Interleague title up for grabs as Giants, Buffaloes clash


Two teams in the hunt for the interleague championship will clash on Tuesday, when the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants host the Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes.

The Giants, the only CL team to finish first over the first nine years of interleague play, enter the two-game series at Tokyo Dome with a one-game lead over Orix. The Giants could clinch their second title as early as Wednesday with a sweep of the Buffaloes and a loss by the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks on Tuesday.

“We have set ourselves a short-term goal of obtaining this objective,” Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said. “I want us to play with that in mind.”

The two starting pitchers Hara will send against the Buffaloes, lefty Toshiya Sugiuchi and right-hander Kan Otake, worked out on Monday at the team’s minor league facility in Kawasaki.

“I want to throw a game that will win it for us. I want to battle hard,” said Sugiuchi.

If this year’s interleague play is any indicator, Sugiuchi will need to battle. Although the CL trails the PL 59-55 in this season’s series, the PL clubs have outscored the CL teams by nearly a hundred runs. Despite owning the best record, the Giants have outscored their interleague opponents 76-62. The Buffaloes, meanwhile, have scored twice as many runs as they have allowed, 96-48.

The Buffaloes, who won the 2010 interleague crown, have not beat the Giants in two years and have not won at Tokyo Dome since May 23, 2011, but will look to end that trend when manager Hiroshi Moriwaki sends two of the PL’s best at Yomiuri. Yuki Nishi, who leads the PL in wins and ERA will start on Tuesday, while ace Chihiro Kaneko, whose 1.70 ERA is second only to Nishi’s, is set to go on Wednesday.

The pair worked out in Kobe on Monday ahead of the crunch games in Tokyo.

“Everybody knows these are big games,” Nishi said. “I want to make each and every pitch count and be able to stand behind my work.”

Kaneko, who threw nine hitless innings when he faced the Giants in a 1-0 12-inning loss on May 31, will be making his third straight start on five days’ rest.

“One can’t keep depending on the pitchers coming in after you,” Kaneko said. “I want to pitch deep into the game.”