Baseball / MLB

Yomiuri, Hanshin disagree over realignment

The Yomiuri Giants expressed stern opposition Friday to the initiative of archrivals Hanshin Tigers to maintain the current two-league system as a confrontation between two camps became even clearer over whether to realign Japanese professional baseball.

Giants President Makoto Doi clarified his club’s stance in a meeting with Hanshin Tigers President Katsuyoshi Nozaki, who earlier in the day won basic support from two other CL clubs in resisting moves toward a contraction to one league.

“I made clear that we disagree with their idea. We failed to reach an agreement because Mr. Nozaki said he wants to see baseball run with two leagues even if there are only four teams in the Pacific League,” Doi said.

“The Giants’ stance is built upon our belief that the whole of baseball circles may decline if the Pacific League is unable to survive,” he added, alluding to slumping business in the PL.

Tokyo-based Yomiuri is in the CL and the richest club in Japanese baseball. Its owner, Tsuneo Watanabe, is widely believed to be the main advocate of a switch to a one-league system if mergers reduce the number of PL teams to 10 and the owners of the PL clubs appear to have sided with him.

Earlier Friday, Hanshin’s Nozaki agreed in principle with Yakult Swallows President Yoshikazu Tagiku and Yokohama BayStars President Susumu Minegishi that they will seek to keep the two-league format and more time is required to consider a switch to a one-league system.

“We believe it’s difficult to switch to a one-league system next season. We should keep both leagues at least for another year and continue talks during that time,” Tagiku said.

Asked about the setup of the leagues envisioned for next season, Tagiku said he would like to see six teams in the CL and five in the PL, including the team created by the planned merger between the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Orix BlueWave.

Yokohama’s Minegishi gave a basic approbation to keep alive two-league baseball but cast doubt on the advisability of the idea if another merger takes place and the PL contracts to four teams.

“I agreed with Mr. Nozaki on some points but some other things did not look feasible,” Minegishi said. “We’ll have to think it over and over if the Tigers want to keep both leagues at any cost.”

Nozaki had earlier met with top officials of the Chunichi Dragons and Hiroshima Carp and received support from both clubs for maintaining the two-league format, which has been in place since 1950.

The five CL clubs are expected to put together a document citing their opposition to one-league baseball before Monday’s meeting of top officials of the 12 clubs.

Matsunaka’s streak

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Nobuhiko Matsunaka extended his home run streak to six games to tie a Pacific League record Friday, lifting the front-running Daiei Hawks to a 6-4 victory over the Lotte Marines.

With one out and runners at the corners in the first inning, Matsunaka hit a 1-2 fastball from Naoyuki Shimizu (6-9) over the center-field wall to become just the eighth man in the PL to homer for the sixth straight game.

The Japanese record of hitting homers in seven straight games was set by Sadaharu Oh for the 1972 Yomiuri Giants and matched by Randy Bass for the 1986 Hanshin Tigers.

Fighters 6, BlueWave 0

At Tokyo Dome, Satoru Kanemura pitched a six-hitter in his first complete-game shutout in two years and Sherman Obando hit his first homer after being reacquired by Nippon Ham in late June in a victory over Orix.

Buffaloes 10, Lions 5 (10)

At Seibu Dome, Kintetsu came back from four runs down to tie the game with a two-run ninth inning before pulling away with five runs in the top of the 10th, which featured a go-ahead single by Masahiro Abe.

CENTRAL LEAGUE

Dragons 10, Carp 2

At Nagoya Dome, catcher Yuichi Yanagisawa and infielder Kazuyoshi Tatsunami each drove in three runs to power Chunichi to a come-from-behind victory over Hiroshima.

BayStars 10, Giants 4

At Yokohama Stadium, Hitoshi Tamura, Ryoji Aikawa and Takahiro Saeki homered for a combined six runs to give bottom-place Yokohama a victory over Yomiuri.

Swallows 2, Tigers 1

At Koshien Stadium, Atsuya Furuta and Akinori Iwamura both singled in a run to help Yakult edge Hanshin and snap Tigers starter Kei Igawa’s (7-8) six-game winning streak over the Swallows.