/ |

Sledge: PL franchises expect to top CL rivals

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Since the interleague format was introduced in Japan in 2005, the Pacific League has gotten the better of the Central League.

The PL is 520-487-25 against the CL in interleague play, with every title going to a PL team (Chiba Lotte Marines, 2005-06, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, ’07, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, ’08-09, Orix Buffaloes 2010).

Among the many theories for this has been that the PL has better pitchers among other things.

Yokohama BayStars outfielder Terrmel Sledge has been on both sides of the fence, beginning his career in Japan with the Fighters before signing with the BayStars in 2010.

“When I was in the other league, I heard it was already set that then (interleague play) was when you start winning games, when you play the Central League,” Sledge said Friday before the BayStars’ 2-0 win against the Marines. “When I came over here, it was the opposite. It was, we were facing better pitchers over there, so gambatte, fight through it.

“I think that, right there, psychologically is the biggest difference.”

As is the case in the major leagues, the rules for interleague games are dictated by the league the home team is representing. Designated hitters are used in PL parks, and pitchers bat when CL teams are at home.

PL parks factor more toward pitchers, which is a boost for a league that is deeper in that area.

“In the Pacific League, you’re going to see a lot more hard stuff,” Sledge said. “They’re not going to really pitch around foreign players with runners in scoring position as much.

“Over here, they’re so much more conscious of giving up the home run. I think there, pitchers are more comfortable, like, ‘you still have to get it to get a home run,’ because the parks are bigger.”

Sledge however, says neither side has a real advantage when it comes to interleague play, saying each team deals with similar things.

So maybe upstart PL teams just revel in getting the best of the older, more established CL hierarchy.

“Besides the psychological aspect, I don’t think there’s a big disadvantage (for the CL),” Sledge said. “I just think in that league, they expect to beat a lot of the Central League teams. In this league, for some reason they expect the (PL) pitchers to have the upper hand. That’s the vibe I got playing in both leagues.”

Fan favorites: While the Pa. League is winning the interleague games on the field, the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants are running away with the battle of the ticket gates.

The CL duo has topped the 400,000 mark in total attendance during the interleague schedule each year since the format began.

Between them, the lowest attandance figure came in 2009, when the Tigers drew 485,837 fans for 12 games.

No doubts: Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles hurler Masahiro Tanaka said he would win Rakuten’s first game in Sendai this year and did just that.

Before Friday’s game, he promised teammate Satoshi Nagai, who’s wife was in labor, the winning ball.

He was right again, throwing a complete game and striking out 15 in a win.