak to 20 with a 1v3 night against the Lions on Friday before failing on Saturday. Vicideo scores a total of .312 in 54 games.

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