Can Major League Baseball’s Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix Buffaloes) complete the feat of winning four pitching titles for the third straight year? The biggest variable is strikeouts. While he succeeded in reclaiming the top spot, the celebration was short-lived.토토사이트

Yamamoto took the mound against the Nippon Professional Baseball 2023 Nippon Ham Fighters at Escon Field in Kitahiroshima, Hokkaido, Japan, on Sunday (Feb. 2) and pitched seven innings, throwing 108 pitches, giving up four hits, three walks and striking out nine to earn his 13th win of the season.

Yamamoto had disappeared from the scene after throwing seven shutout innings against the Seibu Lions on March 23. A week later, there was still no word on Yamamoto’s status. The reason: he was suffering from a fever. While his performance wasn’t as perfect as his recent struggles, Yamamoto, who took the mound for the first time in 10 days after a long break, lived up to the title of “ace”.

Yamamoto started the game well, retiring the Nihon Ham bats in order in the first inning, but a fielding error and a hit-by-pitch in the second put runners on first and third. This is where Yamamoto’s crisis management skills shined. Yamamoto got Taiyo Kamikawabata to ground out to the pitcher and then struck out Ryohei Hosokawa to end the inning.

In the second inning, the threats continued, but so did the scoreless inning. Yamamoto had runners on second and third in the third inning, runners on second and third in the fourth inning, and runners on first and second with no outs in the fifth inning. But in each of these situations, Yamamoto shined. Yamamoto got out of a jam in the third inning with a grounder to first base, and in the fourth, he threw a 144-kilometer forkball to Fushimi Torai for a strikeout to end the inning.

The most spectacular moment came in the fifth inning. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Yamamoto threw a 145-kilometer forkball to Kotaro Kiyomiya and a 153-kilometer fastball to Chusei Mannami for back-to-back strikeouts, and then got the next batter, Wang Borung, to ground out to second base to escape his biggest threat. Yamamoto worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning, and then took the mound in the seventh with two more strikeouts to preserve the 1-0 lead.

On the day, the Oryx scored one run on two hits in the top of the first inning and then went silent from the top of the second until the end of the game, retiring the side in order every inning. However, Yamamoto’s comeback, followed by Soichiro Yamazaki (1 inning) and Yoshihisa Hirano (1 inning), who also competed in the World Baseball Classic (WBC), helped the Oryx escape their second straight defeat and reduce their Pacific League winning magic number to 18.

In his best performance in 10 days, Yamamoto overcame numerous setbacks to record his 13th win of the season with a Quality Start+ (7 innings, 3 earned runs or less), moving him back into sole possession of first place in both leagues. He also lowered his ERA from 1.42 to 1.34, extending his streak to 33 consecutive scoreless innings.

The biggest takeaway from the game was the nine strikeouts. Before this game, Yamamoto was fourth in the Pacific League with 128 strikeouts on the season. With the nine strikeouts, he now has 137 strikeouts and has moved into sole possession of the top spot in the league by one over Atsuki Taneichi (Chiba Lotte Marines) with 136 strikeouts. But the celebration was short-lived. Tainichi, who pitched at a different time than Yamamoto on the day, struck out seven batters to close the gap back to six.

In 2021, Yamamoto went 18-5 with 206 strikeouts and a 78.3% winning percentage in 26 games, winning the Pacific League Pitcher of the Year, regular season MVP, and the Sawamura Award, which is given to the best pitcher in the league. Last year, he went 15-5 with 205 strikeouts and a 75% winning percentage, becoming the first pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball history to win four titles, MVP, and the Sawamura Award for two consecutive years. This year, he is on pace for a third consecutive year of “unprecedented” records.

In terms of ERA, wins, and winning percentage, there aren’t many threats to Yamamoto at this point. The key is strikeouts. With the departure of Roki Sasaki (Chiba Rodeo, 130 strikeouts), Yamamoto’s quadruple crown seemed assured, but Taneichi is having a “career-high” season, going 10-5 with a 2.96 ERA in 115⅔ innings over 19 appearances this year. Will Yamamoto be able to overtake Taneichi for the strikeout lead and become the third straight Pitcher of the Year, MVP, and Sawamura Award winner?

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