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John E. Gibson

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CL out to halt PL's interleague run

by John E. Gibson (May 19, 2011)

The numbers say it, the players don't deny it and last season's results displayed it perfectly: The Pacific League stands head and shoulders above the Central League in interleague play.

The Orix Buffaloes, who finished fifth in the PL last season, had the best interleague record last year, making it six consecutive seasons the Pacific has topped the standings against the CL.

In fact, last season all six PL teams finished ahead of the CL squads, with the Yomiuri Giants' 12-12 mark the best among Central teams.

It's no surprise to the Yokohama BayStars' Terrmel Sledge, who spent two seasons with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters before coming to the CL. He believes it's all in the arms.

"When I was in the other league, I used to enjoy it more, playing the Central League in interleague because the starting pitchers were stronger in the Pacific League, in my opinion," Sledge said Wednesday at Seibu Dome before the BayStars took on the Saitama Seibu Lions.

"In the Pacific League, they throw a little bit harder, a little bit more fastballs, they throw inside more. It seems like in the Central League they flip a lot more offspeed stuff up there," said Sledge, who went into the night tied for first in the CL in RBIs with 21.

"There are lot more aces over there. It makes it a little tougher."

The PL is 508-477-23 all-time in interleague play and has had more combined victories every year except 2009, when the CL went 70-67-7.

Tuesday's opening night of interleague, though, saw the Central teams win four of six games with one tie.

Chunichi cleanup man Kazuhiro Wada, a 15th-year veteran who started with Seibu in 1997 before joining the Dragons in 2008 as a free agent, said it's all about finding a rhythm.

"Well, the facts are the facts and they're winning so there's nothing we can say about that," he said.

"What matters is that you don't get into a rut because of the two-game-series format. If you get on a roll, that can create some momentum and teams tend to keep winning. But if you stumble, you can continue to struggle for a while."

With the surprising start by the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and the equally unexpected success of the Hiroshima Carp, one-two, respectively, in the CL standings, this figures to spice up the run for the best record.

"It's a little bit different this year," Sledge said. "The Swallows and the Carp are tough. I think the Swallows are the team to beat," he said about both interleague play and the CL title race.

The PL isn't collectively out to take down the CL. Interleague is just part of the path to a league title and the PL can't be expected to dominate every season.

"It's different every year. It depends on who's doing what when you catch them," said Tomoya Satozaki of the reigning Japan Series-champion Chiba Lotte Marines.

"Some guys might be going well, some might not be. We just have to concentrate on what we do," said Satozaki, who helped the Marines finish with the best record against the CL the first two years of interleague play.

He said the one-month stretch each year requires preparation, but the Marines tend to focus on their strengths.

"I don't really know much about the other teams. We don't play them enough to know them all that well." Satozaki said.


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