Despite Japan Series loss, Yoshinobu Yamamoto shows Buffaloes’ potential

Yoshinobu Yamamoto gave everything in Game 6 of the Japan Series.

The 23-year-old Orix Buffaloes ace had the game in his hands for nine innings on Saturday night at Hotto Motto Field Kobe, where the temperature dropped to 7 degrees Celsius at one point.

Yamamoto threw 141 shots – the most he’s ever thrown – and allowed just one run while striking out 11, the first double-digit strikeout performance in a Japan Series game since. 2018 and the 25th overall.

It was a brave effort that was terribly short – a perfect way to describe a Japanese streak that might have gone another way for the Buffaloes if the ball had bounced differently.

One of the last rebounds was the cruelest, a passed ball that put Yasutaka Shiomi of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows into position to score with two strikeouts in Game 6 in Game 6. Shiomi then scored the kick-out. ‘sending a 2-1. decisive victory over an RBI single from Shingo Kawabata to end the thrilling season of Orix.

“I’m really disappointed,” said Yamamoto, who ignored the decision in Game 6. “However, I was able to give it my all and I was able to pitch with the same feeling as during the season.”

The future looks bright for Yamamoto, and Orix fans are hopeful the rest of this year’s surprising Pacific League champions are as well.

Yamamoto’s Game 6 will be remembered as one of the most moving defeat performances of the Japan Series. While the Swallows had activity in their enclosure to ensure they had an arm ready for each phase of the game, there was no life in the Buffaloes enclosure as Yamamoto plunged deep into the night. . It was a sign of the confidence the team, the organization and the fans had in the young right-hander.

He managed to keep the game scoreless after Tetsuto Yamada reached third place with a fourth strikeout using his forkball to take out Domingo Santana and Yuhei Nakamura.

When the Swallows put two runners in after errors to start the sixth in a 1-1 game, Yamamoto got Santana to strike in a double play and took out Nakamura – with Yamada again in third – to end the threat.

After the seventh, Yamamoto told coaches he was good for two more frames, then took the side out in the eighth and took the Swallows out in sequence in the ninth.

Yamamoto gave his team a great chance to win, the Buffaloes just failed to get the hits they needed – which has been the case in every one of their losses throughout the hotly contested series. .

“We couldn’t support him in the race even though he threw so much,” said Orix manager Satoshi Nakajima.

Yamamoto has allowed two runs and struck out 20 catches in 15 innings in two starts in the Japanese series and there’s no reason to think he won’t be building on the momentum of a strong overall performance in 2021.

Buffaloes outfielder Yutaro Sugimoto celebrates after a two-run homer in the Japan Series third game at Tokyo Dome on November 23. | KYODO

As for the rest of the Buffaloes, their next step is to make sure this year’s run from worst to first in the Pacific League wasn’t just a case of catching lightning in a bottle.

“It’s not just about gaining experience,” said Nakajima. “It’s also about that experience that points the players in the right direction in their future baseball lives.”

The buffaloes learned a hard lesson from the swallows in a series that could have flipped both ways.

Still, the club have the makings of a strong pitching staff. Behind Yamamoto they have 13-game winner and Pacific League Rookie of the Year contender Hiroya Miyagi, Daiki Tajima, who has gained valuable experience this playoffs, and Taisuke Yamaoka, who should be fully recovered. elbow surgery at the start of the season.

Third baseman Yuma Mune took a big step forward in 2021 and it showed during the Japanese series as he finished with eight hits, a series high, hitting safely in the six games.

Mune has had some good times on the pitch as well, but the three mistakes he made show he still has growth to do on this front. The same goes for shortstop Kotaro Kurebayashi, who has the ability to be a promising defensive player and has collected seven hits.

If these two take another step forward, Masataka Yoshida remains as good as he is now and late-flowering PL home run champion Yutaro Sugimoto turns out to be more than a one-season wonder, the Buffaloes could most likely compete for the pennant again in the near future. The team could also welcome a new generation of foreign players amid reports that Adam Jones and others will not return in 2022.

Of course, all eyes will be on Yamamoto for the foreseeable future. He won the Sawamura Award as the best NPB pitcher this year and at 23 he could still have his best years ahead of him. He’s improved in each of the past three seasons, culminating in an 18-5 record with a 1.39 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 193 innings in 2021.

He gave fans one last bloom on Saturday in the Japanese series, and it’s possible there may be more to come from the Buffaloes and their talented pitcher in the future.

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