YOKOHAMA – Lefty Yuta Iwasada struck out 12, doubling his previous career high, in a gutsy seven-inning effort for the Hanshin Tigers in a 5-0 win over the Yokohama BayStars in the Central League on Saturday.
The 24-year-old Iwasada, the Tigers’ top draft pick in 2013, allowed four hits and a walk in the longest start of his brief career to win what started as a tight contest with former Tiger Yasutomo Kubo at Yokohama Stadium.
“I could understand what (catcher Ryutaro) Umeno was trying to do, and I just executed each pitch as well as I could,” Iwasada said.
The BayStars, last in Nippon Professional Baseball in scoring, were not helped by a good effort from Iwasada, who entered the game with a 2-5 career record.
“He pitched a great game, mixing his pitches, fastball, sliders, change-ups. He threw a lot of strikes,” BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said.
The Tigers unlocked the scoreless pitchers’ duel in the sixth inning, when Kubo missed up with a 2-2 fastball and Takashi Toritani smashed it into center for a two-run, two-out single.
Kubo had little trouble with Hanshin in his first two trips through the lineup, but the visitors ground away at him in the sixth with a one-out flare single by rookie Shintaro Yokota and a ground single into right. Kubo missed three straight to No. 5 hitter Mauro Gomez before walking him intentionally.
The 35-year-old tried to tempt Toritani with pitches away but should have known better, as the famously disciplined Tigers captain waited for his pitch and hammered it.
Kubo hung on for eight innings, but his teammates’ inability to solve Iwasada doomed him to defeat. He allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks, while striking out two.
“The way we’re going right now, if you don’t shut out the other team, you’re not going to get a win,” Kubo said.
Yokohama wasted an early opportunity against Iwasada. With two outs and runners on the corners in the first, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo took off for second and had the base stolen but pulled up to allow Hiroyuki Shirasaki to try and score from third. But the Tigers froze Shirasaki at third, and he could only stand and watch as Tsutsugo was tagged out.
“That was a double steal,” Ramirez said. “They (the Tigers) made a perfect play.”
The hosts loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but failed to take advantage. With one out, Jose Lopez lined an Iwasada mistake to left for a single and Tsutsugo boomed a double off the center field wall. Iwasada pitched around Jamie Romack to load the bases, and fell behind to Toshiro Miyazaki, who took a strike down the middle before offering at a fastball high out of the zone and fouling out to second.
“We haven’t been able to score,” Ramirez said. “Bases loaded with one out, 3-0 count and we couldn’t get a run out of it. That was the turning point. Next time he (Miyazaki) will be ready (to swing 3-0).”
Iwasada took his good fortune and ran with it, striking out rookie BayStars catcher Yasutaka Tobashira on three pitches to strand three.
Right-hander Shingo Hirata took over in the ninth for Yokohama, and couldn’t keep it close, surrendering a leadoff single to Tsuyoshi Nishioka and hitting Keisuke Kano. Lefty Motoharu Fukuchi then gave up a two-run double to Shun Takayama. The Tigers’ rookie leadoff man scored from third when a pitch got past Tobashira.
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