SAPPORO – Right-hander Shohei Otani showed flashes of brilliance on Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough to pave the way to victory as Samurai Japan lost 3-1 in the concluding game of the Japan-MLB All-Star Series.
Although outhit badly in the finale, Japan won the five-game series 3-2. It was the first competition against visiting big leaguers since 2006, and will conclude Wednesday with an exhibition in Okinawa.
In front of his hometown fans at Sapporo Dome, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters star Otani allowed two runs in four innings. The 20-year-old flamethrower struck out seven but allowed four hits, two walks, hit a batter and uncorked a run-scoring wild pitch.
“They hit me when I tried to get ahead in counts, and I need to look at that,” said Otani, who allowed the leadoff man to reach in three of his four innings. “If I had tried to get them to hit more fouls, I think I could have had better results.
“I also should have paid more attention to the leadoff batters. The good thing was that I was able to get strikeouts when I needed them.”
Matt Shoemaker, making his second start for MLB, improved on his solid outing in a Game 1 loss.
The right-hander, who allowed two runs in five innings in the series opener, gave up two hits in five scoreless innings. The Los Angeles Angels’ rookie struck out two without issuing a walk and also picked off a runner.
The major leaguers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third after a leadoff double by the New York Mets’ Lucas Duda and an opposite-field single by the Kansas City Royals’ Alcides Escobar.
With no outs and runners on the corners, Otani missed badly with his first pitch to National League batting champion Jose Altuve. Duda scored and Escobar sprinted to third on the wild pitch.
With two strikes, Altuve, who also opened the game with a single, somehow chopped a two-strike splitter low and away to short to bring home Escobar.
More danger ensued, however. A line single, a walk and a hit batsman loaded the bases with one out, but Otani whiffed the next two batters to run his total for the evening to six.
The MLB squad added a run in the sixth, against the Yokohama BayStars’ Shoichi Ino.
The right-hander, who stranded two men in the fifth, retired the first two men he faced in the sixth before trouble struck. Altuve doubled, Los Angeles Dodgers dynamo Yasiel Puig singled and stole second, and Ino walked the bases loaded for Eduardo Nunez.
The Minnesota Twins’ utility man singled to make it 3-0, but Fighters left fielder Sho Nakata, a former high school pitcher, threw a strike to nail Puig at home for the third out.
Ino allowed the one run on five hits and a walk over three innings.
Nakata drove in the hosts’ first run of the game in the bottom of the seventh. Hiroshima Carp sparkplug Ryosuke Kikuchi tripled to open the inning off side-arm St. Louis Cardinals lefty Randy Choate.
With one out, hard-throwing Baltimore Orioles right-hander Tommy Hunter entered to face the right-handed Nakata. The Japan cleanup man nearly knocked Nunez’ glove off with a smash to third, but Nunez recovered to get the out at first as Kikuchi put Japan on the scoreboard.
Fukuoka Softbank Hawks outfielder Yuki Yanagita was named the series MVP.