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Hours after the U.S. baseball team qualified for the Tokyo Games, two players expected to be key members of Japan’s Olympic effort returned to the field in NPB, writes Jason Coskrey.

Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano and Hiroshima Carp outfielder Seiya Suzuki were a little rusty Sunday, but there’s time for both to round back into top form for both the pennant race and the Tokyo Games.

The NPB is now two weeks into interleague play, a period Pacific League clubs traditionally dominate. But round one went to the Central League and, of all teams, the Chunichi Dragons, who were fifth in the CL but top of the interleague standings after a week.

Yomiuri Giants pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano (right) walks off the field with catcher Seiji Kobayashi after the fourth inning against the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters at Tokyo Dome on Sunday. | KYODO
Yomiuri Giants pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano (right) walks off the field with catcher Seiji Kobayashi after the fourth inning against the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters at Tokyo Dome on Sunday. | KYODO

With just days left, the CL’s last-place team, DeNA BayStars, now finds itself neck-and-neck with the Dragons atop the standings. As of writing, the CL and PL are tied on 33 wins apiece, so it could go down to the wire.

Finally, Seibu Lions starter Kona Takahashi said before the season he would not cut his hair until he lost a game. He went 5-0 over his first 10 starts, but he’s free to schedule a visit to the barber now, after one of the worst outings of his career Friday.

His team, however, got their revenge Saturday against the Yakult Swallows — thanks to three homers in the ninth.

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