‘155km’ ML U-turner beats Japan’s top ace again…’Natural enemies’ unbeaten in four starts

August 17, 2023 | by

Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix Buffaloes), considered the best pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball, has pitched the least amount of innings this season. Major League Baseball’s Kohei Aihara (SoftBank Hawks) has emerged as Yamamoto’s “nemesis.

In six starts against SoftBank this season, Yamamoto is 3-3 with a 2.33 ERA. All three of his losses have come against Aihara. Aihara has faced Yamamoto four times this year and is undefeated in three of those starts. It’s a big wall for Yamamoto.

SoftBank and the Orix play at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka, Japan on April 16. Yamamoto and Aihara started side by side.

Yamamoto threw 110 pitches in five innings, allowing seven hits, five walks, three strikeouts, and three runs (unearned). He struggled.

Down 1-0 in the third inning, he gave up an infield single to the leadoff batter and then a fielder’s choice put runners on first and second. Back-to-back strikeouts loaded the bases with two outs, but a walk loaded the bases. He gave up a single up the middle to Tatsuru Yanagimachi, scoring two runs. It was 1-2.

In the fourth inning, he gave up a double to Yuki Yanagita with runners on first and second. On the replay, a throwing error by the first baseman allowed the runner from first to score and the batter to advance to third. A pitcher’s interference at second and third prevented further damage.

In the bottom of the fifth, he was hit by a pitch with two outs, but struck out swinging to end the inning. He was removed in the sixth inning after issuing three walks and reaching 110 pitches. The five innings were his fewest this season. The unearned run lowered his ERA to 1.50. Improved to 11-5, leading the team in wins and ERA.

Kohei Aihara earned the win with eight innings (113 pitches), eight hits, one walk, four strikeouts, and two runs, using a fastball that topped out at 155 mph.

Arihara was hit by two singles in the first inning, putting runners on second and third, but a swinging strikeout got him out of trouble. In the second, a walk and a single to right put runners on first and third with no outs. On a grounder to the third baseman, the runner from third was strangled trying to get home. The runner was thrown out on a rundown play, putting runners on first and third.

The first baseman then hit a grounder to first base, but a safe and fielder’s choice put runners on first and third. A pitcher’s interference and a fielder’s choice ended the inning without further damage. Down 2-1 in the third, he retired the next 10 batters in a row through the sixth to preserve the lead. With runners on first and second in the seventh, two infield hits prevented a run from scoring. 스포츠토토

Leading 3-1 with one out in the eighth, he gave up a double to left to Keita Nakagawa and a double to center to Tomoya Mori to cut the deficit to 3-2. He then gave up a single to Kotaro Kurebayashi to left that appeared to tie the game, but left fielder Gensuke Kondo made a precise throw home to tag out the runner at second base. The one-run lead held. Osuna came on to close out the ninth and preserved the one-run win.

“I think (Yamamoto) is the best pitcher I’ve ever seen, and he’s throwing great pitches even from the sidelines,” Aihara said after the game.

Aihara spent two seasons with the Texas Rangers in Major League Baseball in 2021 and 2022, going 3-7 with a 7.57 ERA in 15 games. He returned to SoftBank this year and is 5-3 with a 2.49 ERA in 10 games.


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