The Yomiuri Giants made history on Saturday, becoming the first Central League club to win the interleague championship.
The Giants, who pounded the Rakuten Eagles 10-1 at Kleenex Stadium, ended the Pacific League's seven-year stranglehold on the interleague title.
"We in the Central League don't really have good memories from interleague," said Giants manager Tatsunori Hara, whose club wrapped up the title with one game to play. "This is a big thing for the Giants and for the Central League."
"We entered interleague playing .500 ball. We showed great balance, with each player doing his job and fighting out each game."
The Giants, who earned 50 million yen for finishing first, have gone 17-6 with no ties against the PL and have moved to within winning-percentage points of the CL-leading Chunichi Dragons.
D.J. Houlton (5-5) started for Yomiuri and allowed just one run on four hits and a walk through seven innings. The right-hander struck out seven.
Shinnosuke Abe's one-out, bases-loaded single put the Giants in front against Takahiro Shiomi (5-7). A groundout moved the visiting runners to second and third, and they both scored on a wild pitch. A four-run second, highlighted by Hayato Sakamoto's two-run homer, turned the game into a rout.
With the game safely in hand, Giants veteran Michihiro Ogasawara returned to action from a muscle strain in his left thigh for the first time since May 1. The 38-year-old entered as a pinch-hitter and remained in the game at first base. He went 0-for-2.
The interleague format was initiated in the wake of the chaotic 2004 season that saw the merger of two PL teams, Japan's first players strike and the creation of the Eagles, Nippon Professional Baseball's first new franchise since 1954. The PL has won more games overall in every season except 2009.
Fighters 3, Swallows 2
At Sapporo Dome, Nippon Ham's Micah Hoffpauir delivered a walkoff sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning to end a game that had been deadlocked since the second inning.
Swallows southpaw Kyohei Muranaka overcame a rough opening frame but held on to allow two runs in seven innings. Yakult tied the game in the top of the second on back-to-back RBI singles by Ryosuke Morioka and Lastings Milledge. Fighters starter Brian Wolfe, however, lasted six innings without allowing another run.
Dragons 4, Buffaloes 2, 11 innings
At Kyocera Dome, Masahiro Araki delivered a tiebreaking two-run triple in the 11th inning, lifting Chunichi over Orix. Tony Blanco hit a game-tying leadoff homer, tying him for the Central-League lead with 14, in the eighth.
Araki drove in runners from first and second with one out with his triple off southpaw Shinya Nakayama (1-4). Reliever Jorge Sosa (1-0) got his first win in Japan and Hitoki Iwase picked up his 21st save of the season and the 314th of his career.
Lions 6, Carp 5
At Seibu Dome, Tatsuyuki Uemoto and pinch-hitter Hiroshi Hirao had a pair of two-run singles, and Kazuhisa Makita (5-5) got the win, despite allowing four runs in 7-2/3 innings as Seibu held off Hiroshima.
Seibu grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second on Esteban German's RBI infield single and a Ginjiro Sumitani squeeze off Bryan Bullington (3-7). Uemoto and Hirao made it 6-0 with their singles in the sixth. Hiroshima saw its undefeated streak end at five games.
BayStars 1, Hawks 0
At Yahoo Dome, DeNA lefty Brandon Mann (1-4) combined with four relievers in a five-hit shutout of Softbank, and Alex Ramirez went 2-for-4 with an RBI double for the sole run in the first inning.
Mann (1-4) allowed two hits -- both singles -- walked two and struck out three in six innings. Shun Yamaguchi had a 1-2-3 ninth for his ninth save. Tadashi Settsu (6-3) took the loss.
Tigers 8, Marines 5
AT QVC Marine Field, Craig Brazell went 3-for-5 and drove in four runs and Hanshin staved off Pacific-League leader Lotte and a four-RBI game by Katsuya Kakunaka in the team's season-high 16-hit attack.
Brazell contributed with a three-run double in the first inning, and Tomoaki Kanemoto, Takahiro Arai and Brazell had consecutive RBI hits as Hanshin piled on four runs in the second. Each of the Tigers' starting nine had at least one hit.